It’s not my bag

Exactly how I remember it.

I was having a discussion the other day online with people who remembered the experiment with delivering milk in plastic bags that took place in the 1970’s, the use of which seems to be in revival, particularly at Costa Coffee shops. In short, milk came in strong (but often, not strong enough) plastic bags with a small amount of air in the top. You were given a free holder jug that you popped the bag in, and then snipped the corner off with scissors. You resealed the bag by sliding the cut corner into a slot in the lip of the jug.

If you find yourself thinking ‘This bloke should get out more…’ you’re probably right. I couldn’t believe I was searching for that at 1am either.

The experiment wasn’t a success and the use of bottles returned, but the memory lingers. I’m fairly sure it was tried by a company locally. It was while I was musing on this subject and undertaking some nostalgic research that I came across the following image in the Flickr stream of brookos photos. I remember these floats serving Brownhills, and the dairy seemed popular. I seem to remember Unigate, who had great advertising campaigns, and of course, the Co-op.

We haven’t covered delivery services and companies at the Brownhills Blog. We’ve touched on Pelari’s Ice Cream – mainly the untimely death of their horse at the hands of Nazi bombers in the war – but what do you recall of milkmen, posties, draymen and mobile grocers? Ice cream vans, too, particularly in the sixties, seventies? We’re losing these things hand over fist and I’d be interested to see what you guys can dig up… post a comment or BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.


Woolner Brothers milk float LDH725D in the early eighties at the Upper Forster Street dairy in Walsall. From the Flikr photostream of brookos photos.

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54 Responses to It’s not my bag

  1. theaardvark says:

    When I first moved to the Midlands, in ’78 or ’79, we started getting deliveries of fizzy pop from what I think was a local company.

    I don’t remember the name but I do remember the bubble cartoon characters it used in it’s marketing, along with something about “getting fizzical”.

    • ‘Fizzical’ was Corona, that came in a tall, elegantly tapering bottle. The label had a big letter ‘c’ on it. Every bubble had passed it’s fizzical, apparently.

      The big delivery company here for pop were Alpine. They were quite cheap, but did odd flavours.

      There was also Cresta, whose avertising logo, a polar bear, declared it to be ‘Frothy, man!’… not sure if they delivered.

      Something is ringing a faint bell about Davenports ‘beer at home’, but I’m not sure.

      Best wishes


      • stymaster says:

        My brother-in-law used to deliver Alpine pop in the late 80s or early 90s. There’s still a pop delivery bloke doing the rounds in Pelsall to this day, but Alpine went a good few years ago.

        Davenports beer at home was quite a big thing round here: Highgate brewery tried to restart it just before they went into administratiion.

        I remember both Woolner’s and Unigate well, and as Julie says below, Dairy Crest still do home deliver for groceries via the web- my Mom has used it during the winter.

        One thing that has struck me: with diminishing and expensive oil, milk deliveries are now often by diesel Transit van, rather than electric milk float: is this due to dairies being further away now, out of range?

        • Andrew says:

          As a milkman I can say that due to diminishing customer base the rounds are not quite as compact as they used to be where once you would do an estate you now cover 4/5 or even 6 estates and people now have less delivered the odd bottle every other day while still getting the bulk from the supermarket just to say they are helping to keep you in a job,but did you know 90% of milkmen are franchisees so its no longer just a job but its their own business

      • Amir says:

        I have recently purchased a property, the Old Dairy in Walsall. I believe this was where the Woolner Brothers Dairy was first established at the turn of the century.

    • Remember glass bottles of Lucozade with the orange cellophane wrap at the top?

  2. Julie Kaine says:

    This is how milk is sold now in Canada and I’m sure MnS buy it is like this in their cafes. Talking of milk deliveries (which we still believe in to support our local milkman), Dairy Crest seem to offer a stirling service of delivering not just milk but a whole range of groceries directly to your doorstep free several times a week if you want. I have only just discovered this and it may prove useful in the coming weeks.
    When we first moved to Lichfield when I was 9, I remember my mum visiting and selecting her weekly shop from George Mason’s in Market Street and then having it delivered straight to the house. No charge, of course.

    • We had a George Mason in Brownhills. They were quite a large chain before the likes of Victor Value wiped them out. They were quite a big, local company.
      Jasper Carrot claims to have been a driver for them in his ‘if you give him a biscuit, he might let you’ sketch.

      Best Wishes


  3. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    the sweet crash of glass botlles ricocheting into metal milk crates is another treasure lost from early mornings. The float in the picture is 1966 model, I think. My own milkman is not as old as his electric float. No, his name isn’t Ernie .
    I wonder if you still find the wayside milk platforms where local farmers put their churns of milk to be collected..unles they have all gone…as have most of the dairy herds hereabouts. Just how local is “locally sourced” milk nowadays?
    David Evans

    • theaardvark says:

      David, IIRC the company that made most of the early electric milk floats went out of business because the floats were too reliable and long lasting. Once they’d made the initial sales, no one required replacement floats or that many spare parts so the company’s customer base disappeared.


    • There are still lots of local dairy farms, but mostly Stonnall has been arable of soft fruit for some decades. There’s still a large herd at New Barns, Lower Stonnall and others as you move out to Little Hay. The milk platforms have gone, to be replaced by the stainless steel tankers that zip at speed between the farms.
      You tend to notice them on a bike and give them as wide a berth as possible, as the drivers rarely take prisoners.

      Best wishes


  4. Brian Ansell says:

    Milk has been sold here in Canada this way for the last forty years at least. It is a wonderful way to cut down on garbage and is easy to use. The reason for the space in the bag is so it can be put in the freezer, no wasted product.
    My brother Robert Edwards worked as a boy through the summer and just Saturdays through the year for Woolners Dairy in the 1950s and 60s. Robert went with a driver name Boo’ ker and would go out to the farms on route and in and around Lichfield early morning to pick up the milk. It was early morning work so there was no transport, he walked two miles to work, this is a 12 year old boy (can you see the kids doing this today). For myself I worked two paper routes, one for Rollinsons in Shelfield and when I had finished there with my last paper at Botts house, the first house on the left of Green Lane (as you got to the Blackcock from Shelfield), I would then go onto Evan’s in the high street Walsall Wood and pick up a Paper route back to Shelfield and around Greenfields, then onto school. I worked for the Co-op dairy on a Saturday also and went with a fellow called Noris, he paid me 6 pence (a tanner) and a bottle of orange juice, the one with the black metalic top for a days work. The paper routes paid 14/6d a week for each route, that was 7 days a week plus the pink papers on Saturday, comics and womens mags on a Tuesday, Sunday was the killer with the Observer and Telegraph, they weighed a ton, rain,snow and shine we did this and then gave most of it to our Moms.

    • The air has to be in the bag, because if it were not, you’d get milky feet when you opened it. Since the air can’t leave the pack when the milk freezes, it just serves to pressurise the package when frozen.
      Your paper rounds sound like very hard work. We still have local kids delivering here and they seem to work hard and are reliable, so I suppose the tradition continues…

      Thanks for a fascinating insight


  5. Julie Kaine says:

    Fascinating, Brian Ansell of Canada!
    Wilmot’s Dairy, best locally sourced milk.

  6. Brian Ansell says:

    A little quiz for you. By looking at the photograph of the milk floats how would you know it was in the Walsall area?

  7. Mick_P says:

    @ theaardvark: I think it was Corona fizzy pop you’re remembering. I seem to recall that the large glass bottles had a stippled upper section, presumably to look like bubbles.

    @ Brian Ansell: is it because the number plate contains the code letters for Walsall, by any chance?

    I well remember Woolners, and I think that’s who delivered our milk. At that time we always had sterilised (‘sterra’) in the tall, thinner bottle with a crimped metal top (a hangover from the days before we had a fridge, but my mother ended up preferring it in any case). The milkman also brought our white sliced loaf of Wednesbury-baked Hickinbottom’s bread, in its red and white greaseproof wrapper.

    • Stera is still the only correct choice for tea. Sadly in these days when I’m having to was my cholesterol I’m stuck with the gnat’s pee that is semi-skimmed.

      Don’t remember the bread. Remember Sunblest, Mother’s Pride. Stantons.

      Best wishes


  8. Brian Ansell says:

    Correct Mick
    We had a dumpy book of cars as children and in the back was all the numbers that refered to where the vehicle was registered so we went car spotting and sat on the grass bank of Hawthorn and Lichfield road to do this. A summers day with a sandwich and a bottle of water; we spotted vehicals from all over England as they passed by. Train spotting was done at Bescot. Our bread was delivered by the Co-op and when I was a boy it was horse and cart, the horse would walk to each house, he knew his route and the milkman would just pick up the milk then the horse would walk on to the next house. The horse always stopped at our home for his nosebag of oats as my Mother would always have a pot of tea waiting for the milkman.

    By the way Julie Kaine are you living in Toronto or are you the teacher who cooks?

  9. jim says:

    I can think of a few old dairy companies that would have operated in the area

    Sid field Walsall
    Tamworth dairy co Walsall
    Crows nest dairy lichfield
    Woolner brothers walsall
    W.H. Kingston great Wyrley
    Walsall co-operative
    Warners walsall
    Midland counties wolverhampton

  10. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    I think Wacaden was based, or had a dairy, in Lichfield..where the Friary car park is now..
    opposite the City Library.
    The logistics of getting the right quantites of milk to the right supermarkets..overnight..might surprise many readers. On a truly national scale!

    kind regards

    David Evans

  11. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob

    Walsall Wood had a very good bakery on the High Street many years ago. The delivery driver was quite a well-known character…….I think the local milkman at the time had an equally profitable sideline, too.
    A lady and her husband from Commonside used to go round selling apples from their orchard. They had a 1940s Ford Estate Car, I believe.
    Monday was “pig slaughter “day. Mr Starbuck was the local porcine assassin. The cabanas on the beaches in Florida, and their resident , ever-so slightly overweight suntanning occupants, caused a wry smile to cross my face when I saw them for the first time! I blame Pavlov!
    kind regards
    David Evans

  12. fat prophet says:

    My daughter showed me this type of milk in Asda last week – they had bags of milk and the special jugs to put them in. Not sure I would want to try it.

  13. Andy Dennis says:

    Yes, I remember the “pop man” coming. Corona. They gave free bottle openers and I still use mine 40-odd years on to open bottles (though it’s a more grown up “pop” these days!). Bob, I’ve forwarded a picture, though I guess it’s not going to have much rarity value for a few generations yet. Andy

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  15. Son of Stonnall says:

    Aah… Woolners! They got as far as Stonnall, but the batteries gave up…. had to be recovered about twice a week.
    Back in the days of milk churns, there was a company on the corner of Ashcroft Lane in Shenstone that used to collect the churns on green painted Commer lorries with chain sides. What was the name?.

  16. Mark says:


    Woolners bros Dairy was in Walsall . up untill 1977 the entrance was in Warick st but the dairy aquired some land and extended the dairy. and the entrance moved to upper forster st . in the eearrly 80,s they had aboute 50 rounds and went as far as Tamouth they had abour 5 or 6 rounds over tamouth and server such places as drayton manor park (Insidentaly they had bagged milk we called them milk packs) the float in the photo did round 11 and this was around the chuckery area of walsal. it wasnt a popular float it was very very slow. In the mid 90,s kirby and West bought out Woolners and within a few years all the Woolners floats had gone and were replced by K & W ones, and the bottling plant had closed and production moved to leicester. I could go on forever about the place i worked ther as a boy from 1975 got various jobs there and finaly left in 1989. if anyone has any photos I would love to see them i have other photos but they have people on them. And like wise if anyone has any memories of the dairy i would like to here them to.

    mark (Brookos photos)

    • phil fletcher says:

      i was the 1st to have a k&w noddy float on round 18 and also the last 1 to have 1 on round 26 which was a float with a door in the back replaced by a k&w noody float

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  18. Brian says:

    i was born next door to the post office in walsall wood back in the late 40,s.i can remember the milkmen.breadmen.coalmen,and all. In the mid 50,s,i helped the local milkman on saturdays and was paid with a bottle of pasturised.In the early 60,s,i helped my brother who worked for wilsons of cairns st walsall.Due to the death of the owner the company sold out to Scribbands bakery who then sold out to Hickinbottoms who was then taken over by sunblest.I worked for hick,s for 17 years in the bakery untill its closure in April 1989. Does anyone remember the pop factory in Lichfield. Boroughs and Sturrges (i think) not forgetting Mack,s pickles ,we can go on for hours about the old days.Go from Walsall to Browhills via Rushall,Shelfield,Walsall wood,Streets corner,Anchor bridge,and you have your first seller.

  19. Mark says:

    My Dad used to work macks Pckles in Kingst Walsall in the late 60,s I think they had a place on the Pleck rd aswell. He would sometimes take me round on a weekend i can still remember the smell .

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  21. phil fletcher says:

    my dad worked at woolners from the horse and cart days rite up till it was sold to kirby & west i use to help him when wasnt at school in the late 70s to early 80s before working for kirby and west there from 87 i remember the milk in bags but if i recall it was in boxes and was more for factory delieveris

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  23. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    today I learnt just how many hundreds of miles our daily pints travel before they are dropped on our doorstep..and the major logistical tasks faced to bring the right quantites to supermakets from dairies all over the country. The amazing thing is that we are never short of milk. I will never take my pint of milk for granted in future.

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  25. Darren says:

    Just came across this and 725D was my grandads float,had many years in this helping him

  26. Darren says:

    Made a mistake my grandads was 723D(albert cope),started at the mellish road and finished in aldridge

    • Mark says:

      hello Darren

      I did your Grandads round a few times it was a slow truck and had solid tyres if i remember and the yourney from the top of the mellish roud to the whitehouse was a long cold one in the winter.I think you can see the back end of 723D it was one of the three facing the wall i think it was the one furthest away.

    • Stephen Farrant says:

      Hi Darren
      Your dad’s name he used was Bert ?
      And he drove a Capri ?
      I worked with Frank Smith on the opposite round to him.
      And my elder brother worked with Bert.
      I was there from the late 70s till late 80s

  27. Mat says:

    Hi all I am a forth generation milkman putting bottles on the doorstep I started in the Moses basket on the engine housing of a Bedford with mum as it is a family business and still going strong as my 9year old daughter go collecting with my farther on a Thursday evenings dad is 72 and not looking like giving up any time soon lol he started helping my great grandfather on the coop in Northampton with the horse and float my granddad had a van on the coop and then dad on the coop but dad had the chance of buying a round and did so and never looked back and here we are today

  28. malcolm raybould says:

    my name is malcolm raybould i remember standing outside woolners dairy early on saturdays and sundays in 1971 at 5am to get on a milk float to earn my pocket money it was great i then went on to work for the coop bakery in shaw st walsall were i passed my driving test and i had one of the new J4 vans and my own round the best job i ever had i loved it things are not the same any more but the memories are still with me can any body remember the central coaches on the same site and when they used to store the electric on the site at pratts bridge north walsall

  29. malcolm clarke says:

    my name is malcolm clarke I now live in new zealand and I have only just spotted this site.I worked at woolner dairy for about 11yrs until 1974, in the latter years I was a superviser of 15 rounds.dennis fletchers round was one also jim smith, albert cope,john macy,I cant remember all the names but some of my round numbers where 15,33,46.9,11,14,27.25.I see bookers name mentioned I think he was on round 20 which delivererd into shelfield.gordon brooks was my manager. other supervisers were maccy lunt, alf cooper,frank parton ,ron venables and malcolm clarke(no relation).It would be nice to hear from anyone who is still alive and wife and i are planning a trip back to england for 3 months at the end of may 2016 if any one gets in touch I will try and look you up.

    • ldh780j says:

      Hi Malcolm

      My Name is mark brookes ( No relation to Gorgon) but i worked at woolners from 1975 -1988 as Boy and Man I got to know your brother Ian very well (they used to call him Our Kid Because of him being your brother) I’m also very good friends still with John Mcleod I think you may remember him. I do Know mick Clarke Is still around and I know someone who does keep in touch with him, so If you would like me to pass on your details let me know and we can sort something out.A few you have mentioned have sadly no longer with us, You wont know me but I have heard about you from Mick , Ian, John, and mac,

  30. malcolm clarke says:

    hi mark I remember john he worked in the garage servicing the trucks,I would appreciate if you pass on my email address to those have access to the internet ,even if their children can do a message from them.It is really nice to here from you.

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