A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 34




A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 34

Down on the floor in the corner of George Mitchell’s kitchen by the fireplace is a strange metal item with foot shaped appendages. These are cobbler’s shoe lasts, and would be used to repair worn out shoes. In days gone by shoes would be an expensive part of your wardrobe – repaired regularly to ensure that they had a long life.

Whilst looking at the items in George’s kitchen we may ask “What is in the milk bottle on the table?” A lot of folk have no idea, but the iconic slim milk bottle would have contained a pint of sterilised milk. Or as we knew it “Sterra”.

Many years ago, if you lived in the country you’d just nip down to the farm with a jug and an obliging milk maid would soon fill it with fresh milk. In towns, a milkman would have a churn of milk on his cart and quickly dispense your milk, or leave a bottle on your doorstep. But as more people started working in factories and were therefore often out all day a bottle of milk on the doorstep would soon “go off” in the noon-day sun. Furthermore, back in the 1930s domestic refrigerators were well beyond the means of most folk. So, the answer was sterilised milk. The fresh milk was poured into bottles, heated to about 120°C and sealed with a crown cap – the type you’d find on beer bottles. The heat would drive off all the bacteria and hence it was “sterilised”

Sterilised milk could last for several months, unopened and unrefrigerated. It would last a few days once it was opened. Nowadays the equivalent would be Tetra-Packed UHT milk, but is can still be obtained from some dairymen.

If you met someone from a seaside town, such as Weston-super-Mare you’d hear that they called it “Brummie Milk”. Shops had to get it in specially for holidaying Brummies staying there during the fortnight when the factories were shut.  

However, if you were used to pasteurised milk, you’d avoid Sterra like the plague – because it tasted VILE!! But, in its defence – Sterra apparently made fantastic rice puddings and custard.

George Mitchell’s fireplace
A Cobbler’s last
George Mitchell’s kitchen table
George Mitchell’s kitchen table with a bottle of Sterra!
The bottle of “Sterra”