Penn Road  Dairy

The dairy was a pretty much a self-contained unit. There was an office, a transport department which looked after the lorries for the transportation of milk churns to and from the milk suppliers, and milk floats for delivery of the finished products to customers. There was also a vehicle maintenance department.

Penn Road Dairy.

The back yard behind the dairy.

The treatment facilities for the milk, and the bottling plant used the latest technology.

When the dairy opened there were about 130 staff and just over 60 rounds. Mr. J.A. Birch was Chief Executive Officer and Mr. J. Greig was cashier until 1940 when he became Personnel Manager.

Another view of the back yard showing some of the many milk lorries and milk floats that were housed there.

On the extreme right in the background is "The Lindens" the only building in the photograph that still survives.

The milk churn loading and unloading bay.

Another and later view of the dairy from across Lea Road.
The bottling plant showing filled bottles being loaded into crates. Each crate held 12 bottles and two crates were loaded at a time.
Some of the many milk lorries.
The new building greatly impressed J.B. Priestley as can be seen from the following extract from “English Journey”:

“I remember noticing in Wolverhampton after half-an-hour of dingy higgledy piggledy the new building of The Midland Counties Dairy, white and trim and with immense windows and thinking how alien it looked there, like an outpost of a new civilisation.”

The dairy decorated for the Coronation in 1953.

Miss Nora Pennie, N.D.D.

From October 1941 the laboratory at Lea Road was run by Miss Nora Pennie, N.D.D. She also advised farmers on how to produce high quality milk and was General Secretary of the Dairy Social Club.

She was very keen on table tennis and led the women’s team in the Wolverhampton and District Table Tennis League. There was also a Farms Inspection Department and a laboratory at Birmingham. The laboratories ensured that high quality milk and food-stuffs came from the farms.

A corner of the laboratory.

The laboratory also carried out bacterial testing, and butter-fat testing. Milk from each farm was tested and the Farmer's Clean Milk Bonus was awarded to farmers who supplied milk with a low bacterial content, and rich in butter-fat.

A bottle washing machine.

How a bottle washing machine worked.

The filling room.

The pasteurising room.

A corner of the vehicle maintenance department.
Another view of the vehicle maintenance department.
Examining an engine block in the vehicle maintenance department.

Mr. Dennis Miers.

The transport department was ably assisted by Miers Transport Company Limited of Showell Road. The company, started by Reg Miers in 1925 began transporting milk to the Cobden Lane depot in Wolverhampton and to Birmingham in 1926. Close ties developed between the dairy and Miers and they joined forces in 1966.

Reg's son Dennis joined the company in 1949 and later became Managing Director.

From about 1940 Fred Collins was Transport Manager at Lea Road and he became General Manager of Operations at Wolverhampton in 1964.
In 1944 a trailer system was developed at the dairy when a second-hand Scammel “mechanical horse” and two trailers were purchased.

This was a great success and the fleet grew to 54 low-loading trailers that were loaded by fork lift truck. The trucks could drive up to the sterilising tanks, pick-up the stillage of bottled milk and load it directly onto the trailer. It took from 10 to 12 minutes to fully load a trailer which was comparable to the speed of milk production.

One of the "mechanical horses".

A loaded trailer.

The trailer then delivered its load of milk bottles to a depot where it would be reloaded with “empties” for the return journey.

The trailers were known as “Queen Mary’s”.

The company encouraged the development of electrically powered vehicles for milk delivery thanks to the enthusiasm of Jim White.

He also visited North America several times to study developments in the production and sales of ice cream.

An early hand-operated electric delivery truck.

The now familiar battery-powered milkfloat.
Midland Counties Dairy and Miers Transport worked in collaboration with the Milk Marketing Board to pioneer the Commercial Bulk Milk Collection Scheme in 1957.

Tankers were used to collect milk in bulk from farmers, which was more hygienic and cheaper than the old method using milk churns.

A Miers milk tanker.

Ice cream delivery lorries in the back yard at Lea Road.
An ice cream salesman with his sales trolley, possibly outside West Park.
In the second half of 1957 the Lea Road dairy was extended when the receiving room and checking office were demolished and replaced by a larger building. The new 2 storey building contained a receiving room, checking room and tanker bay on the ground floor and a laboratory, lecture room, tea room, first aid room and cloakrooms on the first floor. While work on the new building progressed the dairy operated as normal except for the first month, when milk from the farms went to the creamery at Welshpool to be delivered to the dairy in road tankers.

The extension after completion.

The view from Lea Road at the end of July 1957 before work began.
At this time building work went on both day and night. The new cloakrooms were tiled throughout and fitted with in-floor electric heating and had showers and baths. There was also an electric lift to convey samples directly from the receiving deck to the laboratory.

The extension was completed in December 1957 and designed by Messrs. Jennings, Homer and Lynch. The building work was carried out by Tarmac’s Civil Engineering Division.

A road tanker discharging in the new tanker bay.

One of the egg collection vehicles.

The company also had an egg packing plant at Fern Road, Wolverhampton, just round the corner from the dairy. It was run by Mr. Keith Helliwell and a staff of 20 girls using the latest equipment.

There were three egg collection vehicles that collected eggs from farms in Staffordshire and Shropshire in wooden containers that were supplied by the dairy. Each container held 12 trays of 30 eggs.

At Fern Road there were three grading units and each farmer’s consignment was handled individually. Six eggs were handled at a time and were initially conveyed into a “candling booth” where the eggs passed in front of a bright light so that the operator could assess the quality of each egg. Cracked, stale or unsatisfactory eggs were rejected at this point. The eggs then entered a grader where they were weighed, graded and stamped with the “Lion mark” and the grade.

A grading unit.

One of the grading tables.

The unit handled 720,000 eggs per week and the eggs were despatched to the depots on the day after they were received from the farms. This ensured that eggs reached the customer within 7 days and often much less.
Mrs. N. Bate in one of the candling cubicles. The curtain in the background was drawn and she used the bright light below the eggs to detect any faults.
Supervisor, Mrs. A. Castle with the map on which the location of the egg suppliers was marked with coloured pins.
Mrs. H. Lock operating the machine that lifted the eggs out of the trays and placed them onto the waiting conveyor.
Sporting activities were actively encouraged by the company. Each year Wolverhampton and Birmingham teams competed to win the “Challenge Shield”. Events included cricket, tennis and bowls and were held at the Goodyear Sports Ground in Wolverhampton or the Delta Metal’s Sports Ground at Erdington. Wolverhampton dairy also had a successful football team that entered the Wolverhampton Works League and played for the A.J.S. cup.
Wolverhampton cricket team.
Back row L. to R.:
Wills, Hodgkiss, D. Hodgkiss, J. Foster, Brown, Beards, Fellows and Carter.

Front row L. to R.:
Willis, Cartwright, Fellows, Jenkins and Tranter.

There was also a “25 year club” which was a social club for employees that had worked at the company for 25 or more years. Some of the members had been retired for many years.

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