“The cow is a walking beatitude.., we could not run history well without her.”–T. SWANN, Agricultural Gazette, xxn, I885.
London was full of dairies in the 19th century producing milk that we would consider decidedly dodgy today. The Old Dairy in Stroud Green is now a popular place for local people to get a drink but its seven beautiful sgraffito panels are a clue to the real dairy which was in operation there in 1890.
The dairy was opened by the Friern Manor Dairy Company as a development of the site that they already owned. The minutes of the London County Council’s Building Act Committee record:
That the application of Mr J Young & Co, on behalf of the Friern Manor Dairy Farm Co Ltd, for the consent of the Council for the erection of an addition to the rear of number 127 Hanley Road, Stroud Green, to abut on Crouch Hill, be granted subject to the condition that the addition therein referred to be commenced within six months and completed within 18 months from the 30 day of September 1890.
The set of seven, unique, anonymous sgraffito panels (c.1890) were costly and show a desire to emphasise that this dairy was not a cheapskate affair. The illustrations show: Milk Delivery (ancient); Milk Delivery (modern); In the Country; Milk Cooling; Making Butter; Milling and Grazing. Sgraffito was a method of decoration created by cutting away parts of a surface layer (as of plaster or clay) to expose a different coloured ground. The Friern Manor Co. was a large dairy business that had previous connections with Stapleton Hall farm associated with the Stapleton Hall, which was built in 1609 for Thomas Draper (about whom little is known), possibly on the site of an earlier house. The Stapleton family became the hall’s absentee landlords in the 18th century. Stapleton Hall had an 80-acre farm in the mid-19th century and its owner at that time was reluctant to sell the land for development – but the coming of the railway made this such a profitable prospect that he could no longer resist. He leased land for development in 1863 and by 1893 the area was entirely built up, a boom caused by railways. By 1877 Stroud Green was already a new and fast-growing neighbourhood with a strong community feeling and its own newspaper and was now inhabited mainly by commuters with third and second-class season tickets.
Times changed and the area became run down after the war but the façade panels survived and today are considered a remarkable landmark, cherished by local people.