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Milk bottles in Wensleydale

Tuesday 26 February, 2019, by Karen Griffiths

Here at the National Park office in Grassington we are still lucky enough to get our milk delivered in eco-friendly recyclable glass bottles. The milk is semi-skimmed and homogenised though, so no cream on the top like in the old days.

The lucky folk of Wensleydale will soon have the option of milk with the cream on top from The Home Farmer who has just tweeted a photo of their lovely new milk bottle design.

It reminded us of some of the photos we’ve been collecting for the Dairy Days project. Like this one from the Dales Countryside Museum which we assume must date to the 1950s or 60s and shows TB tested milk delivered to the doorstep.

An image of a doorstep milk delivery. Dales Countryside Museum collection
Doorstep milk delivery. Dales Countryside Museum collection

We’ve also been sent this photograph of an early twentieth century milk bottle produced  by the Wensleydale Pure Milk Society of Northallerton – the instructions show that it dates to before the widespread use of refrigerators ‘KEEP THIS BOTTLE IN BUCKET OF COLD WATER’. We found a lovely collection of photographs on Flickr showing the development of the Northallerton factory which began life in 1905. They show milk being bottled in the early days and also the railway line which ran right into the back of the factory.

An image of a Wensleydale Pure Milk Society milk bottle. Courtesy of The Mulberry Bush, Hawes
Wensleydale Pure Milk Society milk bottle. Courtesy of The Mulberry Bush, Hawes

In the late 1950s, Eleanor Scarr remembers her father buying a milk round from Thornton Rust and how proud she was of the milk bottles with the family name on:

“But on the dairy side, we kept on milking cows and selling the milk, but I don’t think we were ever very well off…and there was no other industry attached t’what we did y’know, we didn’t make cheese, for quite a while we didn’t do anything. But as m’brothers and sisters, as we grew up, obviously, money was very tight. We were on a rented farm, so, what were we going t’do? Father bought a milk round, and we started bottling milk, ‘S&W Metcalfe’, I’ve still got one bottle, it’s a bit cracked, but I’m very proud of this bottle [laughing] with ‘S&W Metcalfe’ written on it! It started off, we sold milk on the doorstep, through Thornton Rust, he travelled down to Aysgarth, we dropped off in Aysgarth. We never actually did very much in Carperby, we went over Aysgarth Falls, we didn’t do a lot in Carperby, we [s]kirted that, but we came back on by Woodhall. We delivered all through Askrigg, we delivered in Bainbridge and then we were back t’Thornton, so it was a round trip…”
Eleanor Scarr (nee Metcalfe) (71), of Coleby Hall, Askrigg

An image of a S & W Metcalfe milk bottle. Courtesy of Eleanor Scarr
S & W Metcalfe milk bottle. Courtesy of Eleanor Scarr
Picture of Karen Griffiths

Karen Griffiths

Interpretation Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority


2 Replies to “Milk bottles in Wensleydale”

  1. terry dodd says:

    Lookin through your interesting photographs and especially of Castle Bolton do you know who the 2 chidren are with the donkey outside Bostocks farm could they be Joe and Mary or Nancy and when was the photo taken roughly. I had my picture taken by Frank Knowles in 1950 outside the Castle sitting on a donkey and met him again recently at his exhibition in Leyburn. Also could that have been Mary in the garden with the donkey.

    • Hi Terry – I’m afraid I don’t know who the boy and girl are with the donkey – it came from a Country Life article about artist Fred Lawson apparently but I don’t know the date. I think the little boy with Jimmy the donkey photographed by Frank Knowles in 1950 may well be you as you suggest!

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