Dairy Chain: The Story of the Meadow Dairy Company

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15 Fossgate, York

Previous posts have discussed the provisions shops of Lipton’s, David Greig, Home & Colonial Stores and the Maypole Dairy Co. All these businesses, though long gone, had distinctive shopfronts which can still – occasionally – be recognised on modern high streets.

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Queen Street, Amble, Northumberland

The Meadow Dairy Co., another significant chain from the Edwardian era, has left fewer physical traces. Its best shops resembled those of Maypole Dairy Co. The firm’s monogram was ‘MD’, rather than the ‘MDC’ used by Maypole. This generally appeared above the doorway, with the full name displayed on the mosaic pavement of the entrance lobby as well as on the fascia. Meadow seems not to have enforced uniformity across the chain, and probably spent less on shopfitting than Maypole and other rivals. Some branches had very thin, fluted consoles, like those of Home & Colonial Stores.

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15 Fossgate, York

The Meadow Dairy Co. was founded in Newcastle in 1901 by George Beale (1864-1953). Beale hailed from a relatively prosperous farming family in Monks Kirby, Warwickshire, and served his apprenticeship with the West Bromwich grocer, W. H. Edmunds, before joining the Maypole Dairy Co. He seems to have held a senior position with Maypole from c.1884 to c.1898. [NB: George Beale prosecuted by the Butter Association in 1900 for selling margarine as butter, and without a printed wrapper, was clearly a different individual.]

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Queen Street, Amble

In 1897 Beale married Elizabeth Potts of Newcastle, and in the 1901 Census he was listed in that city as a ‘Butter Merchant’. With assistance from members of the Potts family, Beale set up the  Meadow Dairy Co., opening the first outlet at 8 Nun Street, Newcastle.

Expansion was swift, sponsored by the margarine manufacturer Van den Bergh. In 1909, with 29 branches, Meadow took over the Keeloma Dairy Co. of Sheffield (55 shops) and by 1914 there were around 200 Meadow Dairy shops throughout the north of England and Scotland. Coverage in the south was secured by gradual merger with Pearkes Dairies Ltd., which continued to trade as Pearkes’ Stores. The acquisition of Broughs Ltd. of Newcastle in 1918 brought the total number of shops controlled by Beale to 473. Two other companies were acquired in the early 1920s: Sherry’s Dairy Co. of Manchester (12 shops) and Neale’s Tea Stores of Birmingham (55 shops). Meadow grew from 743 outlets in 1923 to 850 in 1927.

From 1927 Meadow shared its buying, warehousing and transportation with Lipton’s, and in 1929 these associated companies merged with Home & Colonial Stores. Meadow thus became a small component of the enormous Allied Suppliers group. It continued to expand, for example by acquiring the 119 shops of John S. Driver of Bradford in 1953, but never replicated the enormous growth enjoyed in the 1920s.

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15 Fossgate, York

Allied Suppliers, with its large portfolio of small provisions shops, was slow to embrace self-service and supermarket trading – even suggesting in the Annual Report of 1966 that the supermarket trend had peaked (The Times, 4 May 1966, 19). How wrong can you be! In the same year, Maypole, Meadow and Pearkes were merged to create a single company, Allied Stores Ltd., trading under the Maypole name. The ‘Meadow Dairy Co.’ swiftly vanished from British shopping streets.

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