|Extracts from Peter Tucker's book.
Fred Farthing in Barfield Road - photo Mrs M. Ward
The main Milkman of the Island in early days that are within living memory was A.G. Farthing. (Manny), from the Dairy, No 12. Mersea Avenue. It is somewhat unsure as to when the Business started out in life; but it was almost certainly before World War 1. My sister, Mrs Doris Hempstead recalls being sent on errands for milk in her early childhood. She was born in 1918. We lived at No 1 Gosneys Cottages Firs Road [now 29 Firs Road] and it was just a short walk around a Sand Pit and down to the Dairy. I, the youngest, born 1924, also took on the task when old enough. Always asking for skim milk which was about all we could afford. The cream was for the wealthy at that time of day.
Manny's brother Fred lived next door at No 14 and worked for him. He drove a two wheeled open cart pulled by a pony. This was equipped with large storage Churns and used in the main to collect the milk for the rounds from the farms. Most I believe came from Waldegraves Farm - Mr Pearl Cross and later Mr Jack Lord. Collected early morning and again in the afternoon Fred would deliver some to the more distant customers on the way back to the Dairy. Any received in the late afternoon would still be quite warm. The other delivery rounds would be by 5 gallon churns one on each side of a bicycle's handlebars and the milk was ladled out with a 1 pint or ½ pint measure into the customer's jugs at the door.
It was possible to get two deliveries a day if you so wished and remember, there were no fridges in those days !!! Fred's other jobs were to look after the pony's wellbeing, and in the Hay season he could be seen with his scythe and a sack cutting any roadside grass for feed.
Fred and his wife had twin sons; Geoff and Ken, born on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1911, and in the tradition of Mersea for nick-names, when taking the field for a football match; it was 'come on the Legs Elevens'. They had a younger sister, Gladys (Toddler) later, Mrs Jack Welborne. Manny and his wife had a son William (Billy) who later ran the business. Also a daughter Winnie, later Mrs Fredrick Smith. (The Mill).
My farther and I installed a Steam Sterilising Boiler in the Dairy at around 1937-38 when Farthings went over to milk bottles. The steam injectors boiled the water in the bottle cleaning trough and also pressure steamed the churns.
Among the many milkmen who worked for Manny over the years was Beau Saye, Rodney Vinson and Tony Ward. Tony later took over the business and lived in the house with his family before selling out.
Milkmen when I was young were somewhat plentiful. Those called to mind being: Miss Edith Cock from Brickhouse Farm, who hawked around their own milk from their dairy herd. Donald Thorpe of High Street North, who went around with churns on his cycle handlebars as did Miss Cock. A.G. Farthing (Manny) of Mersea Avenue, (the largest) who with his brother Fred who drove a small milk cart and collected the fresh milk early each morning. and who then did the furthest afield runs whilst Manny used his bicycle. Titfords of the Dairy Shop in Barfield Road, (Later Mr Mason). Tim Pavey opposite the school and his brother A.P. Pavey of Suffolk Avenue, Alf's dad. Alf and son Steven took over later. With milk at 1½d a pint, it is difficult to see how they made a living. There were a few cases of the Weights and Measures Inspectors catching someone watering down the milk to make it go further which was always on the cards in those days of hardship.
Most of the Farms locally had Dairy Herds. Daniel Cock of Brickhouse, Mr Hawkins of Wellhouse, Pearl Cross of Waldegraves, Maurice Thorp of Holly Lodge and the Knight family of Home Farm Peldon. Whilst A.G.Farthing was first with his own bottling and the others carried on for a short while with the old way, this all changed soon after WW2, when pasteurised milk was introduced and Lord Rayleigh's Dairies of Hatfield Peverel sent lorries to collect the Farms milk, processed it, bottled and crated it and then delivered it daily to the Mersea Milkmen for distribution.
This was the status quo for a few years until Supermarkets were into selling milk at a reduced price. It was then that the Milkmen sold out one by one to the Co-op, which is now the only firm to give a doorstep delivery service.