We would say our Milk cart, which was originally acquired by Dacorum Heritage in 1992, and at the time and still is one of our largest objects in store.
The Milk cart was used by Walter Wilkins (WJW) of Cow Lane Farm Tring. Recently we have been fortunate to have acquired an account of the daily working life of the milk cart from Bill Bishop who was a lifelong friend of the Wilkins family and worked on Farm as a teenager. He also later discovered the milk cart abandoned in a barn on Hunters farm, Tring when he was an agricultural inspector. His story has provided us with a more detailed picture of how the milk round was executed and the role of the Wilkins family. His account also includes a description of the uniform Walter Wilkins wore to deliver the milk.
We now know his uniform consisted of a smart cap, jacket, breaches, gaters and polished boots. He also always had a buttonhole.
We also now know that WJW carried on the milk run 365 days of the year including Christmas day, with Bill Bishop even having to milk the cows on Christmas day!
Milk round-a family business
After finishing the Milk round at Tring WJW would return to the diary at Bulbourne road New Mill where he lived with his family.
His daughter Nina would then take the Milk cans, churns and any other equipment from the float to clean and polish the brass on the main churn ready for the next day. Any left-over milk was stored in a well as there was no refrigeration at the diary or the farm.
The empty float was then driven to Cow Lane Farm. Bill Bishop or a family member of WJW was then tasked with washing the float down once the horse had been fed and turned out into the field. The afternoon milking was kept at the diary on the farm over night before being loaded into the churns on the Milk Float and driven to the New Mill diary.
Bill Bishop’s account also explains that the milk float was discard in the 1950’s with the introduction of pasteurisation before sale, whereas before they only filtered and cooled the milk. His account also for the first time enables us to know the details of the discovery of the milk float. He discovered it in a dilapidated condition at Hunters Farm while carrying out routine health and safety checks in the 1980’s. It had been sold to Hunters Farm for £2. 10s and used as Donkey cart for the children there.
The milk cart first came to us in a poor condition, A Hertfordshire conservator restored it when in 1995 it was cleaned, some of the wood was found to be rotted and some of the metal had been bent. It has also more recently been treated for wood worm and timber chocks have been made to keep the cart off the floor whilst in store.