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Newgate Calendar - THE MILKMEN OF LONDON


And Their Impositions upon the Public

            In the environs of London, so great is the consumption of milk in the metropolis, that milk-men and cow-keepers are rich. Willan, a man of this description, has acquired a lordly fortune. His wife, once a low uneducated woman, by many years selling out milk, now rolls about in her carriage, proud as any lady; and had she still practised a little of what she had been taught in adversity, and remembered to whom she was of kin, she might have been hailed "Queen of the Milk-maids." Among the abuses and frauds committed upon the public, that practised in the article of milk loudly calls for regulation. On this subject we shall quote the observation of Mr. Middleton, who has exposed a number of impositions upon the public:

            "Among the number of petty frauds," says this author, "may be included the adulteration of milk in the metropolis, which not merely affects the pockets, but the health, of the inhabitants of London.

            "The number of milch cows kept for the purpose of supplying the metropolis with this article is stated, after very diligent enquiry, at 8,500, and each cow is supposed to afford nine quarts of milk per day. When the families of fashion are in London for the winter season, the consumption, and consequent deterioration, of the milk are at the highest; during the summer months, when such families are for the most part in the country, the milk may probably be of rather a better quality. The milk is always given in its genuine state to the retail dealers; and as it is sold to them by the cow-keepers after the rate of two-pence and 1/8th of a penny per quart, and is retailed by them at three-pence halfpenny per quart, the profit is surely so large, as ought to prevent even the smallest adulteration. But when it is considered how greatly it is reduced by WATER, and impregnated by WORSE ingredients, it is much to be lamented that no method has yet been devised to put a stop to the many scandalous frauds and impositions in general practice, with regard to this very necessary article of human sustenance. It is certainly an object well deserving the particular consideration of the legislature. It cannot be doubted that many persons would be glad to make some addition to the price now paid for it, high as that price is, provided they could, for such advanced price, procure so useful an article in domestic economy perfectly genuine.

            "Not satisfied with the profit here stated, which, considering the difference of measure, is above one hundred per cent, it is a common practice, with the retailers of this useful article, to carry the milk first home to their own houses, where it is set up for half a day, when the cream is taken from it, at least all that comes up in that time, and it is then sold for new milk. By which means, what is delivered in the morning is no other than the milk of the preceding afternoon, deprived of the cream it throws up by standing during that time. By this means a farther considerable profit accrues to the retailer, and the milk is greatly reduced in point of strength and quality. This cream, poor as it is, they again mix with flour, chalk, and perhaps other more baneful ingredients, and yet it finds a ready market in the metropolis.

            "Five or six men only are employed in attending three hundred cows. As one woman cannot milk above eight or nine cows twice a day, that part of the business would necessarily be attended with considerable expense to the cow-keeper, were it not that the retailer agrees for the produce of a certain number of cows, and takes the labour and expense of milking on himself. Every cow-house is provided with a milk-room (where the milk is measured and served out by the cow-keeper) and this room is mostly furnished with a pump, to which the retail dealers apply in rotation; not secretly, but openly, before any person that may be standing by, from which they pump water into the milk vessels at their discretion. The pump is placed there expressly for that purpose, and, indeed, is very seldom used for any other.

            "A considerable cow-keeper in Surrey has a pump of this kind, which goes by the name of the Famous Black Cow, (from the circumstance of its being painted black) and is said to yield more than all the rest put together. Where such a pump is not provided for them, things are much worse, for in that case the retailers are not even careful to use clean water. Some of them have been seen to dip their pails in a common horse-trough. And what is still more disgusting, though equally true, one cow-house happens to stand close to the edge of a stream, into which runs much of the dung, and most of the urine of the cows, and even in this stream, so foully impregnated, they have been observed to dip their milk pails.

            A cow-keeper informs me, that the retail milk dealers are for the most part the refuse of other employments, possessing neither character, decency of manners, nor cleanliness."


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