The Milk Lady     

The Sale of Dairy Farm, 1932

This Dairy Farm is on the west side of Mulbarton Common, and the house is now known as Dairy Farm House (above when renovations began in 1987).

1 acre = 4 roods = 160 rods, poles or perches = c. 0.4 hectares
1 Rood = 40 rods, poles or perches = c. 10 ares

In December 1932, an 'attractive FREEHOLD SMALL HOLDING known as the "Dairy Farm" was put up for auction by the executors of Mrs. B M Drew. The conveyance to her is dated 14th July 1921. The property totalled 7 acres 3 roods 27 perches and was for sale in four lots. The sale is described as 'an unusual opportunity of acquiring a Small Holding in this favourite district and within an easy reach of Norwich'.

LOT 1 was 'A pleasant double-fronted brick and tiled DWELLING HOUSE' facing Mulbarton Common. It contained 'two sitting rooms, kitchen, scullery, dairy, pantry with a timber and tiled coal house, well and pump, good kitchen garden and front garden'. There was also 'the range of brick, clay and tiled FARM BUILDINGS comprising barn with hay loft, 2-stall stable, loose box, 2 modern concreted cow houses for 7, 2 piggeries, etc. All buildings are drained to well with pump attached.' In addition there was 'the valuable orchard well-planted with Apple and Pear trees, the whole containing 4a 2r 13p (more or less).

The auction poster tells us that 'a retail milk business, averaging 80 - 100 gallons weekly, has for some years past been carried on at these premises' and that 'electricity is available and frequent bus services pass the house'. It also describes the 'House and Premises' as being 'eminently suitable for a Butcher, Dairyman or for residential purposes.

This property was almost certainly bought by Mr. & Mrs. Lincoln, because in a radio interview Mrs Olive Lincoln (the milk lady) describes how they bought a dairy farm in Mulbarton in 1932. Today both the house and the barn have been renovated 'for residential purposes'. 

Dairy Farmhouse c.1987 as renovation began. Beyond it is the cob barn - a listed building, now clad with brick and a separate bungalow.
Dairy Farmhouse c.1987 as renovation began. Beyond it is the cob barn - a listed building, now clad with brick and a separate bungalow.

Ollie Lincoln, the Milk Lady

Older villagers will remember Olive ('Ollie') Licoln (nee Kedge) who drove round the village in her little blue van delivering milk. Just after Mrs. Lincoln retired, in January 1983, she was interviewed on Radio Norfolk's programme All My Own Work on which she told us....

She was born in 1900 - so was always the same age as the year. She retired from her milk round at the end of 1982, after slipping on the ice. Born on a farm, she had been in farming all her life.

In 1932, she and her husband Geoff. moved to Mulbarton to run a dairy farm [see below]. At first they sold milk from their own cows, going round the villages in their old van with a dip can and ½-pint and 1-pint measures. When new dairy regulations came in it became too expensive to consider installing special equipment, so they bought the milk from a farmer in Bracon Ash and took it to their own farm for bottling. The whole family helped clean the bottles one at a time by scalding them in boiling water heated in a copper. When filled with milk, cardboard caps were pressed into the top of the bottles.

She remembered that milk used to be 2½d a pint though was not sure when. When the school milk scheme started, the milk monitor came across the Common each Monday to give the milk numbers, and Ollie had to fill the 1/3rd pint bottles and deliver the required number to the school each day. During the war, milk deliveries were regulated by the Milk Marketing Board.

She always tried to help her customers out - delivering newspapers and shopping, collecting various items (including tablets from the doctor), sometimes delivering them to others on her round, and taking peoples' scraps for her chickens. In later years, she was always collecting wool to use herself or give to her friend Rita Bridgman to knit little dolls to sell for charity. They raised thousands of pounds for the renal units at Addenbrooks and Norfolk & Norwich Hospitals. Ollie downed a lot of cups of tea in the course of her round! She also admits being privy to village gossip - but wouldn't share it.

Mrs Lincoln, Milk Lady (From Marguerite Sherman's 'Page for Women', EDP1979/80)

(Above) 79-year-old Mrs. Olive Kathleen Lincoln, affectionately known as O.K., or Ollie, to her customers. Mrs Lincoln, a widow with nine grandchildren, is quite a celebrity in the village... For more than 30 years she has been delivering milk to Mulbarton residents in her familiar little blue van. Come rain and snow, and even the blizzards of last winter, Olive Lincoln delivers the goods whenever possible.... Up at the crack of dawn, out in all weathers, but Mrs. Lincoln loves it and says she'll carry on as long as she can walk.

The summer is obviously easier than the winter, although once the lighter days arrive she is up at 5 am to collect her milk from the Milk Marketing Board. That's when the day starts. And going home time? "When I finish mardling"....

Mrs. Lincoln likes to keep an eye on the old folk - some of them younger than herself... As well as delivering the milk, she collects letters to be posted, shopping to be bought and medicine to be picked up, for her customers. At various points in the course of the day there is a cup of tea of coffee waiting for her in many of the 160 houses she delivers to in the village.

....she still has her own well as ten acres of land and greenhouses. Part of this large garden is let, but the remainder still takes a great deal of tending, and Mrs. Lincoln prides herself in doing it alone. In the summer [she] gets the milk delivered early, and then gets on with the garden.

It was in 1932 that Mrs. Lincoln moved to Mulbarton [from Dereham] with her late husband and three sons and a daughter. Her husband was a cattle dealer and quite early in their married life [she] decided to learn to drive.... and her training vehicle was a rather unconventional cattle float. "I've never taken a driving test... and if I did I don't suppose I'd pass.... First find out where the gears are, and after that just use your common sense, that's the way I learned."

Being able to drive was vital... when she took over the family milk business. Her husband died in 1939, but the business was kept in the family. When her son decided not to carry on with the deliveries, Mrs. Lincoln took over. That was more than 30 years ago....


From the School Log Book:
1938: Jan. 11th Milk Scheme started today in school.
          Feb. 10th Registered Number for Milk M. Board School No. 33269
          April 1st 872 (1/3) pints of milk for March. [and totals recorded monthly thereafter]

People who were pupils at the school in the 1940s remember:
'We could all have milk - I think it was 2½d (just over 1p) a week. The cardboard tops were saved and we made raffia table mats, etc. with them. The 'Milk Monitor' for the week had to walk across the common to tell Mrs Lincoln at the Dairy how much milk to deliver: I remember going there once and being amazed to see chickens wandering all round her kitchen!' 

Two sons and a daughter of Ollie Lincoln continued to live in Mulbarton. They remember that the dairy was very much a family business - all the children helped their mother with the milk bottles. Every morning, a neighbour, Herbert Lake, went to Mergate Hall Farm, Bracon Ash, with his motorbike and sidecar to pick up churns of milk. Then new regulation came in and the milk went to the Milk Marketing Board and Mrs Lincoln had to collect it from there for delivery.

Peter Lincoln remembers delivering milk before he went to school. Every morning he biked to Hethel with racks of milk fitted to his handlebars. Often this made him late for school, but he was never told off - the teacher must have known the circumstances and been sympathetic.

The Lincoln family business also included eggs - their own and those they collected from others. They were washed, packed and delivered to clients in Norwich under the august name of 'National Farm Packers'! Blackberries and elderberries gathered locally and at Hethel, were also sent to Norwich. The elderberries were used for dye and wine.