Alan Woodward will be hanging up his striped apron and closing his Henfield shop at the end of January after 43 years in Henfield High Street. It’s sad to think that the shining glass refrigerators filled with ordered rows of perfectly butchered ribs of beef, lamb chops, poultry and sides of bacon will soon be a thing of the past.
When Alan closes his doors for the last time on 27th January it will be the end of an era. He has thought long and hard about the future of the shop he has so lovingly nurtured, and he will be the first to admit that if a buyer had come forward then the Woodward’s tradition would be continuing today; in fact, he still has hopes for an eleventh hour reprieve. But scaffolding surrounds the building and with major renovation and plans for residential development, this means that Alan loses his cold storage, without which he can’t continue so notice has been served.
Alan said: “Unfortunately this will mean that Scotch farm assured beef, lamb, pork and Scotch wild venison will not be available in this area, it will also mean that none of the product recipes (sausages, burgers, black pudding etc) will be available as they are my intellectual property and are only available by licence, which none have been issued.” He went on: I am sorry that no one has taken on manufacturing production of our National and International award-winning sausages.”
Alan comes from a grand tradition of butchers. His grandfather owned a shop in Edward Street, Brighton where his father, William was raised helping behind the counter. An old picture dated around 1920 (above) features Alan’s father, aged 13, amongst the butchers and their produce.
Alan can recall skinning rabbits and trimming pork bones to make off-ration sausages when he was a very young lad. He left school at 15 and started work the very next day at his father’s shop on Oxford Street in Brighton. Alan worked for several different butchers early on his career: “An important lesson l learned was that supermarket meat is inferior, mass-produced and butchered without care. I learned how to tell a quality product and decided that one day I would have my own business,” said Alan.
In 1974 Alan found the perfect premises on Henfield High Street and began to build his dream. Since then he has trained some 20 butchers from apprenticeship to professional standard and won national awards for his creative sausage recipes culminating in the prestigious Champion of Champions Sausagemaker twice (in 1993 and 1997). With his motto “whatever I do I want to do well” he was an important figure in the burgeoning sausage industry which had received such bad press in the 1970s. At the height of the sausage boom, when Alan was shipping his most popular “Sussex Village” variety across the globe, the Henfield shop was making over 3,000 sausages a week.
The British Banger is now a thing of national pride and Alan is justifiably proud to have played a key part in this resurgence. Alan’s traditional shop will be keenly missed in the village, we wish him a happy retirement with many thanks from us all for his contribution to the village.