A DORSET watercress farmer has celebrated the 250th anniversary of the sandwich with the ancestor of its creator.

The 4th Earl of Sandwich John Montagu is believed to have invented the snack, with the first ever creation containing cold roast beef, horseradish and watercress between two slices of bread.

The 4th Earl was said to have been a gambling man who needed a handheld snack so he did not have to leave the card table.

British watercress farmers marked the relationship between their crop and the Earl’s culinary creation during National Sandwich Week.

The awareness-raising event to celebrate one of Britain’s best loved institutions ends tomorrow.

Charles Barter, from the Watercress Company based at Waddock Cross near Dorchester, met up with the current Earl of Sandwich John Montagu – who lives at Mapperton near Beaminster – at Victoria Tower Gardens in London’s Millbank to recognise the anniversary.

Mr Barter said that he and fellow watercress farmers were attempting to use the occasion of the anniversary in order to try to get the original sandwich staple back on the menu and into the nation’s sandwiches.

He said: “Watercress used to be a staple part of the British diet and small steps like this can make a big difference to your health and help Britain’s farmers.

“I put a whole fist full of watercress into my sandwiches to give it that distinctive peppery bite but also to boost my intake of the 15 essential vitamins and nutrients watercress contains.”

The 11th Earl of Sandwich’s Mapperton estate is a key growing area for watercress.

He also has a partnership in a sandwich chain called the Earl of Sandwich, which currently has outlets in the US and one in London.