UCP Tripe Shop and Restaurant

When people say that something is a load of tripe, they are not being complimentary, yet tripe, the
foodstuff, had many admirers, some travelling miles to eat a plate of it. So what is tripe ? Basically
tripe consists of the stomach lining of a ruminant, for example a cow or an ox. The meat is separated
from the stomach and then prepared for eating by washing and bleaching the tripe for up to two
days (originally it is green or grey in colour) and then boiling it for about an hour so that it turns
white and fit for the table. Tripe can be found in various grades depending on which part of the
animal’s stomach it comes from, the first stomach’s lining known as the rumen produces the blanket
tripe, the reticulum gives honeycomb tripe and the omasum gives thin leaf tripe.
Whichever load of tripe we are talking about, it became very popular in the North West of England
and tripe shops were an important part of the Rochdale scene through the 19 th and up to mid 20 th
century. Towns around Rochdale had their tripe palaces too and at one time in the 1800s there were
over 250 shops selling offal in the Greater Manchester area alone. The Tripe and Sandwich Shop, in
Stalybridge was believed to have been the last tripe shop in the region but many others existed such
as Vose and Son’s in Wigan who had a wood-panelled ‘Tripe De Luxe’ restaurant in 1917 that
boasted seating for 300 and its own Ladies’ Orchestra ! Offal’s popularity, especially amongst the
working class might have been due to its low cost as it was much cheaper than better cuts of meat
although quite nutritious. The many tripe shops in the area didn’t just deal in tripe but sold other
offal parts that the butchers’ shops would turn down such as elder (cooked cow’s udder that I always
thought looked like shoe insole), ox tongue and cow heels.

The most prominent tripe company and shop and the one which outlasted many of the others (or
should that be udders ?) was the UCP or United Cattle Products Ltd. The first UCP opened in 1920,
spawning many more – often with a restaurant attached – throughout the North West where tripe
and offal was most popular. The company was originally formed as a co-operative venture by 15
Lancashire tripe dressers who set up a factory in Levenshulme and a head office in Manchester. They
gave themselves a recognizable red badge logo which claimed that tripe and cowheels were served
daily with ‘Purity’ and ‘Quality.’ The popularity of the UCP shops quickly spread and soon in
Lancashire there were 260 UCP shops where you could dine on tripe to your heart’s content. There
was a large one on Market Street in the centre of Manchester but a local one in Rochdale at number
10 Drake Street where The Chip Inn used to be. As with so many of the UCP outlets, the one in town
had a restaurant upstairs offering table service with waitresses wearing black uniforms, white aprons
and frilly hats. The Manchester UCP also had soft music, comfortable seats in brown and orange and
a fountain and miniature waterfall under walls painted with country scenes or covered in animal
hides. Wedding lunches could be booked at the Rochdale UCP and many would go there for a special
treat. Not only did they serve up tripe but also cow heel, brawn, potted meat, heart, liver, kidneys,
rissoles, faggots and sausages. What a menu !
Tripe and onions was perhaps the most popular UCP meal, the tripe often boiled in milk with plenty
of pepper and vinegar – possibly to make it taste of something ! But this was only one of 99 meals
featured in the UCP’s ‘99’ Book of Tripe Recipes which included Tripe salads, Cowheel Curry, Tripe
and Herring, Pickled Tripe, Tripe and Chestnut Roll and other delicacies. In 2015 Norman Whiteside,
the ex-Manchester United player opened a tripe restaurant in Manchester called Mondongo named
after a Puerto Rican tripe stew, claiming that it was a delicacy in Mexico, Spain and Wigan !
The chances of such a tripe-venture being a success these days are far-fetched and gone are the
days when the UCP would hang sheets of tripe in the shop window over plates of cow heels and

blood pudding. Tastes have changed dramatically – some would say refined – and 1972 saw the
demise of the UCP when the last of its shops closed although even now, through the auspices of the
Tripe Marketing Board, you can still find outlets where tripe is sold and recommended humorously
through what they call their Tripe Advisor !
Rochdale town centre has its curry houses and its Italian restaurants but for some the memory (if
not the taste) of tripe from the UCP will live long with those who popped into the shop at the
bottom of Drake Street for a plate of honeycomb with plenty of vinegar on it !