Skimmed Milk in  St Albans, 1881

July, 2010


Old News

St Albans

Tom Edwards (tom_h_e @t of Salop writes: You may remember we corresponded a few years ago about Isaac Newton Edwards, the gloriously self-serving town clerk of St Albans. I am currently completing a biography of his father Henry, who was just as corrupt only slightly more successful than his son. It is my intention that the last chapter should be the rise & fall of Isaac Newton Edwards & I remembered you mentioned a piece of sharp practice involving the town's milk suppliers & wondered whether you could provide any further details?

Henry Edwards was in many ways the more colourful character: as well as being a Liberal & then a Conservative election agent, he was manager of two St Albans Banks, coal supplier & resident of the St Albans Gas Plant, the last owner (and demolisher) of Holywell House. Bankrupt in 1844 he somehow managed to avoid paying dividends by passing his wealth to his family & later slowly collecting it back. He was latterly a farmer, horse dealer & avid rose breeder at Redbourn.

I don't appear to have a copy of the original report, which appeared in the Herts Advertiser, but I have the letters of protest and the report of the Council meeting where my Great Grandfather was invited to speak. The article gives some useful background information on the milking procedures at Heath Farm.


To the Editor of the Herts Advertiser

SIR, - I read in your last impression that Dr Saunders  reports on five samples of milk received from the City Surveyor, and states that all, with the exception of that from Mr I N Edwards, were “skimmed.” The sample bearing my name is reported in one paper to have had 6,65 grammes of cream abstracted, this I take to be rather more than half the cream from milk of good quality. I hereby beg to give an unqualified denial to the assertion that cream has ever been taken from milk sold by me. The milk from which the sample was supposed to have been taken was milked from the cows at about six a.m., passed direct over the refrigerator into the delivery churns and immediately sent round the city, before any practical quantity of cream could rise, thus precluding the possibility of it being skimmed. I much wish a criminal prosecution had followed this report, when I should have had an opportunity of refuting this charge. Had I not had full confidence in the article I was supplying I would have retained the duplicate sample, but unfortunately omitted to do so. I milk about 40 cows, and the milk not required in St Albans has, for the last nine years, been sent to a West End London Dealer, to whom it has always given the greatest satisfaction. My cows are all “stall fed” like Mr Edwards’, and have a plentiful supply of roots, hay, &c., together with 4lb per head per diem of linseed cakes, which ought to produce a better result than that I am credited, or rather discredited with. I must congratulate Mr Edwards  on the “unsophisticated” condition of his milk, also on the operation of the long dormant Adulteration Act so soon after making his debût in the trade. I take this opportunity of assuring the public that the milk I supply always has, and shall be, of the best quality and not “skimmed,” notwithstanding Dr Saunders’   assurance that “They all do it.”


The Heath, St Albans

     May 19th, 1881





To the Editor of the Herts Advertiser

SIR, - Will you grant me a little space in your valuable paper to make a few remarks on the report of Dr. Saunders’  analysis of milk? As one of those samples of milk was had from me, I think it is my duty, in justice to myself and for the satisfaction of my customers and the public in general, to contradict the report so far as concerns my sample. No cream has been taken. I milked the cows myself, and carried the cream out; therefore I knew that I was selling good milk. If there was any fault to find with the samples of milk obtained I think it would have been far better to have called those milkmen together, face to face with Dr Saunders, to answer for themselves any complaint that might be made. I feel certain had that been done it would have prevented the need of the report, for I feel convinced that Dr Saunders  has made a great mistake. - Yours, &c.,


Prospect Road, St Albans

Letters from Herts Advertiser, 21st May, 1881



Mr J REYNOLDS, of Bernard’s Heath-farm, attended the meeting to call attention to the recent analysis of milk by Dr Saunders, the public analyst, and more particularly as to his own sample. The officer had stated in his report that 6.65 grammes of cream had been extracted. He (Mr Reynolds) produced to-day the two men and a boy who had observation of the milk from the time it was obtained from the cow till the sample was taken by the city surveyor. These were brought into the room, and said that the milk was taken direct from the cow, passed through the refrigerator, and then carried into the city. No cream whatsoever was taken. Mr Reynolds himself said it was impossible for the cream to have risen in the time this occupied, so that none could have been taken.

Councillor PRIOR expressed his regret that the analysis of the five samples taken were published in a local paper. It was stated that four of them were skimmed, and the fifth, which was the Town Clerk’s milk. had not been so treated.

Other members joined in the expression of regret that the report of the analyst was published, the Council never supposing that it would be. There was a difference of opinion as to whether the report in detail was really read to the Council.

The CLERK said he did not think it was possible to say what cream had been taken from a sample of milk. When he got home on the afternoon his milk was taken by the surveyor, he sent a bottle of the same milk that the public analysis was made on to Mr Eking, and he reported that five degrees of cream had been abstracted - (a laugh).

Councillor TURNER: There is no standard, and therefore it is impossible to say how much cream as been abstracted.

Mr Reynolds asked Mr Ford, the surveyor, how it was that all the samples were not taken at the same time and at whose direction they were taken?

Alderman MARTIN objected to these questions, not thinking it right they should be put to a public officer.

Councillor TURNER then proposed, and Councillor HURLOCK seconded. the following resolution: “Having heard the statement of Mr Reynolds with reference to his milk, referred to in Dr. Saunders’ report, as to his analyses, which report was published in one of the local papers, the board are of the opinion that there must be some mistake; and that the report be referred back to Dr Saunders for general revision.”

This was carried unanimously.

Mr REYNOLDS thanked the board for their courtesy and attention, and he was sorry he had delayed the business so much.

Herts Advertiser, 28th May, 1881

A few years after these events Isaac Newton Edwards was struck off as a solicitor for unprofessional conduct - and lost his job as the town clerk of St Albans.

What happened here is very suspicious. The Town Clerk is also a major local farmer who has recently started to provides milk to St Albans in competition with a number of other milk producers, including my great grandfather, Jacob Reynolds. No milk sampling has been done for years, when it seems that one of the Council's officers asked Dr Saunders to carry out a survey which happens to show that all the milk producers in St Albans skim the cream off their milk apart from, guess who, the Town Clerk. This report then gets passed to the press as if it was an officially appproved Council survey, without any prior contacts with the "failing" dairies or the authorisation of the Council.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

August 2010   Page created