Byhams Dairy

Henry Byham had bought the Pork Butchers shop from a Mr Todd when he first started in business. With the coming of the motorcar before the First War, custom began to fall off as folk made their way into town and passed the shop travelling further afield, and with four other butchers shops in the near vicinity. He decided that trade in meat was no longer a viable proposition and so began to turn to the production of milk. He kept the cows at the back of the shop, which now became a dairy, and hired farm buildings at Ballingdon Hall.

Five cows were kept initially, and the milk was supplied to about twenty local households. The milk was delivered warm, straight from the cow, which was milked twice a day, so it did not keep too long and was often sour the next morning. The deliveries were made using a handcart with a 12 gallon churn with a brass tap, brass cap and a stirrer at the top to agitate the milk and keep the cream level consistent. the milk was drawn off into 2-gallon cans from which the milk was ladled by pint or half pint measures into the customer’s jugs, at their door.

The cream line was all-important and customers soon let you know if they considered your milk was below the standard of a competitor. Payment had to be made for grazing on the Common Land to the Freeman of the Borough. More cows were purchased and farmland was hired to grow the cattle feed. The herd grew to about a hundred made up of Friesians for bulk milk production, Guernsey’s and Jerseys for a good cream line. The farmland was cultivated and harvested with seven Suffolk Punches, looked after by a horseman. Mangolds and sugar beet were all hand lifted and women topped and tailed them at the dairy. Three men were employed at this time to deliver the milk and do the farm work. This meant an early start and they did not finish until 10 o’clock in the evening, in the summer with haymaking to be done, making a 16 hour day. Life was very hard in those days.

It became more difficult to keep the cows in peak condition, with the limited feed supply. It was decided to sell the herd and buy in milk from about twenty-five farms within a five-mile radius, from farmers who had much larger grazing facilities.

With the cooling of the milk it lasted longer and deliveries were cut down to one a day. Bottle washing and filling was done on the premises, but then legislation came in that milk had to be pasteurized, so it was done elsewhere. Further legislation dictated that bottling had to be done where it was pasteurized, so it was decided to buy the milk already bottled.