The iconic Burgess ice cream brand is back in business and it's all thanks to this man - Chris Berry column

The traditional ice cream van in Burgess Ice Cream. Credit: Jonathan Gawthorpe
The traditional ice cream van in Burgess Ice Cream. Credit: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Growing up in Hull in the 1960s and 1970s, as I did, one of the regular treats was a run out to Beverley and its famed Westwood. Cricket bat, tennis ball, rugby ball and football were essential equipment to be packed by yours truly into the boot of dad’s green Mini.

This iconic tract of common land where Beverley racecourse still dominates to one side of the road, the golf course situated further over to the other, with an old windmill building another landmark, has been part of Hull and East Yorkshire folklore for years.

Richard Wilson standing in front of some Burgess Ice Cream vans in Shiptonthorpe. Credit: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Richard Wilson standing in front of some Burgess Ice Cream vans in Shiptonthorpe. Credit: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Author CL Skelton used it in his novel Hardacre but the two rather more mobile sights have always been the cows that graze freely, wandering idly past parked cars and sometimes standing belligerently in the middle of the road; and for several decades up until last September the Burgess ice cream van.

Just half a mile on from the van on the Westwood you could also venture a few yards inside North Bar Within to sit down in the Burgess ice cream parlour and devour what was considered the tastiest ice cream in the East Riding.

The queues to get in were at least the equivalent to other renowned queuing establishments Harry Ramsden’s in Guiseley, Betty’s in Harrogate and Magpie Café in Whitby.

Sadly, the Burgess ice cream parlour has long since disappeared and it looked like the Burgess ice cream vans would be a thing of the past too. The factory that was taken on in Market Weighton in the company’s heady days had closed some years ago and any ice cream sold from the remaining vans on the Westwood and in Saturday Market in Beverley wasn’t even made locally, although what was made elsewhere was to the Burgess recipe.

Earlier this year everything changed. The Burgess name was purchased by a local Market Weighton businessman and in April the man who made Burgess ice cream at the factory for 16 years previously until around 2004, Richard Wilson, Market Weighton born and bred and the local football club’s leading scorer in his heyday, struck oil so far as he was concerned.

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This weekend Richard’s latest creation for his fellow local business colleague James Ducker of Langlands Garden Centre, a special Burgess ice cream to raise money for BBC’s Children in Need, called Pudsey’s Dream adds another variety to his increasing playlist of flavours.

“I grew up like many others enjoying Burgess ice cream and worked for the company until it ceased production. I moved to two other ice cream makers – Yorkshire Dales in Skipton and Yorvale near York – and ended up making Burgess ice cream for David Moxon who was still selling it from the vans at the Westwood, but when he retired last year it looked like that was the end.”

Richard was working with a garden centre in Howden at the time, trying his hand out at something different, when a call came through from the son of the man who now owns the name.

“Nick and I grew up together. I was in Tesco one Saturday morning earlier this year when he rang and asked if I was interested in running Burgess.

“I was completely taken aback, but by August we had Burgess ice cream back up and running, producing ice cream again, here in Market Weighton where we are developing a new building on the site of what was an old bus repairs yard.

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"The unique Burgess taste that made it and now makes it so special is that it is made from butter rather than cream. I think about 90 per cent of ice cream made today is from double cream and that’s because it is easier to buy more cheaply than butter.

“We know that the unique buttery taste to the original recipe that dates back to when Mark Burgess started with it in 1924 is what our customers want.

“Mark Burgess had run the original shop at North Bar Within as a greengrocery. He’d started making ice cream at the rear of the shop and went around the streets of Beverley on a tricycle selling it, probably like a ‘stop me and buy one’.

“The ice cream grew in popularity and over a period of time two shops were bought either side of the original shop. It got to the point where the greengrocery business faded away. The café became the place to be in Beverley in the 50s, 60s and 70s when Mark’s son Ian began taking the business further forward.”

The Burgess van, Richard refers to it as a trailer, returned to the Westwood this summer and will be back in spring. The two vans or trailers, including a return to Saturday Market in Beverley, are the standard bearers for the return of Burgess ice cream and are manned by the owner’s wife, Frances, and other son, Dominic.

“We are certainly back,” says Richard. “But we’ve a long way to go to get where the Burgess name once was. I’m on the road delivering samples and picking up business all the time.”