Dairies and milk deliveries in 1940s and 1950s Britain
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I can just remember the dairy in
Edgware, when I was a young child in the
1940s. It was called the United Dairies or just the UD, and was a very clean
Milk deliveries during
World War Two, horse drawn and
with a woman driver. In the effects
of Ena Cole.
Milkman's uniform. Note the black peaked hat, the white overall, the
leather shoulder bag for money and the protective apron.
The milk bottles, rather than milk churns, in this photo suggest the
mid-1900s, but handcarts was used for
milk deliveries in the early 1900s. Photographed in Eastbourne Museum of Shops.
All the milk crates in and before the 1940s were metal as shown in
this photographed taken in Beaulieu Motor Museum.
Just behind the shop was the large depot which housed
the horses that were used for the home deliveries. There was also an office
there where the odd pint of milk could be bought. The main impression that
the depot made on me was the permanently wet floor. I suppose that it was
frequently sluiced down with water to keep it clean.
In the early 1940s, the UD delivered milk from a horse-drawn
float. My mother would look out to see that no neighbours were watching and then
go out to the road to shovel up the horse's dung for the garden.
I must still have been very young when the horse-drawn deliveries were replaced
by motorised vehicles. Around the same time, the shop closed, presumably because
milk, butter and cheese were available from grocers. The
milk deliveries continued
Horse-drawn 1940s United Dairies (UD) milk float. Screenshot from an old film.
Horse-drawn 1940s United Dairies (UD) milk float, courtesy of Laurie Prior who
describes it as, "Just like I used to see in the 1940s in
The milkman always wore a uniform, which I think may have been different
from one diary to another. Milkmen I saw always had a white peaked cap, a
white overall and a longish of apron to protect their trousers.
Milkman delivering milk.
The milkman called for payment every week. He put the money into a large
leather shoulder bag which had separate pockets for the different
denominations of coins.
Cold weather and the milkman's gloves
Fingerless gloves, as worn in cold weather by delivery men who handled money.
Milk bottle left on a doorstep in a cold winter. The
frozen milk, having expanded, has pushed the top off the milk, and the
milk is solid.
In freezing weather when the milk was delivered early in the morning, it was not
uncommon to find it frozen in the bottle. Then, as water swells up when it becomes
ice, the bottle top was pushed up out of the bottle.
In winter the milkman's hands got very cold, as he needed his
fingers free for handling the money. Like other delivery men in winter, he
wore knitted gloves which were open at the top parts of the fingers.
The milkman's cap badge
UD (United Dairies) milkman's cap badge, courtesy of David Hebden who
reports that, as a child in the 1940s, he used to help his uncle with the
milk deliveries, standing on the running board as the milk float moved from
house to house.