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Archive for the ‘Milk’ Category

Louis Simond, a Frenchman who lived in the United States, landed in Falmouth on Christmas Eve, 1809 to begin a twenty-one month journey of the British Isles. During his tour, Louis set down his observations, which resulted in a well-received book, Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain during the Years 1810 and 1811 by a Native of France with Remarks on the Country, its Arts Literature, and Politics, and on the Manners and Customs of its Inhabitants. The following passage in the book describes the custom of drinking milk in London:

In the morning all is calm–not a mouse stirring before ten o’clock; the shops then begin to open. Milk-women, with their pails perfectly neat, suspended at the extremities of a yoke, carefully shaped to fit the shoulders, and surrounded with small tin measures of cream, ring at every door, with reiterated pulls, to hasten the maid-servants, who come half asleep to receive a measure as big as an egg, being the allowance of a family; for it is necessary to explain, that milk is not here either food or drink, but a tincture–an elixir exhibited in drops, five or six at most, in a cup to tea, morning and evening. It would be difficult to say what taste or what quality these drops may impart; but so it is; and nobody thinks of questioning the propriety of the custom.– Louis Simond, An American in Regency England, The History Book Club, London, 1968, p 29-30.

The doling out of tiny portions of milk in the early nineteenth century could be explained by the Corn Laws, which protected the cultivation of land. Because of this law, less land became available for grazing cattle, resulting in a reduction of milk. (Liquid Pleasures: A Review). Milk prices must have risen steeply as well. Regardless of the available supply, milkmaids would walk through London, aiming their cries at the servants of the house, who worked belowstairs:

Milk Below Maids! Will you buy any milk today Mistress? Any milk today Mistress? Will you have any milk maids? Milk Below!

Many of the estimated 8,000 milk cows were housed in dairy buildings scattered throughout this densely populated city. One can imagine that the conditions were anything but sanitary. (Cries of London – Milkmaids, Regency World). Cows also grazed in the meadows and grasslands of parks and pleasure gardens, such as Vauxhall. They were milked at noon, and the warm, fresh milk was sold for a penny a mug. (Parks and Pleasure Gardens of Regency London, JASA)

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