Personal Memories of Richmond Hill Dairies

Pemberton, Wigan


Daily Deliveries, Horse-drawn and Vehicle

picAt the heart of Richmond Hill Dairies' delivery system were four flat bed horse drawn milk floats, each well maintained with pneumatic tyres and smartly painted with a bright green tail gate advertising the company's name. These were drawn by very well behaved horses: Star a Strawberry Roan; Polly a small chestnut; Prince a large black (frisky and temperamental, could kick out at times); and a small brown and white piebald called Tony(?). Teamed up with Ronnie Beddard, Peter Hart, Ken Greenway and Billy Brown respectively, these four covered the whole of Pemberton, Newtown, Highfield, Orrell and Kitt Green including Ormskirk Road between the Carnegie Library and Abbey Lakes, and many of the communities and estates on either side. Ken Greenway suffered a broken leg when he was hit by a car on his round in Lamberhead Green.

Ronnie Beddard and Star - turned east from Richmond Hill and made deliveries to customers in Ormskirk Road, Rose Hill (Mrs McGraw a former primary school teacher of mine was a customer just here), Ellesmere Road (passing Rylances furniture shop), Spring Bank, Heather Grove, Pine Grove, Holly Road, Bramble Grove, Bulteel Street, Poplar Avenue, Hawthorn Avenue, Elm Avenue, Ridyard Street, Larch Avenue, Claude Street, Ellesmere Road and back into Ormskirk Road with the last delivery near the Carlton Cinema before returning to the dairy.

Billy Brown and Tony - turned west into Ormskirk Road towards Orrell and served customers in Ormskirk Road, Gore Street, Woodford Street, Wardley Street, Fleet Street, Loch Street, Cross Street, Bradshaw Street, Bankes Avenue, Redwood Avenue, Brook Lane, Chapel Street (my headmaster William Brace lived in a large semi-detached house in this street and although I didn't go on this round very often I would keep out of the way at this point), New Street, Worsley Street, Normanby Street, Lambton Street, Smethurst Lane before returning to the dairy.

Peter Hart and Polly - turned east down Ormskirk Road and right into Enfield Street, serving customers there before turning into Chiswell Street, Fairfield Street, Billinge Road, Queen Street (at the time it was a long street with miners cottages with communal toilets in the cobbled 'backs' at the rear), Campbell Street, Bold Street, Mabel Street, Tunstall Lane, Valley Road and back into Tunstall lane to his last customer Lang's the butchers near the corner of Belle Vue Street then back to the dairy via Ormskirk Road.

Ken Greenway and Prince - turned west into Ormskirk Road to go as far as Abbey Lakes serving customers in Ormskirk Road, East Mount, West Mount, Parkside Crescent along the way, then returning to Moor Road, Rivers Street, Pinewood Crescent, Linden Avenue, Munro Avenue before returning home via Ormskirk Road again.

It was quite interesting to watch Peter Hart and the others harnessing the horses at the beginning of each working day, thankfully the horses were well trained and co-operative. Each horse had its own made to measure harness consisting of a collar, saddle and halter. The collar had leather traces attached for pulling the cart, these were loosely knotted when not attached to the cart for convenient handling and storage. The saddle had leather loops for supporting the cart shafts and a strap connecting it to the breeches which passed over the horse's hind quarters to restrain the cart going downhill. The halter went over the horses head behind the ears and had a metal 'bit' which went into the horses mouth to which the reins were to be attached. The collar was put on first inverted, wide part uppermost to go over the horses head and then rotated to the correct position against the shoulders. The saddle with its attachments came next, held in place by a girth strap directly below the saddle and a loop (crupper), part of the breeches at the back through which the horse's tail was passed. Finally came the halter, with the 'bit' going into the mouth and the top over the horse's ears to be held in place by a buckled strap. When the cart was loaded the horse was backed between the shafts, the ends passed through the loops in the saddle and the rings on the ends of the leather traces located onto the metal hooks at the hinged end for pulling. There were also hooks on the shafts which connected to rings on either side at the lower ends of the breeches over the horse's hind quarters to provide braking for the cart. Finally the reins were attached to the halter. Delivery staff would ride on the cart and control the horse using the reins to the start point of the round, from then on the horse would walk unattended whilst the milk was delivered to doorsteps. Luckily there were no parked cars in those days and the horses soon became familiar with the places to stop for people to catch up and where to expect tit-bits which made things quite easy. On icy mornings in winter chisel shaped screws were inserted in the horses hooves to prevent slipping, these had the effect of making it look as if the horse was standing on tip toe. There was a threaded hole at the back of each horse shoe into which the screws could be fitted. They were surprisingly effective and were quite worn at the end of a round. There must have been a farrier looking after the horse's feet, they were always well shod but I was never aware of who did it, when or where. At the end of the daily rounds the horses were fed by the handlers with oats and fresh hay and the stables cleaned out, soiled straw bedding being replaced with new. There was a small manure heap behind one of the stables, waste material was brushed and spaded into a wheelbarrow to be transported there.

Daily Deliveries and Collections (Vehicles) - A Morris Commercial drop side flat bed lorry was used to deliver 1/3 pint bottles of milk to schools and other bulk deliveries of products to factories and businesses and for collection of milk supplies from farms in Orrell, Gathurst Roby Mill and Upholland. After a period of time the company ceased to supply schools with milk and the Morris was replaced with a shorter Thames Trader vehicle. The driver of both vehicles was Bob Porter who lived in Dean Crescent at Kitt Green, I seem to remember the little bakery at Orrell Post was one of his customers. An Austin A40 Devon Pickup (LYP 532) was used to deliver milk to factories on the Lamberhead Green Industrial Estate including Triangle Valve, Industrial Reels and Uni-Hygea, Lord and Sharman's Slipper Works close to the junction of Tunstall Lane and Billinge Road and for deliveries to individual customers in Highfield, Winstanley and Windy Arbour. Whilst in Winstanley milk churns were collected from farms on route: Ackers in Highfield; Fouracres at Pony Dick; Kearsley's farm down a track which later became Holmes House Avenue and Turners farm at Windy Arbour. Arriving back at the dairy the vehicle would be reloaded for the Norley Hall round or if any of the horse drawn rounds had set out without a full load for any reason it would first take them additional supplies. The Norley Hall round began at the top of Norley Hall Avenue at its junction with Ormskirk Road and covered practically every street on the estate including Thorburn Road, Severn Drive, Ribble Drive, Avon Road, Trent Road, Lamberhead Road, Somerset Road, Dorset Road, The Green, Helvellyn Road and Saddleback Road, where it left the estate for the Kitt Green part of the round. Turning right out of Shap Gate into City Road the deliveries continued along its length, round the bend at the bottom into Prescott Lane and on to the customers in Spring Road. Where the properties finished near the footpath entrance to Porter's wood (the site of the present Heinz haulage depot) the vehicle was turned round to retrace its path to complete the round with customers in Prescott Lane and Bell Lane, before returning to the dairy via City Road.

All Richmond Hill vehicles were maintained by Jimmy Ind at his garage next to the Abbey Lakes Hotel in School Lane Upholland. The Devon pick up used for the Winstanley and Norley Hall rounds was my personal favourite, it was ideal to deliver from, it was low enough for even small people to reach all the load, there was also a heavy bar across the back to stand on and an overhang along each side which was a comfortable seat and a convenient place to hold on to for the ride between customers. In the late fifties few people had cars and consequently there was only light traffic on the roads and most deliveries started out at about 7am finishing at lunch time on week days, I would get up at six o'clock and be at the dairy to help with loading by 6.45am. Saturday was the day for collecting payment and on this day the round took much longer sometimes finishing as late as 1.30pm, however most customers made it very easy for us by having the right change ready and sometimes leaving it behind the bottle in plastic bags. Each customer had a regular order which changed only infrequently and a record page in the appropriate round book. Once we got used to the prices we didn't have to look at the book we knew what everyone wanted and where to leave it, and on collecting day after picking a customer's order from the back of the vehicle we could calculate the amount to be charged (in pounds, shillings and pence in those days) in our heads by the time we were knocking on the front door. Oh the joys of mental arithmetic pre-decimalisation, we were not even daunted when the price of a pint of milk went up to sevenpence halfpenny! We didn't need calculators, perhaps it was just as well, they hadn't been invented, in fact I think even the transistor was still on the drawing board. As rounds progressed crates of milk stacked maybe two high gradually became crates of empty bottles and we would often have to rearrange the load to get access to the remaining supplies. Sometimes it was more convenient to serve a number of customers without returning to the vehicle, most people could carry four bottles at a time in their hands but we would often use carriers which could hold six and up to ten bottles and in the extreme carry a whole case of twenty bottles. On Fridays and Saturdays we delivered eggs as well. Christmas was a particularly nice time of the year at the dairy with brightly coloured festive caps on the bottles and appreciative customers greetings and presents. Everyone wanted cream for their Christmas meals and there was always a lot to be delivered over the Christmas and New Year period, with few domestic fridges in homes we couldn't deliver too early, it had to be fresh when it joined the Christmas pudding. Summer and winter rain or shine 365 days a year the milk had to be delivered. There must have been days when we were cold wet and miserable and times when we were off colour with colds and flu but we never let the customers down, we always turned out, and strangely enough with the passage of time any such bad days if we had any seem to have been erased from the memory.

Supplies to other Businesses The dairy supplied bottled milk to three other businesses in the area, initially this would have been delivered by lorry in the afternoon ready for the following morning. Sometimes if there was a breakdown or a bottle shortage and they didn't receive their full order, someone would need to meet them on their round with additional supplies before they ran out. Later one or two of them started to collect their milk themselves rather than have it delivered. Mrs Waterworth was one such customer with a milk round in Upholland, she used a Bedford van for deliveries and lived in a very nice bungalow in College Road. Joe McNamara was another dairyman with a round in Upholland and using a two tone dark blue and light blue Bedford van for deliveries. He lived in a detached house in Parliament Street Upholland on the same side and close to the junction with Lafford Lane. He kept pigs behind his house and would often go to Rathbones Bakery at Newtown to collect stale bread to feed to them. Bill Howard had a milk round in Shevington and was the third dairyman supplied from Richmond Hill. He lived in one of the large semi-detached houses on the Shevington side of the canal on Gathurst Lane just above the Roburite factory, he had a walk in fridge behind the house at the top of his drive. Bill later sold his milk round and took over the shop at Randall's corner Appley Bridge. Richmond Hill also co-operated from time to time with Frank O'Donohue a dairyman with premises in Queen Street, Wallgate, Wigan.

Palfreyman 2010