Spotlight on The Mad Butchers of Winkleigh

This week I wanted to spotlight another wonderful business in Winkleigh. The Mad Butcher has been a part of life in the village for over 22 years, whilst the shop itself has been a butcher shop for as long as anyone can remember and the building itself dates from the 17th century.

“I know it’s been a butcher shop since before the world wars and I wouldn’t mind betting it goes back even further than that. It also once had an abattoir. Knowing we are carrying on a business with such a long heritage is something we are immensely proud of ,” says Tom Robinson, who works alongside his father Barry – the original Mad Butcher!

The Mad Butcher is a local business that prides itself on sourcing good produce with outstanding local provenance. The Robinson’s moved to the village in 1998. Seeing the shop shut down Barry saw its potential and reopened it – the rest as they say is history. But I must admit to being intrigued by the shops name so of course I had to ask…

“I have never really heard the real reason only tales from dad when he’s had a few sherbets in the pub over the years. The story goes that he was sat in the pub and the old chef came out from the kitchen after overhearing him and said ‘Barry you are mad’ and from that day on he was known as the mad butcher.”

I’m sure there is more to that story so I shall be digging further….

The Mad Butcher of Winkleigh has always been a family business as Tom explains

“It is a part of who we are really, I came on board on my 18th birthday and have just turned 28, so I’ve hit my century working with dad. Even before I worked in the shop full-time, I would work Saturdays and my sister has also done stints in the past, it really is a family business.”

Traceability and knowing exactly where your food is from may seem like a new fad to many, but for The Mad Butchers it is a part of who they are.

“We have always taken pride in knowing exactly where all of the meat we supply comes from. Our carcasses (Pig, beef, lamb) nearly all come from in and around Winkleigh, our poultry is from Devon and we have great relationships with farmers further afield in (dare I say it) Cornwall if we need to top up. Sourcing locally from people we know and trust is important and helps to keep everything sustainable and reduces food miles too. Peoples buying habits are unpredictable so having good local suppliers who we can rely on is priceless,” says Tom.

Sounds like good advice to me. We are so lucky to be able to buy such high-quality produce locally.

One of the best things about living in Winkleigh for Tom was the childhood he was able to have living in such a small village.

“We moved to the village from a town when I was 6, and from my school days at Winkleigh Primary to knowing I am a part of such a caring community makes me feel very fortunate.”

It is no surprise given Tom’s experience that in 2011 Winkleigh was voted the best place in England to raise a family and even though 2020 is now such a different world I would say that is still true!

One thing you may be surprised to learn is that their support of a football team is anything but local!

“We are huge Leeds United fans. It started for my dad in 1972 when Leeds beat Arsenal in the FA Cup Final. My uncles are both Arsenal fans so my dad wanted to go against them and it’s stuck ever since. Both my self and my brother followed in his footsteps.”

Well, that was unexpected – Leeds?? Nuff said!

I asked Tom if he’d share one piece of advice with us before he went back to work.

“I know my dad would say work hard. Do something you enjoy and the working hard bit comes easy! My dad loves what he does and he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but the shop. For me, my advice would be to make sure we all look out for one another. The shop is at the heart of the village and I’m so lucky being able to see so many people each day, many of whom I consider genuine friends – it’s more than a shop, and for me it’s also more than a job. Life is easier if we all work together (especially right now) so be kind and help one another – it really is the best advice I can give.”

I think that is great advice and we should all take a leaf out of your book Tom!

The Mad Butchers is a shop like no other in Winkleigh, it has a wonderfully traditional feel and there is something very salt of the earth about it. It’s gritty and real and honest. You can be assured of gold standard produce and a warm Winkleigh welcome from Barry, Tom & Julie.

Next time you are in the village please pop in to see them. Now more than ever we need to support our small independent businesses.



Comment by Graham Knight

My great grandfather (Robert George Knight) had a brother (Sid Knight) who had a butchers shop in Winkleigh, Devon (late 1800 to early 1900). I wonder if this was the property??

Graham Knight
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