The Aylesbury Duck

The county town of Buckinghamshire has become synonymous with the large white duck which bears its name.  When the name of the town of Aylesbury is mentioned most people immediately say “Oh that’s where the ducks come from”.

The ducks became famous in the 19th century as being the very best in the country, they were sent in there 1000’s to the London Meat Markets and supplied to the very top hotels, restaurants and stores.  Mrs. Beeton in her book of Household Management in 1861 wrote:

“The white Aylesbury Duck is, and deservedly, a universal favourite. Its snowy plumage and comfortable comportment, makes it a credit to the poultry-yard, while its broad and deep breast, and its ample back, convey the assurance that your satisfaction will not cease at its death”.  Not the kind of language you would find in a modern cookery book!

After the 1st world war the trade declined as younger men and women moved into better paid jobs in light industry etc and no longer needed the extra income. By the mid 1950’s there was only one duck breeder left in Aylesbury, (Bill Weston, known as Ducky Weston) by the mid 60’s only the Waller family was left, here in Chesham. My father was able to recall there being more than 20 families in and around Chesham just after the first world war who made a part or full-time living from the Aylesbury duck: all have of course since gone.