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Before the Milk Marketing Board

Vic and Bea Collington

old illustration At times, when I pick up our milk from the doorstep, or chat to our friendly milkman, I reflect on the great changes that have happened to this aspect of our lives in the space of one lifetime.

In the earlier part of this century, many Wymeswold households kept a cow for their own use and most members of the family could use a bucket and stool for milking. Wayside grazing for about thirty animals was available through the summer months from the village charities. A herdsman was employed to tend these animals, walking them to and from the parish boundary and bringing them to the milking point at the head of the Civic footpath by 6am and 6pm daily. This herdsman would be a village person, well acquainted with the countryside and wildlife, and this attracted children to spend days with him at weekends and in school holidays. The cows were a varied bunch as were the people who came to milk them. One old gentleman who arrived on a bike would take a handful of 'cow-cake' from his pocket, place it on his flat cap and lay it before the cow, reach his stool from the bush, and milk her whilst she ate it, pick up his cap and put it back on his head, hang his stool on the bush and ride away ... he had a wonderful head of hair!

Many households would collect milk from the farmyard where it was ladled straight out of the bucket into whatever vessel was proffered. Most farmers relied on the sale of milk for the regular part of their income. Herds of cows were walked through the village streets at milking time or housed within the village in the winter. Milking by hand would start early and the streets would soon be alive with activity, with churns rattling as they were brought in by horse-drawn carts or hand-drawn wheels to either the cheese dairy, or to a collecting point in Brook Street, for transfer by lorry to a Derbyshire dairy. Men with yokes and buckets would deliver some milk.

Apart from the cheese dairy, there were several smaller establishments making cheese and other dairy products. Most of these would be sold on markets in Nottingham, Leicester and Loughborough. With the advent of the Milk Marketing Board, pasteurisation and bulk tankers, a whole industry disappeared from sight.

Originally published in WHO Newsletter 1994.

Copyright the authors.

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