At Hugh Phillips we are continuing a family tradition that began in 1878 when current owner Catherine’s great grandfather John Hughes ran an abattoir just across the road from us in Cwm Cynnar, Llanmorlais, Gower.
In 1904 John’s son Philip Hughes brought the abattoir here to Wern Fabian Farm. He and his wife Susie sold their produce on a stall in the old Swansea Market, which took place outdoors and opened from 9am to 9pm.
It was a long working day, especially when you consider they were running a farm and abattoir too. Besides meat, they sold their own butter and vegetables but they were especially known for their faggots. People would bring their jugs to the farm and fill them with seven faggots for a shilling. Our faggots are still made to Susie’s secret recipe today.
To get the produce to market Philip used to take Susie by cart down to Llanmorlais station, where she would board the train laden with vegetables and eggs for the stall. He would then return home and load up his meat cart before setting off on the long road journey to Swansea market.
His route to and from the city was slow, lonely and sometimes precarious: the hill just above Sketty Cross was notorious for robbers, so he would tackle it as quickly as possible so that nobody had the chance to leap onto the cart. Family legend has it that he kept a cleaver beside him too, just in case.
Philip and Susie had five children – Philip John, Willie, David Charles, Elizabeth Ann, and Mary Lizzie, Hugh’s mother. She worked alongside her brothers, rearing chickens so that Hugh could go to school.
In 1954 Philip John and Willie took over the running of the farm, with Hugh helping out from the age of 11. The new Swansea Market opened in 1964 and the brothers took a stall there. There has been a Hugh Phillips stall on the market ever since, although its exact location has changed a few times.
By the time he turned 15 in 1967, Hugh was working full time for his uncles, and by 1976 he was running the business. He went on to make some big changes, including expanding the abattoir so that it could carry out slaughtering for other farms, and adding a large walk-in fridge, making it much easier to hang and age the meat to perfection.
He also expanded the meat preparation area, enabling him and his staff to prepare more meat for market – including eight varieties of sausages and Susie’s famous faggots. Hugh also changed the abattoir’s operating hours so that work started at 5am instead of 9am.
Hugh and his wife Carol ran the business together for 40 years, raising their three daughters on the farm. They retired in 2016 and their middle daughter Catherine took the reins, having worked for the business since 2005. Catherine is proud to continue the family tradition of producing top quality, fully traceable meat – Hugh Phillips is the only stall on the market to have PGI status for its produce, meaning all its meat is Welsh.
Now Catherine is working on making her produce available far beyond Swansea Market by selling directly to customers online. The finest Welsh butchers is now just a click away.[less]