German Pork Butchers in Britain


Before burgers, fish and chips and kebabs came the original takeaway: German pork pies, sausages, rissoles and other ready-made foodstuffs. During the 19th century, while most European emigrants were making their way to North America, a significant number of Germans were quietly making England their new home

Pork packing in Cincinnati. Print showing four...
Pork packing in Cincinnati. Print showing four scenes in a packing house: “Killing, Cutting, Rendering, [and] Salting.” Chromo-lithograph of the cartoons exhibited by the Cincinnati Pork Packers’ Association, at the International Exposition, at Vienna.. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the Hohenloheregion in the north-east of Germany, population growth, agricultural depression and a series of crop failures provided a significant push-factor. Germans from the region began looking outward for new opportunity, with a number of skilled professional butchers making their way to England in 1817.

The butchers quickly established themselves and found a ready market in the rapidly-expanding cities of Northern England. Industrialization was leading to a burgeoning population who demanded cheap, ready-made basic foods. The butchers had arrived at an opportune moment to serve a market of factory workers who wanted a convenient, hot meal after finishing work.

The demand quickly outstripped the supply, leading more butchers to open shops across England. In Sheffield, for example, one lone butcher shop in 1817 grew to 14 shops by 1883, and 18 shops by 1914. Soon, the number of qualified Hohenlohe butchers could no longer meet the demand, so they called out to young men back home.

Young farmers’ sons were ready and able to take up the challenge. Once the winter set in, they jumped into butchery courses where they learned the art of slaughtering and butchering. Back home, their mothers taught them to produce the savory German sausages and salted, smoked and pickled meats that were in such high demand in England. With well-honed skills, the young butchers entered the British market near the middle of the 19th century.

As butchers grew wealthy, some sent letters home recruiting young women for household help. Others wrote home looking for wives. German women answered the call, bringing with them a whole set of skills and delightful family recipes to add to the butchers’ offerings.

Butchers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The German butchers and their families quickly spread to all parts of Northern England, eventually establishing themselves as far afield as Scotland and Ireland. Butcher shops were soon opened in London as well as the German community continued to spread and grow.

The demand for cheap, ready-made foods continued to grow, and in the 1870s, the immigrant butchers called for a third wave of emigrants. A whole new flock of young apprentice butchers and young girls finished school and set off for work in Britain. The boys immediately jumped into their new employment, and girls served in German households.

A 1897 newspaper ran a story documenting the phenomenon, noting “The Germans created this business amongst us … In every town there are many of them, and there is now hardly a village (…) throughout the North of England that has not one or more. Englishmen have all along been to blame for neglecting the pig as a subject of human food (….). But the German is the pork man par excellence”

At first, the Germans stayed in close, tightly-knit communities. They spoke little English, and maintained their traditions, customs and stories. Eventually, however, they realized that their enterprise would be better served by integration into British society. This allowed them to thrive even further, with some taking leading positions in pork butchers’ associations.

Unfortunately, the two World Wars brought widespread intolerance toward the German butchers. The once-thriving business went into decline, and the rich history of the Hohenlohe butchers was greatly diminished. A few establishments did make it through, like the Herterichs in Ireland and the Haffners in Burnley; however, little remains today of the once-famous German takeaway specialties.


1. New light on the German Pork Butchers in Britain (1850 – 1950)” by Karl-Heinz Wuestner, Ilshofen, Germany

6 Replies to “German Pork Butchers in Britain”

  1. My grandfather was a German Pork Butcher in Dublin from around 1896 to 1921. I have a picture of a picnic with the Pork Butchers and their families at Glendalough in 1919. I would be happy to send you a copy. I have one copy with just the picture plain and one where I have added the names of the people I can identify.

    Let me know if you are interested and where I should send it.

    1. Irene,
      Please send me a Copy with the Names,my Grandfather was a Pork Butcher in Dublin In 1914 there were a number of attacks in Dublin carried out against businesses owned by German nationals, with particular attention being paid to pork butchers in the city. Much of this violence occurred on a single night, with a number of premises attacked in Dublin on 15 August 1914.

      The violence was detailed in contemporary newspaper reports, with the Irish Independent reporting that “German pork shops on the south side of Dublin city had a rough time on Saturday night. Between 11 and 11.30
      Frederick Lang’s shop in Wexford Street was wrecked. A jeering crowd of youths, it appears, had become aggressive towards the manager.” According to the newspaper, “everything breakable in the place was smashed, and the shop left a wreck.” The paper In October it was reported that Lang was seeking compensation via a sitting of the City Sessions for the damage done to his premises, which was estimated to be just over £117. It was noted that he had lived in the country for twenty-three years, had married an Irish woman and had children here, yet amazingly it was argued on behalf of the Corporation that “the applicant was an alien enemy, and therefore not entitled to sue in their courts while a state of war existed between Great Britain and Germany
      Many Thanks
      Fred Lang

  2. My gt grand father came to the UK as a pork butcher late 1800’s his grandson unfortunately was not so successful and the business ceased trading

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