This is a milk bottle from the latter half of the 20th century, when daily deliveries of milk from dairies direct to household doorsteps was in decline.  The printing on the bottle encourages home owners to support their local deliveries by ordering a Christmas hamper of goods.

For decades, households in the UK had regular deliveries of milk, and latterly a range of other fresh groceries, to their doorstep.  Dairies would set up local rounds, and milkmen (they were usually males) would load up their orders for the day onto their “floats” at the crack of dawn.  Their aim was that every order would reach the designated household in time for breakfast each morning.  The floats were electrically powered vehicles only capable of a few mph, but suitable for constantly stopping and starting on a round of a few miles only.

To begin with, just milk was delivered – but soon a range of other common necessities were added to the range.  Dairy products such as cream and butter, bread and fruit juice were popularly ordered.  The milkman in an area became a well-known figure.  He was even memorialised in song when the comic single “Ernie – the fastest milkman in the west” was released by comedian Benny Hill in 1971.

As supermarkets became bigger and more popular with customers, enabling them to buy produce such as milk at very competitive prices, having doorstep deliveries became more widely viewed as an expensive luxury.  The local dairies couldn’t compete with big supermarket brands, and so the once familiar milkman on his float became a less common sight.

Dairies took to advertising their own products on the milk bottles, and also selling their advertising space to other companies, not necessarily anything to do with food.  As the bottles were washed and re-used, they had a decent shelf life, so were an effective advertising space.  Even this procedure could not stop the decline of the industry, however, and by the 2020’s there are just a handful of companies around the UK still providing doorstep deliveries.

More information:

Date 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s
Material(s) Glass
Item number MBPO283

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • What products do you remember being delivered by a milkman (or woman) when you were young?

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