Milk has long been recognised as an essential part of a healthy diet, especially for children. The enormous changes that took place in the provision of clean and safe milk, from the 1900’s to the end of the century are a microcosm of how our daily lives have changed.
Pasteurisation was discovered in the latter part of the 19th century and this, when it was introduced in the early part of the century, meant that milk was cleaner and would keep for longer. It was collected from farms, treated and then delivered to towns and cities.
The Milk Marketing Board was created in 1933 as a body to ensure the best price for milk produced on farms, and it set the price at which milk was sold. It registered milk producers and prohibited sales by unregistered producers, and it had general powers to regulate marketing. It was not until 1994 that it was dissolved.
Tuberculosis had long been a dreaded disease for which there had been no cure until the introduction of vaccines and antibiotics. Before then there was a very high death rate in the UK as it was very contagious and much feared. Patients were quarantined in Isolation Hospitals or Sanatoriums. It is still prevalent in some parts of the world. In the 1950’s TB testing of cattle was begun in England as part of the battle to eradicate the disease and to improve the purity of milk.
It was with this background that I grew up at Brand Farm, Griffydam and spent my childhood there. My parents moved there in December 1939. It was a small mixed farm, typical of many in the area. The farm was rented at first and later purchased. The farm had beef and dairy cattle, pigs, hens, geese, horses, and my father Charles Wright (Charlie) had a milk round.
My Grandfather (also Charles) had a small farm at Gelsmoor and dairy cattle, and my father recalled delivering milk on his way to school in Newbold (he was born in 1911).
At the start of the century milk would be delivered twice each day after milking. This would have happened at other farms in the area as well. The milk would have been delivered in small pails measured out to customers with a ladle. By the 1930’s when my father moved to Brand Farm, milk was delivered once a day and he had increased the size and area to which he delivered milk. Pre-war, the milk was delivered with a horse and float (cart) and my father also built a wooden box that he fixed to his motorcycle after removing the sidecar and put the churns in there.
There were now large milk companies, such as the Co-op who now also had milk delivery rounds as well as a few local farms in other villages.
When I was very young I have a memory of the milk still being delivered to customers in churns, but that changed, and most of our milk was collected by tanker and taken to be pasteurised and bottled at Northern Dairies (Ivanhoe Dairies) in Ashby, this was then sold back to us for resale to our customers. We did retain a small amount of the milk which we bottled and sold.
By the 1950’s my father used a van to deliver the milk as he covered a wide area embracing Griffydam, Peggs Green, Coleorton including the Moor and the Alms Houses (now a private residence), Newbold and parts of Swannington. This extended into Worthington when the new council estate was built. Worthington was a challenge at first as people moved into their houses before the roads were completed and which consisting of red clay, dreadful when it rained.
My mother and one of my Aunts used to help when I was younger, but in school holidays there was always at least one young lad around to help. The helpers would often travel in the van, or deliver the Griffydam round with the milk in the float and one of the horses.
When I was eleven and went to Secondary School, I was expected to help each Saturday and Sunday and in the school holidays. I can also remember a few times when there was a heavy snowfall and the school bus didn’t come, I then would then ‘volunteer’ my help to deliver the milk. Whatever the weather dad always managed to deliver the milk. I have memories of the two of us carrying crates containing 20 bottles of milk through Stoney Lane and the Woolrooms because the snow was too deep for the van.
We had several horses, but the best remembered one was a large grey called Billy, who definitely had a mind of his own and would best be described as a ‘character’. If I did the milk round with Billy, I would have to put all his harness on and fasten him into the float. I think dad loaded the crates into the float for me. All the horses we used regularly knew where we were going and would automatically stop at the correct house.
Billy would move on to the next house if he thought you had stopped somewhere too long. If I was delivering to a row of houses he would automatically move on to the last house in the row while I was delivering. If something frightened him, he would shy or try to run away. One place he did not like being near was Kidger’s butchers on School Lane, Peggs Green - presumably he did not like the smell of blood.
The milkman provided an important social role as he had a daily presence, and he was often aware if someone was ill or in need. I remember my father alerting family members if he felt something was wrong. He often used to collect the old-age pension for people who were unable to get out and do other errands.
Besides selling milk, cream, and butter, we also sold eggs. I can remember on one occasion a new customer who had moved into the area from London asking for single cream - at the time, the early sixties, only one sort of cream was available and single cream was unknown.
My father would not ‘double up’ the milk deliveries even though by about 1960 most people had refrigerators, but I finally rebelled one Christmas day, when we had to go into Ashby to collect more milk as everybody (many not our regular customers) seemed to have run out of milk and consequently we finished really late. But I did appreciate all the tips and gifts I received at Christmas!
I finished helping on the milk round in the mid-1960’s, but my father continued delivering milk until he retired when he was 75 in 1986. By then there was a change once again in how people obtained their milk with the rise of Supermarkets selling cheap milk following the abolition of the set price.
Charles (Charlie) Wright Delivering Milk On His Motorcycle & Sidecar
Brand Farm & Cottages Lower Brand 1957
Charlie On His Rounds With Billy The Horse
Cows On Lower Brand