Willen Employment

John Wilkinson Clare, milkman

In the days before people had fridges at home milk went off very quickly. Milk had to be obtained fresh every day. Milk was readily available to those people living and working on Henry Whiting's dairy farm. Although, it was mostly unpasteurised and many people are believed to have died from tuberculosis caught by drinking untreated milk.

In towns, the milkman played an important role in supplying the townsfolk with daily milk. When John Wilkinson Clare had to leave Willen when his father died, he became a milkman. The picture shows a young milkman delivering milk in Newport Pagnell in the late 1890s. He may well have known John Clare.

Photo courtesy of Mike Pratt

He doesn't have a milk float full of bottles of cool and pasteurised milk. Instead, he is carrying milk in open pails hung from a wooden yoke across his shoulders. He walks from door to door pouring milk into the jugs that the women in the houses bring to the door with them. He doesn't look very clean himself, and a lot of dust and dirt must have got into the milk before it was drunk. It isn't surprising that food poisoning was much more common in those days.

In Victorian times many lads were employed as delivery boys. Another basic foodstuff that was delivered to your door was bread.