The following is an extract transcribed from Marcus Webb’s father’s memories. definitely a ‘strange but true’ post!
Flying Herds – Udder Times….
“In the first part of the 20th century, before the advent of bottling plants and refrigerated lorries and vans, the provision of fresh milk in cities was very different to what it is today. Rather than the cows residing in the countryside and the milk being delivered via bottles and sealed containers to the customer, the cows were brought into the city, housed in dairies, fed on hay and cattle cake, and milked in situ. The milk was then hawked by the dairyman around the streets from a churn mounted in a horse drawn cart. The purchasers would emerge from their houses with suitable containers, into which the milk would be ladled, typically from a pint sized dipper. Some churns were provided with a spigot to dispense the milk.
Because of the lack of fields in large densely populated areas, the cows which were husbanded in this way were therefore restricted to the cowshed during their lactation and did not calve there at all. When their milk yield commenced to tail off, typically after a few months, they were taken back to a farm in the countryside, where they would deliver the calf they had been carrying, receive the attention of the bull, and then it would be back to the fuggy comforts of the city dairy after a break incorporating parturition, fresh air, fresh grass and provender – and of course, sex. Because the cows would be drawn from several sources, were usually unrelated to each other, and did not calve at their place of milk production, they were known as flying herds.
Although the aforementioned milk cart was the customary method of selling fresh milk, it was not the sole method of doing so. My father clearly recalled using a contrivance called a “Brass Cow”. As a small boy during visits to his Uncle George and Aunt Theresa, who lived in Harvest Road, North London during WW1, he would proceed to the nearby dairy where the Brass Cow was always on duty. It was a large facsimile of the rear end of a cow in gleaming brass, complete with the appropriate appendages, and he would place a jug under the udder , pull a lever, and a pre-measured quantity of milk would be discharged from the brass teat into the jug. He could not remember exactly how payment was made, but I strongly suspect that it was by a coin operated mechanism, as often no-one was in attendance. Who said that drink vending machines were not in daily use in urban areas nearly 100 years ago?”
Many thanks Marcus for sharing this with us. We look forward to more!