From Cow to Customer

A Brief look at the History of Horrrell’s Dairies

 Talk given by Marcus Horrell

On Thursday evening March 14th at the Peterborough Local History Society meeting 60 people attended to hear the history of a well known local company that served the Peterborough residents for almost a century. If you didn’t use their products you most certainly would have heard of them, Horrell’s Dairies of Westwood Farm. 

Milk delivered by a  horse drawn cart holding two milk churns

Horrells were a family of farmers. Their main farm was in Westwood, Peterborough where they raised and milked a herd of dairy cattle. The milk from their herd was sold locally for the whole of the 20th century. In the early part of the century they were in competition with several other dairy farms situated around Peterborough. Over the years as their business and reputation grew, most of the other farms either went out of business or were acquired by Horrell’s.

Marcus Horrell gave  the a audience comprehensive illustrated overview of the history of the  family’s dairy farms from the beginning, when the milk was sold, ladled into the housewife’s jug, straight from churns. These were loaded on to a simple horse drawn cart. Each milk man had his own round and was responsible for looking after his horse. As the century progressed horse and carts were replaced by lorries and eventually the electric milk floats we all remember. 

Milk bottling plant

After World War 11 the company grew and so did their dairy herd. The growing company  installed state of the art pasteurising equipment and bottling plants. In 1933 the Government established the Milk Marketing Board to control milk production and distribution in the UK. The dairy continued to grow and in 1965 Horrells became a Private Limited Company

From the 1970s, Peterborough expanded rapidly, when the Government designated Peterborough as a New Town Development to take London’s overspill families. By then milk was delivered to Peterborough homes by two company’s, Horrells or Anglia Dairies run by the Co-op. They competed with each other to get the custom of the new incoming families”. At the company’s peak it had 50 milk rounds and sold 100,000 bottles of milk a day.

An advertising button badge.

 As the 20th century came to an end with the rise of the Supermarkets who could control the price of milk  they bought and could also buy cheap milk from the Continent., the delivery of milk by the milkman of local firms couldn’t compete with the Supermarket buying policies and the companies sales declined and eventually closed in 1993.


Our Thanks goes to Marcus Horrell for an engaging overview of his families history of dairy farming and milk distribution.

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