What’s in a name?
Quite a Lot Actually!!
A company steeped in tradition, the history of Fairfax Meadow dates back well over 40 years. Drawing on the strongest elements of our heritage has been pivotal in Fairfax Meadow becoming the UK’s leading catering butcher. We continue to adhere to values held in the beginning. It has been an exciting path, with an interesting story from a chain of butcher’s shops in Kilburn, North London to the market-leading organisation we are today.
In 1974, our founder Gerry Wensley acquired five butcher’s shops in North London. Originally called Peter Dumenil’s, Gerry was under pressure to change the name – quickly!
They decided on ‘Peter Fairfax’ on account of Fairfax Road, Kilburn; the address of Mr. Wensley at the time.
This period of time was tough for retail butcher’s shops, there was the mid-1970’s recession and meat was an expensive commodity, still trying to reassert itself following the end of rationing in 1954.
Despite this tough period, Gerry – with great butchers, product knowledge and passion – managed to grow the number of butcher’s shops to 14.
The foodservice industry was fledgling; brands such as Garfunkel’s, Beefeater & Berni Inns were in their infancy, Gerry decided to move towards this growing market.
They built a modern factory in Finsbury Park and soon enough were supplying Hotels, Restaurants and Steakhouses in London.
Meanwhile, across London, Pyke Butchers acquired esteemed butcher G.W Biggs.
Like Peter Fairfax, Biggs’ were a fast growing chain of retail butcher’s shops with a catering division.
From one butcher’s shop – opened in 1934 – to opening their ninth in 1975, Their move into foodservice came when the fourth shop opened in Soho due to the increased revenues available from trade catering.
Biggs’ burgers were held in the highest regard! In those days, when almost all meat was bought at Smithfield Market – and burgers on the market were all frozen!! – Biggs decided to produce their own fresh burgers.
Using only minced beef and no preservative to make their patties, Biggs burgers were the best.
The 1970’s gave way to the rise of the American-type beefburger beginning with the opening of the Great American Disaster served by Biggs’ of course!.
Pykes and Biggs held factories across the country including Canterbury – which is still in operation today as our EC approved poultry facility.
In 1983, Pyke Butchers acquired Peter Fairfax – which by this time had opened another two factories in Birmingham & Yarmouth – and the name became Pyke Biggs Fairfax.
Between them they had enough factories across England to be able to serve the whole country, as we still do today!
A development project began to build a purpose-built, southern-based factory dedicated to serving quality meat to the high-end London business.
This factory opened in 1988 and stands today as our Kentish Town operation.
The burger operation had grown so large that they had to move it to its own site in Maidenhead where they produced up to 100 tonne of burgers per week.
Hillsdown Holdings were an acquisition group that bought a number of food businesses in 1986 including our sister company Poupart.
The story goes that the Managing Director at Hillsdown wanted to build the best butcher in the country and wanted the best of qualified directors to run the company. This included Managing & Operations Director Gerry Wensley (Peter Fairfax), Purchasing Director Douglas Morris (Biggs), Sales Director John Harwood (Biggs) and Finance Director John Lazarus (Pykes).
Hillsdown Holdings provided Pyke Biggs Fairfax with the muscle to really move a step ahead and grow to become the leading butcher you recognise today.
After acquiring the best butcher of the South in Pyke Biggs Fairfax, they acquired the premier butcher of the North – Meadow Farms (you see where this is going don’t you?!), and with it, Derby (Our current head office).
Our growth was compounded by the expansion of the Derby site through the opening of a new building now known as Phase 2 & 3 in 1989. Originally opened to increase production capability of Derby it is now an area focused on warehouse and distribution.
In 1991, the process was complete; Hillsdown Holdings merged Pyke Biggs Fairfax and Meadow Farms to create…
A further six successful years followed, which saw a state of the art burger production facility installed at Kentish town, the implementation of our first telephone ordering system and the acquisition of GG Baxter’s and its factory on the outskirts of Heathrow.
In 1997, Argent Group formed in conjunction with a private equity group and purchased a number of assets from Hillsdown Holdings, including Fairfax Meadow.
Fairfax Meadow are still a part of Argent Group today, having evolved into the UK’s leading catering butcher. Our values stand today as they have for many years, to exceed our customer’s expectations through Great People, Quality, Service & Consistency.
So, what’s in a name?
Please see further details of our rich history below: