NOT only can RJ Balson and Sons claim to be England’s oldest butcher, it has also now been named Britain’s oldest family business.

The Bridport butchers is proud of its family history, which stretches back almost 500 years and 25 generations.

Experts at the Institute for Family Business have traced its roots back to 1535, when founder John Balson opened a market stall in South Street.

They say this makes Balsons the oldest continuously trading family business in the country – and it looks set to go on and on.

Richard Balson is running the company following the death of his father Don, aged 88, in July.

He has already got his son Billy, 31, and two-year-old grandson Freddie lined up to continue the tradition.

Mr Balson, 54, said: “My son has started up an internet site because he thinks we don’t plug the fact that we’re England’s oldest butchers enough.

“I’m quite old fashioned and I’m not up with computers. I don’t have any patience but you’ve got to move with the times. Billy has a son as well so hopefully the business will continue on and on.” Henry VIII was on the throne when the Balsons started selling sausages, but it was not until 1880 that the shop opened in North Allington.

Mr Balson is already looking ahead to the 500th anniversary and believes a strong family bond is the recipe for success.

He said: “In 24 years’ time we will have a big party if I’m still here. We’ve had floods, fires and wars and in 1979 the water was up to the letterbox when half of Bridport was flooded.

“We’ve seen it all, but we’ve got a strong family bond to see us through it.”

Mr Balson said shoppers come from far afield just to see the shop, as well as buy their award-winning produce, particularly their varied selection of sausages, including boar, duck and ostrich.

He said: “So many people come to see the sign above the shop and take a picture and may not even come in and buy something.

“Bridport is a lovely old market town, that’s why niche businesses like us and like Snooks carry on.

“We try to make sausage shopping a pleasurable experience. We make a joke, people take the mickey, it’s all good fun.”