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By Colin Barnsley 

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First Published 4/10/2021
Last Updated 14/1/2022

 

I am sure I am not the only one who had assumed Heald Green was named after the dairy - but that was just a coincidence.
This is the story of how Heald’s Dairy’s milk deliveries came, and the last empties went, from our doorsteps.

 

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Fig. 1 "Drinka Pinta Milka Day"
Milk Marketing Board Advert from 1960s

© Mary Evans Picture Library
Click Image to View
 

The Early History of the Heald Green Site and Heald's Dairies

1

Teretta & Frank Mitchell’s tithe map is frequently our earliest starting point for investigations into the development of the use of land in Heald Green.  Back in 1841, John Worthington owned “Kitchen Meadow”, where a building called Brookside was later built   . This later became the site of Heald’s Dairy.  The picture on the right shows Brookside overlaid on a 2020 map.

The history of Heald’s Dairies begins much earlier, though, with its founders.

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Fig. 2 OS Map, 1888-1913 (with 2020 overlay)
© ARCHI Information Sytems Ltd 2020
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Fig. 3 R&J Heald on an early horse and cart
© Heald's Dairy (from The Happy Cow in-house magazine, kindly provided by Debbie Grogan)
Click On Image To View

 

Sons Edgar and Charles and daughter Margaret helped develop the business, building a pasteurisation plant on Oak Street, Didsbury in 1922.  The business diversified into other dairy products ; cream, butter, yoghurt, cheese and cream cheese.  In 1937 the brothers bought premises in Wilmslow and began to introduce electrified vehicles to replace horses and carts. 

It wasn’t until the fifties and sixties that the company began to buy other retail sites in the rapidly growing South Manchester and Cheshire areas.  Though we are not sure of the precise date, Healds came to Heald Green around the mid 1950s.

Agnes Anne Gibbons was brought up on a family holding called Daisy Bank Farm at Pen-y-Fordd, a small village between Mold and Chester.  She moved to Manchester to find work, and married a James Edward Heald in 1893, who unfortunately died just four years later. Robert, his brother, had been in partnership with him as a milk producer and retailer. On his death she set up on her own business, signing a tenancy agreement in 1899 for 30 acres of land in Didsbury (now the site of the Northern Lawn Tennis Club between Palatine Road and Lapwing Lane). The company was officially titled “A. Heald” after Agnes – but everybody knew it as Heald’s Dairies   .
 

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Fig. 4 A. Heald's, one of the the last horse-drawn vehicles
© Heald's Dairy (from The Happy Cow in-house magazine, kindly provided by Debbie Grogan)
Click On Image To View

 

Milk-Can Corner

Though other dairies operated in and around Heald Green before Heald's moved to Heald Green, many residents in the 1950s remember collecting milk at "Milk Can Corner". At the top end of Long Lane where it turned right into Schools Hill (by Turnfield House), local farms used to bring their milk churns, and place them on trestle tables.  Both distributors and individual householders could collect milk from here.  Householders could fill their own jugs and pay in an honesty box.
 

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Fig. 5 Milk Can Corner - where the road bends right on the crease of the map
© Teretta & Frank Mitchell /
St. James Church

Click On Image To View

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Fig. 6 Cyclists on Long Lane, c1900. Looking North; in the centre of the picture the road turns sharp right into Schools Hill - this point is Milk Can Corner
From Cheadle & Gatley Postcards by C. Makepeace
© European Library

Click On Image To View

The Early History of the Heald Green Sites and Heald's Dairies

"Where Long Lane Post office is on the corner of Merwood Avenue and Wilmslow Road, was originally a Heald's shop. Another chap (Anthony Boswell) and I, used to deliver orders for them, on those bikes with a small wheel at the front, and a large basket hanging over it! I recall the managers name was Oakes! Happy days at the beginning of the sixties!  It was a Spar shop a long time after it was Heald's, and the mosaic [on the side wall] was there when it was Heald's!"   - Howard Hunt, 2021

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Fig. 7 Mosaic on side of Heald's store ; became a Spar, now Long Lane Post Office & General Store - "Saleem's".
Heald's is overwritten on the top left of the mosaic.  2021

© Colin Barnsley
Click On Image To View

 

Les Clough Jr’s father Les Clough Sr. worked for Heald’s Dairies from 1957 to 1985. Les Jr. takes up the story and describes the dairy and his father’s round for us   .

“It was already a dairy when we moved here in 1957; Dad started work there straight away. He had been a milkman elsewhere, but I don’t know who with. I went out with him on many occasions. People used to think the job of a milkman is finished at 8am - but there was more to it than deliveries.”

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Les Clough

“The dairy opened at 04:30am. Dad was one of the early ones to get started. As you approached on the road into the dairy, on the right hand side attached to the back of the house [Ed: Brookside], was a sort of reception / counter. The offices were behind that as was the store for the perishable goods – for the things that didn’t need to be in the big fridge but maybe in a smaller fridge - like yoghurts and eggs.”

“From that going for 20-30 yards there was a wall, there was a huge fridge where all the crates of milk were stored.  The big trucks would come, I assume in the afternoon, from Didsbury and would fill this fridge with milk, already in bottles in crates of 20.  All in glass bottles stacked up about six crates.”
 

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Fig. 5 "Are You Getting Enough?"
© Milk Marketing Board, 1970s
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Fig. 8 A Heald's Milk Van in Kilburn Close, 1973
Suzanne Tapia's Dad Jack driving
© Suzanne Tapia

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“All around the edge of the site was where the milk vans were parked on chargers.  Massive big  batteries under the decks of the vans.  You plugged them in once you’d finished your round and they stayed plugged in until the next morning.  Woe betide if you forgot as they only had one spare van. The humming of all these batteries charging; that was my main memory of the place.”

“You’d walk in at 4:30am, unplug your van, drive it out and park your car where the van was.  Back up to the loading bay, which was raised to the height of the back of the van. Four at a time could load up which is why my Dad got there early, to start first.  He’d load up and collect eggs at reception.  He had a round book, all manually entered, and he loaded everything that had been pre-ordered, plus a few spares - around a thousand pints a day. Vans got round in one pass – delivering a van full.  Some of the wider reaching rounds didn’t deliver as many, as it took longer to travel their route. There was a   huge patronage – almost everybody had their milk delivered, and got it before they went to work.”
 

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Fig. 9,10,11 View of Brookside and Heald's Dairy looking West into the yard, 1984
© David White

Click On Each Image To View
 

"[The left photo shows...] the two single storey buildings, I think were also storage, accessible from the loading bay, but I can't recall what was in them. The tall building to the front [furthest left] must be Brookside. The 2-storey brick building would be the dairy premises, with the reception / sales part at the far end - ie. just before the gates, by the vehicle exit/entrance."

"[The central photo shows...]  the structure with the blue top to the left is the loading bay, where the vans backed up to load from the fridge. If you zoom in to the fence along the top of the wall you can just make out the charging points - metal boxes about 3ft high and a couple of feet wide, a roof ran along level with the top of the fence. You can also see a roof just behind the wall at this side, there were a few charging points there as well.
 
"[On the right-hand photo...] I don't think there were any charging points against the white wall. if you think about it , the artics had to drive into that space then back up into the load the fridge."
 

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*Fig. 12 "Fresh Milk's Gotta Lotta Bottle"
© Milk Marketing Board Advert, 1983-84

Click On Image To Watch the Video (Youtube)
 

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Fig. 13 The only colour picture we have of a Heald's
Milk Van - and even this isn't from Heald Green, 1987

© Heald's Dairy (from The Happy Cow in-house magazine, kindly provided by Debbie Grogan)
Click On Image To View

 

“Dad’s was a compact round – he turned left out dairy and started deliveries to the first house he came to on Finney Lane, then down Thornton, top of Queensway and all back to finish opposite the dairy.  A lot of the estate wasn’t there when he started eg Crantock or the Lakes ; there was another company delivering in Heald Green too, which Healds eventually bought out.  My Dad’s round started more spread out but as the village grew it was made more compact and he retained the bit closest to the dairy. He’d finished his round by about 8am.”

“Floats didn’t go very fast especially when they were full. Dad never conked out that I remember.  Some people did.  At one time, they experimented with three-wheeler milk floats – they didn’t work very well, very unstable! 

 

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Fig. 14 Price List 1988
© Heald's Dairy, courtesy of Debbie Grogan

Click On Image To Read

 

“Most milkmen had a lad to help most of the time, but they started to frown on it [in later years].  You’ll probably find many lads of a certain age who had helped the milkmen in Heald Green. He loaded up and set off around 5am, deliver, book in all the returns, and unload the empties.  On a non-collecting day, the van went back on charge and that was it.  But then there was the round book to maintain, booking up and carrying forward and he had to write it all down manually.  Each book lasted about four weeks, which meant copying all the addresses and orders from book to book.  So each week he’d copy a bit (to spread it out) and any changes along the way were marked in.  In the middle of the week he’d start calculating all the bills. He never used a calculator, it was all in his head.”

“Towards the end of the week when people were getting paid, he went to collect money.  Thursday morning, Friday morning, Friday night and Saturday morning.  He’d know certain people in his mind, who he could collect from at each time. Nearly all paid cash, the odd ‘posh’ person by cheque, mostly weekly as people were usually paid on a Friday. Then there was all the cashing up, banking, accounting and so on.”
 

“At peak there were about 20, maybe 30 roundsmen.  Then people in office and operating the counter & perishables. And then there were relief roundsmen. The regular milkmen worked four weeks solid without a day off, then a week off.  Including Christmas Day.  I’d go out with him on Christmas morning and at 5:30 in the morning you’d see all these kids out on new bikes and roller skates.  ‘Hello Les, do you want a tot of whiskey or something?’ I think everyone forgot that he was driving!”

“Generally, I didn’t go with Dad in the week, on schooldays – maybe in school holidays; weekends and Friday nights I did until I was 15.  Gave up in O-level year. After that, I got a job on the petrol pumps at Appleton’s Garage in the evenings."

 

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Fig. 15 Close-up of Heald's Dairy yard, aerial photo 1991
© Manchester Evening News
Click On Image To View
 

“Dad retired in 1985 ; the year my son was born.  Dad had to retire because his knees gave out; he hadn’t wanted to, but he had no choice. The milkmen would be out in all weathers, which is great when the sun’s shining in the summer and it’s light, but in the winter, when it’s pouring down incessantly on you for three hours, it’s miserable, dark and cold.  If it was snowy, the van would slide about.”
 

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Fig. 16 "Dancing Milk Bottles"
© Milk Marketing Board Advert, 1992

Click On Image To Watch the Video (Youtube)
 

After Heald's Dairy

When Les’ Dad retired, Heald's were employing over 1,000 staff in Didsbury and at its retail sites.  Waterford’s bought Healds in 1990   .  However, a change in shopping habits meant more families were undertaking a single weekly shop, and buying heavily-discounted milk at the new larger supermarkets opening up in the area.  There was less demand for milk delivered to the door – doorstep deliveries were declining by 10% each year. 

By 1994, the former Heald's site in Heald Green was sold and demolished, making way for the houses and flats of Waterford Place.

 

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Fig. 16 Brookside as it is demolished, 1994
© David White

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Fig. 17 Waterford Place 2021
© Colin Barnsley

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