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Florence Cole as a child

Milkmen and milk boys
delivering milk early 1900s

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My earliest recollection of milk delivery must have been around 1908. It was of a man coming to our door bringing a large can of milk with two measures hung from the side: a pint one and a half-pint one. He then emptied one or more of these measures into our own jugs, which were metal with spring lids.

This milkman called at the house twice a day, first early in the morning and again later on. In hot weather he came more often.

Milk delivery boy with handcart, jugs and churns, early 20th century

Milk delivery boy for Lord Rayleigh's dairies, delivering from a hand cart, courtesy of Pauline and Alan Hawkes. The boy could be Herbert Bentham Weedon, Pauline's grandfather.

Milk delivery from a dairy in the early 1900s.

Milk delivery from Hobbs Dairy in Lower Edmonton. The horse and cart, the milk churns and the jugs are as my mother describes for her local dairy in Upper Edmonton. Note the milkman's uniform which would have varied from one dairy to another, although the peaked cap would have been a standard. Possibly this milkman was helped by his son (the boy in the photo) just as my mother describes her family milkman as being helped by his schoolgirl daughter. Photograph, courtesy of Miranda Pender (see http://edmontonodyssey.blogspot.com).

Our milkman had a horse and cart, although some roads had milk deliveries by handcart. The horse and cart always reminded me of drawings of Queen Boadicea's war chariot, high in front where the reins of the horse rested, then graduating to lower towards the back. The back was about a foot from the ground so that the milkman could easily step off to serve customers. He carried milk churns with him, and his schoolgirl daughter helped him with the rounds.

Milk delivery hand carts with jugs and milk churns - with the dairy owner John Jones and his assistant, early 1900s.

John Jones (on the left) and his assistant with their hand cart deliveries. Jones dairy business was in Edmonton; as the details on the barrows show. Photo courtesy of Edwin Jones, who would be grateful for any further information. He knows that John Jones had 3 sons and a daughter and that his two eldest sons were born in Edmonton. John then moved to a shop/dairy in Masbro Road, Kensington.

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Milk deliveries and hygiene

Although everything looked clean to the naked eye, hygiene was unheard of, and no doubt there were plenty of germs on that large can that went from door to door. Perhaps this was one reason why the milk would go off so quickly, although lack of fridges, sterilisation and pasteurisation would have contributed.

There were inspectors, who would come round to test the milk. This was very necessary before the advent of sterilised and sealed bottles. It was well known that some milkmen would add water to their milk. I remember hearing my father say while reading the local paper, "Old so-and-so has been prosecuted again for adding water to the milk". I even heard it said that some milkmen topped up their milk from the local pond.

If you can add anything to this page, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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