The Smalls’ Dairying Business in Darlaston Green by Kathleen Mary Carter. 1977

“My parents, Thomas Small (aged 24) and his wife Florence (aged 21) were married at St. Lawrence Parish Church, Darlaston on January 31st 1897, and went to live at No. 46 Cramp Hill. Thomas was described as a Nut and Bolt Forger. At this address they had 3 children, Maud in 1897, Florence in 1899, and Sarah Anne in 1901.

In 1903 they moved to No. 90 The Green where Thomas set up a dairying business to supply fresh “loose” milk in the locality. A fourth daughter, Doris, was born in 1904. On the 1911 census, Thomas (38), his wife Florence, (35), their four daughters, and Florence’s sister Eliza were recorded at No. 90 The Green, where Thomas was an operator of an Oliver belt-driven forging machine at James Wiley’s nut and bolt works, described as a dairyman working on his own account at home. A son, Sidney, was born in 1914 and finally myself, Kathleen Mary, in 1921. Infant mortality at the time was still very high and the Smalls lost a boy, George, who died at birth, and a daughter Kate born in 1905 who died at 6 months.

Up to about 1919, in addition to the dairying operation, Thomas continued to work in the nut and bolt industry, in particular at a bolt manufacturing plant nearby in The Green. Around 1919 he gave all his time, and much of his family’s time, to the dairy business.

90 The Green was a typical 2 up/2 down worker’s house which predated the 1886 OS map on which it can be seen. It was the first in a terrace of 3 houses which faced directly on to the street pavement with an entry between nos. 90 and 91. The three houses backed on to a common blue brick paved yard, beyond which was a row of three “brew houses”. Behind the brew houses were two toilets with fixed wooden seats, shared between the three houses and not connected to a sewer until much later on.

Our brewhouse was a large building in which the previous occupant of No 90, William Small, a baker, had built a large bread oven of sufficient size to carry out his trade, his shop being in the front room of the house, which had a large shop window. There was a large cast iron solid fuel cooking range with a water heater alongside, which was a copper boiler for laundering with its own fire grate. There was a large red earthenware sink with a South Staffs water supply cold tap adjacent to which was a capped off well which was the house’s original supply of water. A hand operated mangle, tub, maid, buckets brooms and mops completed the loose fittings. Also kept there hanging on the wall was a loose galvanised steel bath, there being no bathroom in the house.

No.89 The Green was the Royal Exchange public house on the corner of Richards Street. In 1911 this was run by George Lucas, 42, a Beer Retailer, working on his own account, his wife Lydia, 39, and their seven children
(ages 16, 15, 11, 7, 5, 3, 1). They had previously lost three children. The pub was locally known as “The Glamour House” or simply “Lucases”. They brewed their own beer and had a brewery at the rear in Richards Street.

Between the Royal Exchange and No. 90 was a wide driveway with high black double gates which was the access for Small’s dairy. The driveway ran down to the end of the property where there was a second brick surfaced farmyard which ran right across the bottom of the yard common to 90-92. Facing this yard was a row of cowsheds which accommodated 6 stalls, and a shed for the calves. We also had some pigsties, and pens for poultry. Storage for animal feed was by space in the shed for the calves and in the loft of the brewhouse. Machinery such as a Chaff Cutter and a cutter for Mangolds were also housed there. A door at the top of the side entrance led on to a plot of land used as a garden which we used mainly for growing flowers. In addition we had one of the nearby allotments which we used for growing vegetables.

All of my sisters, and in due course myself, were put to good use in my father’s dairying activities. My older sisters and brother often talked about taking the cows down the streets opposite 90 The Green and over to the fields between Darlaston and Willenhall, then later rounding them up and herding them back home. There is a famous story of a cow going up an entry in Perry Street, and in order to extract it, it had to be led through the house, turned round in the back garden, then led back through the house into the street. The other chores were cutting chaff and mangolds, cleaning out the cow sheds and pigsties, making butter, and of course delivering the milk to our customers using a small churn and measure.

My father, Thomas Small, died in 1925 and we had to reduce the dairying activities, although we still continued as milk distributors. The “loose” milk was supplied to us by Mills of Willenhall Street.

The introduction of sterilised bottled milk and the poaching of customers by the Midland Dairies reduced our sales of loose milk and in due course necessitated our changing over to bottled milk, which also initially reduced our customers further. Our bottled milk was obtained from Imperial Dairies at Wolverhampton. There was a small wooden shed at the rear of the house that we called “The Dairy”, in which the bottled milk was stored in crates and protected from the elements.

By the end of the war, I was the only daughter living at No.90, with my husband, Bill Carter, and our two sons, born in 1942 and 1945, and my mother Florence Small. We had given up on the milk distribution business and the cow sheds were being used as garages for motor cars. We left the house in 1948 to escape the noise and pollution from the factories and coal fires in the area to live in a new council house on the new Rough Hay estate which of course was built on open land nearby where we used to pasture the cows. There is a short street there called Khyber Close which was named after some remains of the Addenbrooke's Iron Works known as The Khyber Pass through which my sisters said that they would drive the cows.

90 to 92 The Green were demolished in 1977. My husband , Bill, took some photos after the demolition showing the Royal Exchange and the garages at the end of the site, previously our cow sheds.”

Site of Nos. 90, 91 and 92 The Green, between the Royal Exchange and a new bank, after demolition. Showing cow sheds then in use as garages in 1977.
The Royal Exchange, 89 The Green, on the corner of Richards Street in 1977.

Royal Exchange on the corner Number 89. Nos. 90, 91 and 92 in a yard with cowsheds and driveway between the pub. Nos. 93 & 94 two small cottages. Number 95 a white house and Cox's forge.
Herding cows into open pastures had its own risks, as can be seen from the following newspaper entries:
11th August, 1910. County Express:

THEFT OF COWS. Local Purchasers' Surprise. A somewhat peculiar case which excited considerable local interest was unfolded at Willenhall Police Court, on Monday, when a charge of stealing two cows of the value of £ 38 10s, belonging to Thomas Small, a dairyman, of 90, The Green, Darlaston, was jointly preferred against Robert Worrall (41), a dairyman, and Arthur Glover (31), a carpenter, both of Beard Street, Darlaston. Both were allowed out on bail and committed for trial.


21st October, 1910. Lichfield Mercury:

On Friday, at Staffordshire Quarter Sessions, Arthur Glover (31), carpenter, was indicted for stealing two cows on the 27th July, the property of Thomas Small, of Darlaston. Worrall did not appear, it being stated that he had since absconded. With regard to the theft, the facts were that the two cows were left in a field, and that subsequently the prisoner was seen driving them along the road. They were afterwards offered for sale at a market, and a purchaser was found for them. In his defence the prisoner said that he was under the impression that the cows belonged to Worrall.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and the accused was committed to prison for fifteen months.

On the 1911 census Arthur Glover (32) was serving time in Stafford Gaol.

The Walsall Observer and South Staffordshire Chronicle published a detailed account of the first trial on 13th August 1910 from which, apart from it being a good story, we can glean more information about the Smalls' operation.

13th August, 1910. Walsall Observer:

WILLENHALL Alleged Theft or Cows by Darlaston Men.— At the Police Court on Monday, before H. Vaughan, C. Tildesley, and J. H. James, Esqs. Robert Worrell (41), a dairyman, of Beard Street, Darlaston, and Arthur Glover (31), a carpenter, also of Beard Street, were Jointly charged with stealing two crows, value £38.10s, belonging to Thomes Small, a dairyman, of 90, The Green, Darlaston, on the 27th of July inst.

Mr. H. E. Sargent (Messrs. Stockdale and Sargent, Wednesbury and Tipton, defended). Prosecutor said he had five cows turned into a field off the Old Bilston Road. Later in the day he found two were missing. Subsequently he visited the Four Elms Farm at Lutley, in Worcestershire, and there identified a cow with an auction number ticket upon it, as being one of the two cows which he had lost. He also visited a slaughterer named Homer, of High Street, Cradley Heath, who had slaughtered a cow which witness believed to be the other lost cow. It was impossible for him, however, to identify the portion of the carcase which he saw.

James Picken a locksmith, of 66. Birmingham Street Willenhall, said that on July 27th he stood, in company with other men, at the corner of Birmingham Street, and saw the prisoner Glower driving two red and white milking cows in the direction of Wolverhampton. Last Friday be visited the Four Elms Farm at Tutley, and from a number of beasts identified the one referred to by the last witness as being one of the, two animals which he had seen Glover driving towards Wolverhampton on the 27th ult.

By Mr. Sargent: There was peculiar mottled colour about the cow be identified. He had lived in Birmingham Street sixteen years, and had never seen a cow driven down that street before. He was surprised to see Glover, whom he knew well as a carpenter, driving cows, and be remarked to his companions. that it was a shame to see a man with a good trade in his fingers driving cows. William Wolverson, a polisher of 63 Birmingham Street, Willenhall, corroborated the evidence of Picken, and also to identifying the cow at Lutley.

Isaac Grainger, a labourer of Bush Street Darlaston, said that on Wednesday July 27th, he was in Messrs Walker and Lloyds auction place in the cattle market, Wolverhampton, and there saw Glover, with whom he went and had a drink. George Harbeach, a beerhouse keeper of the Foye Tavern, St. Anns Street, Willenhall, said he kept several cows. On July 27th last he met the prisoner Worrall by the tram terminus in Willenhall, and asked him to go and have a drink. They went into the Royal George Hotel. Worrall appeared to be in a hurry, said he had to meet a man in Wolverhampton and hurried off by tramcar. Witness knew the two cows which Small had lost as he had sold one of them to the prosecutor for £21, while the other one was called by the prosecutor his “Lichfield cow”.

On Friday last witness went with the others to Tutley, and identified a cow there as the one which the prosecutor called his “Lichfield Cow”. William Thurrock, a butcher, of High Street, Cradley Heath, deposed to attending Wolverhampton cattle market on July 27th. He remembered the two red and white milking cows being there. One was knocked down to Mr. Homer, a butcher, of Cradley Heath, while witness bought the other and sent it on to his brother-in-law's farm at Lutley.

Arthur Homer, a butcher, also of High Street, Cradley Heath, deposed to purchasing the other cow, which he slaughtered the same night. Frederick Davies Simpson, a clerk in the employ of Frederick Lloyd Hill, Auctioneer, at Wolverhampton Cattle Market: said the two were entered in their auction in the name of M. Walker, Wednesbury. They were sold for £10.12s.6d. and £10.10s. respectively, and when the sale was over, witness paid over the money to the prisoner Robert Worrell, who said his name was Matthew Walker, and gave his address as Fallings Heath, Wednesbury. Matthew Walker, of Fallings heath, Wednesbury, said the prisoner Glover formerly worked for his father. Witness had not given him permission to use his name, nor was it his signature upon the receipt given to the auctioneer.

Police Constable Watson related a conversation which he bad with the prisoner Worrell in Darlaston on the morning of Wednesday, July 27th, Police Sergeant Brough deposed to arresting the two prisoners on the 3rd inst. They lived together in Beard Street. Darlaston. At the time of the arrest Worrall was drunk, and said he had not been out of Darlaston on July 27th. When charged at Willenhall, Glover replied he knew nothing at all about it. Subsequently, when charged jointly Glover repeated this statement, while Worrall said,” I never took a cow to. market in all my life. I was never out of Darlaston that day.

Both prisoners were. committed to take their trial at the Quarter Sessions, bail being allowed.

From the above newspaper report we learn that the Smalls were keeping Red and white cows, which were most probably Shorthorns, which were good for both milk and meat. These were valued around £20 each at the time. The field from which the cows were stolen was in Willenhall, hence the trail being there, so would be on the north side of the canal. It was on Old Bilston Road. which I am guessing would be the top end of what is now Midland Road and was just a cart track at the time. Glover walked the cows to Wolverhampton Cattle Market via Willenhall which would be around 8 miles. Worrall took the tramcar! One of the witnesses had sold Thomas Small one of the cows for £21, so was able to identify it. Worrall and Glover only received £10 a head for the cows, which I wouldn’t have thought worth the 15 month gaol sentence that Glover received.

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