“Inspection of Cowsheds Invited”

Shorts Dairy, Grove Road, c.1910. Photographed by David Knights-Whittome

Shorts Dairy, Grove Road, c.1910. Photographed by David Knights-Whittome

This wonderful image of J. Short & Sons Cowkeepers and Dairymen in Grove Road Sutton, taken by David Knights-Whittome is undated but we approximate it at around 1910, given the reference number that it was allocated by the photographer. The shop window advertises ‘Pure Milk from our Westmead Farm Dairy’ and invites ‘inspection of cowsheds’. One wonders how many of their clients took them up on this invitation?

J Short & Son, Grove Rd Sutton

Among the archive collections, we have the following charming image (not taken by Knights-Whittome) which is accompanied by a hand-written recollection of the milk delivery round undertaken by the two girls pictured.  The image is dated 1917 but a comparison of the milk cart pictured shows that the delivery methods had not been changed by the war.

SBFS 338 J Short Milkcart

J. Short & Sons Milkcart outside Trinity Methodist Church, Sutton, 1917

SBFS 338 J Short Milkcart_1

The photo is of Jessie and Charlotte Taylor who lived at Sutton Sewage Works. Taken in 1917. Jessie was 19 years old & my mother 17yrs. Shorts Dairy was by Rayners Garage in Grove Road. They took over the milk round when Mr Richmond went to serve in the war (He came back after the war). His son worked with them but was too young to be called up. A Mr [Ted] Spearey worked with them. He had one eye & didn’t have to go.

“They did 2 rounds a day starting about 6 o’clock just delivering milk. Most customers had cans but a few more just had bottles (you can see in the small crates).

They cycled home for breakfast and returned to make a second delivery starting about 10 o’clock and taking eggs & butter etc this time.

On returning to the depot they had to scrub the cart and churn and cans and polish the rail and the cart which was made of brass.

The inspector used to come and take samples of milk. They always had to watch that boys didn’t come and turn the milk tap on.

In slippery weather it was a job to get up Robin Hood Lane. Some boys threw snowballs at them once and a man clipped their ears for them. They served the Norfolk Hotel.”

In both this image, and the one taken by Knights-Whittome, the milk is delivered using a hand cart.  The Friends of Honeywood Museum website also contains a memories page with contributions written by local people.  Alan Hare, writing in 2013, recalls the Express Dairy in Shorts Road, a rival local dairy business which would have presumably used similar delivery methods at this time. His memory relates to a time 40 years after this photo was taken when a horse and cart were working hard on their local milk rounds: “In about 1950 my father worked for the express dairy in Shorts Road using a horse and cart. Bessie was the name of his regular horse and Smokey was his standby one. I remember delivering milk to “Ellis” the blacksmiths in Carshalton High Street in about 1948 and being fascinated by the huge open furnace. The blacksmith would hammer away on the anvil creating a sound I can still hear. After my father had stopped using the horse and carts he used an electric cart, the type that you walked in front of!”

Finding these kind of images among the Knights-Whittome collection is a real treat for the staff and volunteers who work on the project. To be able to contextualise the lives of the sitters pictured adds a whole new dimension to our research and really brings the collection to life. Reminiscence and anecdotes held in the archive are a really valuable resource in enabling us to contextualise and flesh out this material. It is a lesson for us all that we should listen to, and record, the memories of our own relatives for posterity wherever possible as this everyday anecdote is exactly the kind of knowledge that is lost over generations and it is fascinating to see just how much our lives have changed in such a relatively short period of time.

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