A Unigate milk bottle displaying a Ready Brek Advertisement from the 1980’s. Following pasteurisation, the first glass milk bottles started appearing on doorsteps in the 1880’s. Prior to this milk was produced locally on farms, delivered in jugs to houses and had to be drunk quickly before it went off as no-one owned a fridge. Being in a clear glass bottle customers could see how fresh the milk being delivered was. Originally the milk was delivered with a cardboard lid, this then changed to a tin foil lid. To increase sales dairies would have their company name embossed on the bottle and also the foil lid too. Customers were encouraged to rinse the bottle and leave on their doorstep ready for the milkman to collect on his next visit.

During the 1980’s due to the increase of milk being sold in supermarkets dairies allowed manufacturing companies to advertise on their milk bottles to increase milk profits. Adverts were found from brands like Ready Brek as shown in this photograph as well as: Cornflakes, Frosties, daily newspapers and toothpaste.

40 million bottles were delivered to the customers doorsteps in the 1990’s. This declined with the introduction of cheaper milk in plastic bottles or cartons purchased from supermarkets. It is now becoming more environmentally friendly to purchase milk once again in glass bottles and more people are re-instating deliveries from a milk-man on their doorstep.

Unigate Dairies
Following the merger of Cow & Gate and United Dairies in 1959 Unigate was formed. In 2013 Unigate was sold to Dairy Crest.

Ready Brek
In 1957 the tea company J. Lyons and co. launched a new oat-based breakfast where you added hot milk to form an instant porridge. Ready Brek is now owned by cereal breakfast company Weetabix Limited.


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More information:

Date 1980s
Material(s) Glass
Item number MBPO75

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • Can you remember the 1/3 pint bottles of milk at school? Did you enjoy drinking them?
  • What birds liked pecking at the milk bottle tops when bottles were delivered to the doorstep?
  • What other items did the milkman used to sell along with milk?
  • Do you still have milk delivered or do you buy it from a shop now?

User Stories

Photo of my Grandad’s horse drawn milk cart in approx 1920’s.

My Grandad was a milkman and worked from a depot in Greenford, Middlesex which was quite a way from Southall where he lived. He used to cycle there in all weather. He had a large round of customers and had to leave early in the morning and got home late in the afternoon. He had frostbite and gangrene possibly from working out in hard winters with lots of snow. – Memory Box Volunteer


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