U.C.P. Memories

I remember being taken by my Nan to UCP in New Street, Birmingham, when I was a little girl. Cheap and cheerful, in the days immediately post-war when few lower middle class people ate out. It was near the Odeon cinema, which still exists, though UCP disappeared many years ago. I have loved all forms of offal ever since, and cook a mean tripe, tomato and onion stew loaded with many cloves of garlic, and served with mashed potato to mop up the rich sauce. Yum. You have to go to Birmingham covered market to buy cow heel and chitterlings, though Morrison's supermarket sometimes sells tripe in packets. Now sadly even our dog turns his nose up at tripe.
• Source: Helen Baws

Characteristic of Oldham, and indeed of much of Lancs, but which I found strange, were some of the "catering establishments" in the town. Tripe was a favourite local dish, together with chitterlings and "cow-heel pie". These delicacies could be obtained from tripe shops, some of which had been upgraded to restaurants under the name of "U.C.P." Consumption could be on or off the premises, and if the former, you sat on a bench at a marble slab table. If you wanted a "take-away", you had it in the basin you had brought with you. Packaging was not over-done in war-time. "U.C.P." seemed fairly innocuous until you found out that "U.C.P." meant "United Cattle Products". Somehow the thrills of the abattoir seemed uncomfortably close to the cuisine.
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My mother worked in one of the 146 tripe shops and cafes run by United Cattle Products, or the UCP as it was formally known. In their day, the black and white clad UCP waitresses vied with Betty's of Harrogate for being the last word in elegance. UCP cafes were every bit as popular as McDonalds and Burger King are today throughout the North West in the 1950s and 1960s, with youngsters as well as mill workers. Sadly, tripe has proved a turn-off for a generation which prefers pizza and elephant leg kebabs to a chunk of thick seam. As far as I'm aware only one UCP cafe survives, in the evocative setting of the Poultry Hall Abattoir in Salford.
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The initials stood [...] for United Cow Products. As Susan Jaleel has good cause to recall, it was actually United Cattle Products - "the offal emporium of the north-west." UCP, however, sold much more than loads of tripe. There was cow heel and black pudding, liver and kidneys, rissoles of doubtful progeny and other bovine delights. "The initials UCP used to be as ubiquitous in the north-west as M&S, BHS or MUFC," wrote Matthew Engel in The Guardian in May 2001. Matt should know: the canteen at the Manchester Guardian used to sell tripe salad, though the stuff was also popular with shady greyhound trainers who wanted their dogs to lose. Nothing lay more heavily than a half pound of tripe. Susan especially recalls the cafes above the UCP shops, staffed by waitresses clad formally in black and white. "Anything that was sold in the shop you could eat in the café; the queues waiting for a table knocked Harry Ramsden's into a cocked hat. "The café in Bank Hey Street, Blackpool, behind the Tower, was the number one venue for millions of day trippers over the years." Particularly, however, she remembers them because the UCP caf in Hyde is where she and her husband - now retired from a Darlington Memorial Hospital consultancy but then too poor to afford a proper reception - held their wedding lunch in 1965. A day to remember? "We were definitely not disappointed."
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Oldham then was a mill town, and with all that implies. It was dirty, cold, damp and depressing especially in March. [...] Other features recalled are the U.C.P. café’s whose specialties were tripe, chitterlings and cow-heel pie. Discovering that U.C.P stood for "United Cattle Products" did nothing to improve my appetite. Later, whilst in Stockport, I had to pass each morning a shop which seemed to sell nothing but tripe, this being unloaded into the shop window which was lined with white marble slabs. In this receptacle the tripe was usually seething like an angry sea when I passed.
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I remember well my mother telling me about her "courting" days. She was extremely shy although she was in her mid to late twenties. Her then beau, later her husband and my father, took her to the UCP cafe above the shop at the bottom of Drake St. in Rochdale. This would be about 1935. They had enjoyed their food, despite my mother being almost too embarrassed to eat at all in public, and went to take their coats from the stand. My mother looked down and saw what she thought was a snake's head coming from the umbrella stand. She froze on the spot, almost screamed out loud and shook from head to foot. It was the handle of an umbrella someone had stood in the stand while they ate! They were fashionable at the time and had two glass eyes which made them even more scary. It took some persuasion to get her back there again. I remember being hardly able to wait to get home and eat the lovely fresh tripe we would buy in Heywood. The "seam", the "honeycomb" with salt and vinegar in every hole, the one that was like a beef roll all meaty and chewy. Still, now in my seventies, I often long for a plate of tripe. Once I bought some from the supermarket and thought they were trying to poison me! Whoever in their youth found tripe sealed in vacuum packs? Dreadful. Is there not one UCP shop anywhere in the country? I'm sure I would go there wherever it may be to thoroughly enjoy the delicacies. Why did all the shops close? Was it a change in the eating habits of those who knew no better?
• Source: Anne Marie McHugh

My first duty was to go for toast at The UCP (United Cattle Products); they had a cafeteria at the back of the shop, a strange combination with tripe at the front and tea and toast in the cafeteria at the rear plus a nice restaurant on the first floor. A three course meal cost five shillings and sixpence (28p today's equivalent) in 1960. I was to become a frequent customer along with other juniors at the toast counter.
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I tell you: the UCP recipe book takes me back and can smell the tripe now, boiled with onions and we had ours hand-dresses at times, if lucky, or boiled and then battered and fried. And put on a sandwich with more pickles and onions and mayo. Oh yummy. I wish the UCP shops where still open, but my local butcher is always looking out for me. I get a surprise at times.
• Source: Yvonne Haddrell

In 1959/60, while working on the re-signalling of Manchester London Road (later Piccadilly) I had mid-day dinner at the UCP at Longsight every day. I alternated between tripe, cow heel and meat and potato pie. Marvellous.
• Source: Tony Heath

This is an extract from a letter my grandmother to my father in 1955. He was serving in the National Service. "Dear Graham, Hope you've had my card. We had a really nice day paddling and we didn't need overcoats at all, we had sandwiches on the coach so waited till 3:30pm for our dinner which we had in a U.C.P. cafe., very nice too, a think piece of ham, chips, peas, bread & butter and tea 4/7 each and they were good, we bought some rock but it is a bit, heavy to send you so will put some in your drawer for when you come."
• Source: Marie

I arrived as a student in Manchester in the autumn of 1969. In pole position on Market Street, right next to Piccadilly, there was a UCP restaurant, then ubiquitous in Lancashire. It stood for United Cattle Products, which meant it sold tripe and the like. Mancunian kids' joke of that era: "If UCP on it, don't eat the tripe". My advice, after a single visit: don't eat the tripe.
• Source: "Engel's England - Thirty-nine counties, one capital and one man" by Matthew Engel, 1951

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