From postwar rationing to the pandemic - family butchers marks 75 years

John Graves, right, 82, with his family celebrating the 75th anniversary of their butchers at Bristo

John Graves, right, 82, with his family celebrating the 75th anniversary of their butchers at Briston, which was started by his father, Herbert 'Bertie' Graves. From left, John's son, Paul; and John's grandchildren, Bradley Graves, and Sonia Hagon. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

The meat we put our tables has changed considerably over the past 75 years, as the extended Graves family can attest.

Sonia Hagon, 33, of H.V. Graves Butchers in Briston, said it was remarkable how much things had evolved since her great-grandfather Herbert 'Bertie' Graves took over the shop in 1946, when postwar rationing was still in force.

"Meat trends have changed a lot," she said. "Earlier you would have had a lot of pork chops, and people ate things like lambs' hearts. Now we sell quite a lot of tomahawk steaks, kofta, ribeye steaks.

John Graves, front, 82, with his family celebrating the 75th anniversary of their butchers at Bristo

John Graves, front, 82, with his family celebrating the 75th anniversary of their butchers at Briston, which was started by his father, Herbert 'Bertie' Graves. Pictured are, John's son, Paul, second right; and John's grandchildren, Sonia Hagon and Bradley Graves. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

"If there's something on one of the cooking shows on telly, we'll definitely know about it from the customers who come in wanting the same thing."

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Mrs Hagon said adaptability was the key - and it hasn't hurt that so many of Bertie's descendants have wanted to get involved in the business. 

Bertie Graves of H.V. Graves Butchers in Briston carving up meat.

Bertie Graves of H.V. Graves Butchers in Briston carving up meat. - Credit: Supplied by the family

While her grandfather, John, became a pig farmer, her father, Paul Graves, 60, and his brother Karl, 54, followed Bertie into the trade in the 1980s.

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"It's a proper family business," Mrs Hagon said.

While Paul ran the shop, Karl took care of deliveries, and they started a hog roast and outdoor catering side to the business in the 1990s. 

Bertie and Elanor 'Kit' Graves at the Royal Norfolk Show in 1955.

Bertie and Elanor 'Kit' Graves at the Royal Norfolk Show in 1955. - Credit: Supplied by the family

The farm - where Bertie used to live - has also grown - and the family not only rear their own herd of pedigree Aberdeen angus and other cows, they also run a caravan site.

They also bought the cottage next door to the butchers' and converted it into a bakery, as well as the shop next to that, which serves as a convenience store. 

Kark Graves with the bull, called Storm, on the family's farm at Briston. 

Kark Graves with the bull, called Storm, on the family's farm at Briston. - Credit: Supplied by the family

A 'cutting plant' where the meat is butchered was added around the back of the shop about 15 years ago, which is run by Mrs Hagon's brother, Bradley Graves, 27.

Her sister, Vicky Graves-Basham, 35, works on the administration side of the business, and another sister, Lisa Graves, helps with the hog roasts. Karl's wife Jill runs the cow herd, and a cousin, Millie Graves, makes deliveries to pubs and restaurants. 

Bertie Graves, right, with his grandson Paul at the family butchers in Briston, around the year 1978.

Bertie Graves, right, with his grandson Paul at the family butchers in Briston, around the year 1978. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Mrs Hagon said Bertie's generosity was legendary, and his ethos lived on in the family firm.

She said: "One man who was in the RAF said he went and got him a big gammon steak, because, he said 'they don't feed you very well'. There was also a time when he saw a lady mourning at the graveyard and he went and got a big bag of fruit and veg for her."

Mrs Hagon said the pandemic had presented huge challenges as outdoor catering and supplies to the hospitality industry stopped. 

She said: "We literally lost half the business. A lot of people started asking for home deliveries - we had never done so much but we didn't want to turn anybody down."

H. V. Graves Butchers at Briston, which was started by Herbert 'Bertie' Graves, 75 years ago. The bu

H. V. Graves Butchers at Briston, which was started by Herbert 'Bertie' Graves, 75 years ago. The business has grown to include, a convenience store, bakery and deli. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

John Graves, front, 82, with his family celebrating the 75th anniversary of their butchers at Bristo

John Graves, front, 82, with his family celebrating the 75th anniversary of their butchers at Briston, which was started by his father, Herbert 'Bertie' Graves. From left, John's son, Paul; and John's grandchildren, Sonia Hagon and Houston Graves. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

The Graves family are planning a special fundraising day on Saturday, August 21 to mark the anniversary.

There will be raffle and a hog roast outside the shop in support of the Weybourne Cancer Ward at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Briston's All Saints church.

Mrs Hagon said prizes in the anniversary raffle - many donated by other local businesses - included fourball golf session with meal after at the Royal Norwich Golf Club; afternoon tea at The Grove in Cromer, a hamper from Holt Garden Centre, meat hampers and vouchers from themselves and other butchers in the area, and many more. 

Mrs Hagon said the N&N's cancer ward was a cause "close to her heart" which they wanted to support as much as possible through the anniversary day raffle. 

She said: "They have been amazing with lots of close family and friends over the years including my father-in-law, who they have been helping over the last five years, and still doing so today."

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