Drake & Macefield: Meet the Yorkshire butchers who have run their family business for 125 years - and whose pies are sold at Leeds United

It was 125 years ago that Robert Drake opened his butchers shop on Otley Road, Skipton. More than a century later, the family-run business still operates out of the same shop, although many more strings have been added to the Drake & Macefield bow.

A few years after opening, Robert Drake was joined by his nephew Jack Macefield, initially after school and on Saturdays before finishing his education.

Jack’s son, Ian, recalls his father telling him how he was often late for school as he considered their customers to be his number one priority.

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He explained how his Uncle Bob taught him how to judge the best quality cattle and sheep so that young Jack soon utilised those skills at the local farms and auctions. Jack maintained the provision of best quality and customer service throughout his working life and Ian believes he would be justly proud that Drake & Macefield continues this philosophy today.

Drake & Macefield have shops in Skipton, Settle and CrosshillsDrake & Macefield have shops in Skipton, Settle and Crosshills
Drake & Macefield have shops in Skipton, Settle and Crosshills

Ian decided not to go into the family business. So when Jack died in the early 1980s, and nearly a century after the butchers shop was founded, the firm was taken over in 1985 by his “apprentice”, Ian Thompson who had been trained by Jack, who was joined by partner, Richard Teal, in 1997.

Following Ian’s retirement in 2016, Richard’s sons Andrew and Steven joined the firm, continuing the original family business ethos. In turn, they have now been joined by brothers Steven and Adam Proctor, who manage the Skipton and Settle shops respectively.

For director Steven Teal, the business is in his blood. “I started working in the butchers when I was just 11 years old after school and at weekends,” he recalls.

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“We had just started making or own pies – actually it was my grandma’s recipe. They had never made pies before and I got to help her make them.”

The shop has been in Skipton since 1898The shop has been in Skipton since 1898
The shop has been in Skipton since 1898

Drake & Macefield pies are now multi award-winning – and still based on Steve’s grandma’s wining recipe.

“Our pork pies are still our biggest sellers,” he says, adding that pie production now has its own dedicated bakery and processing facility based in Skipton. Commercial contracts mean that the company’s pies are favoured by Leeds United supporters and many local hotels, pubs, restaurants and village stores.

Steven went to work for the family business when he left school and has seen the workforce grow from six people when he joined to 28 today.

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Drake & Macefield has weathered many challenges over the years including two world wars, post-war rationing, foot and mouth disease which affected supply, recessions and vigorous competition from supermarkets which forced many butchers out of business.

Far from closing, the firm has grown from strength to strength and now boasts branches in Settle, opened in 2000, and in Crosshills, which started trading in 2018.

But it was probably Covid that saw the biggest challenge for the business and brought about a seismic shift in the way Drake & Macefield serves its customer base.

“As we were a food supplier and an essential service, we were allowed to keep trading but we soon realised that a lot of people, especially our older customers didn’t want to risk going out,” adds Steven.

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Responding quickly to demand from its loyal customers, the team had to find a way to fulfil 250 deliveries a day.

“We realised quickly that we needed to take our goods to our customers rather than then coming coming to us,” says Steven. “My brother in law had been laid off and he started to help us deliver meat and pies to people and it went from there.”

The firm soon had a fleet of five vans dashing round the dales and Aire Valley, ensuring its quality meat products kept people fed during those worrying times.

An online shop had to be hastily constructed on the website to ease the administration of the new click-and-collect and home delivery service.

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“We did have a website but it really hadn’t been touched in years and was little more than an information page,” says Steven.

“We quickly had it redesigned and created an online shop. We started doing 20 to 30 deliveries a week and that exploded to up to 200 a day.”

Although Covid restrictions are largely forgotten and the delivery service isn’t quite as busy as it was during the height of the pandemic, the company is still thriving.

“Customer demand is paramount alongside the quality of produce we offer. So if the customer enjoys the convenience of farm fresh meat delivered to their own doorstep, then that’s what we’ll continue to provide,” says Steven.

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“We now do twice a week deliveries in the local area. Offering our own pies, sausages, cured and smoked meats, alongside delicious ready-to-cook meals, we are much more than a traditional small town butchers.”

He believes the secret of the firm’s success and its longevity is mostly down to the loyal staff and also the local provenance of the meat they supply.

“When it comes to our beef and lamb, it all comes from within half a mile radius of the Skipton shop. We can virtually tell which field the cows and lambs come from.

“Our pork comes from near Leeds – no more than ten miles away. And the animals are now slaughtered near Halifax.”

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The rise in people decided to turn to a plant-based diet hasn’t adversely affected Drake & Macefield, Steven adds.

“I think in some way it has helped business as people who decide they still want to eat meat really want the best and to know where their meat comes from and how it was reared – that is the way we have always done things,” he says.

Christmas, of course, is one of the busiest times for Drake & Macefield – with turkey still being a festive favourite.

“Demand for turkey is still high but we are seeing turkey crowns being the most popular this year,” says Steven.

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