Anne Lister diary transcriptions Anne Lister's diary 1828 Anne Lister's diary May 1828

Friday 30 May 1828

Breakfast at 10¼. Miss Sarah Riddell came at 11¾. The servant too came with a note from Miss R-’s mother inviting Miss McL- & myself to dinner tomorrow. Declined on account of meaning to leave Edinburgh in the morning by the steam packet for Sterling. Miss R- had come by appointment to pilot me about. Asked her to dine with us. She called therefore to put off her friend Miss Edmonstone who was to have dined with her and accepted my invitation. We left Miss McL- & went out at 12. Took a hackney coach. Called at Mr Trotter’s, 9 Princes Street & got an order to see the observatory. Left it waiting at the bottom of the hill & walked up the Carlton to the observatory. A party there. Walked about for 20 minutes. She said Miss MacL- was much superior to all the rest of her family. Her brother not very refined. Wished me to get her off to Paris. The new observatory not finished within, not to be seen by anyone who was not accompanied by Professor Wallis. The old observatory to be by & by removed? Nothing to see there but the Camera Obscura. Certainly a very good one of Edinburgh. Saw it (in ten minutes) tolerably well. Thought it was rather too cloudy now & then.

Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street by Samuel Bough, late 1860s

From the observatory to the castle & saw the regalia on a table (the crown on a crimson velvet cushion bordered with gold lace) enclosed by a high iron railing & lighted by 4 lamps, one at each corner of the railing. The room hung tent-wise with crimson cloth. Altogether good effect. 4 pearls valued at £500 each & some good rubies round the crown. The large old chest in which the regalia had lain undisturbed in the room since  . . .  still in the room & standing open. Fine view from the castle yard of the town etc.

Edinburgh from the castle by David Roberts, 1847

From the castle to the Caledonian dairy about a nice part of town on the London road. One would not guess it a public cowhouse. A handsome looking 2 story high building like a gentleman’s house, with a neat garden in front, a strawberry garden. The people going here to eat strawberries & cream & ices, there being an ice house belonging to the establishment. Paid a shilling each for our tickets & shewn into a gallery overlooking the cows. General number 140 to 160, only 130 at first. Ayrshire & Teeswater breed. Daily average quantity milk per cow eight scotch pints = sixteen English quarts. The Ayrshire breed famous for the quantity of milk. Milked 3 times a day. Each cow curried and brushed once a day & sometimes washed. Never go out. No cow more than 10 or 11 months there so only 8 or 9 before fat, hence the advantage of the institution. Buy the cows just before or after calving, keep the calves 10 days. Fed upon mangel wassel (a root like parsnips?), carrots, potatoes – steamed but generally raw – & turnips steamed to prevent giving a bad taste to the milk (put into a large square iron boiler & covered over with maltcombs to keep the steam in) & cut hay & meal or different kinds grains, scraps etc. A 3 horse power steam engine cuts the hay, grinds the corn, heats all the water used in the establishment & churns 2 churns at once by means of a lever alternately lifting up one churn staff & forcing down the other. The prices the same all the year round:

butter 1/4 a lb
cream imperial gill 4d, half pint 8d, pint ¼
sweet milk (ie new milk) pint 2d
butter milk pint 1d
skimmed milk pint 1½


A little salt peter put into the new milk to prevent any disagreeable taste from potatoes or what not. Milk kept in round dishes (sections of a cylinder perhaps 5 inches deep) of wood, copper tinned & white pot. The latter the best, the metal requires much cleaning & the wood turns the milk the soonest, on which account keep the cream in large deep tubs (sections of cylinders) perhaps 18 inches deep. Make no cheese but cream cheese. One dairy maid at from £7 to £8 a year wages to every 9 cows and 4 or 5 men to clean after & fodder all the cows.

Cowhouse 63 paces long, perhaps 30 yards broad & 6 or 7 ditto high. The women could not tell the exact dimensions. 2 stories of windows, roof supported by five couples of pillars forming a sort of nave & sideaisles of equal height. Ceiling flat with a light dome in the middle. 9 lines of eating trough, no separation between the cows. A drain at the back of each of the 9 lines of cows carries off the water into reservoirs below. The cowhouse standing on [arelies?] & thus completely [cellared?]. The farmers come & fetch away this dung-water to give in return turnips, potatoes etc. No air let into the cowhouse but by opening windows & doors. A ventilator in one corner to take off the bad air but what is all this? When the doors are not open fresh air cannot come into the place near enough to the ground, the lowest windows being above the cows’ heads. The place is very rarely washed for fear of giving the cows cold & in spite of doors & windows open I found it close & smelling strong.

Margin: The women could not tell whether the concern answered well or not. Some said it did, some said it did not pay well. No water put into the milk. This the public good of it otherwise I should think this milk company a hurt to the farmers & unnecessary to the public at large. [1]

From the dairy drove to Holyrood house (& there dismissed our hackney coach) to see the picture of McNab of McNab in Lord Breadalbane’s apartments. A fine interesting picture with George IV on his visit was much pleasing. The palace undergoing a thorough repair, his majesty having granted £5,000 a year for 10 years? for this purpose.

From the palace went along what is called the park & thence all along the Radical walk (lately made) under the Salisbury crags. Very fine view of the town. At the end got over a gate & went to a little (apparently) church & here left Miss Riddell to wait while I went up to the top of Arthur’s Seat. Went round a little & got to the top in 10 minutes, as fast as I could. Wind very high, dared not stand but sat a while on the topmost crag admiring the fine views all around me. Well worth the trouble, amply repaid. No traveller should miss it. The city as on a map at my feet. The firth of Forth very fine. Descended in 10 minutes right down in a straight line down the crag, never dreaming of its being so bad. Ladies should not attempt it but go round.

Edinburgh panorama from Arthur’s seat, © Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

Miss R- & I then walked straight along the Pleasants, all along a part I had not seen before, getting into Southbridge Street etc. I shopped a little & got home at 5¾. Found Miss McL- there. Sat talking. Miss R- tired & lying on the sofa and took a glass of wine. I had paid all for her without her ever saying a word and she had seen nothing of it all before so was lucky in getting hold of me. I should have done much more cheaply and better without her and wished myself by. Dinner at 6½. Gravy soup, veal cutlets & piece of roast beef, mashed potatoes & cauliflowers, cheese & cold butter & biscuits. Pressed pine apples & then biscuits. Port wine. Well enough. Our visitor seemed well enough amused. Wrote us out 2 plans of excursions. Stayed till 10 10. Sat up talking. Came to my room at 11. Fine day.

[1] The Caledonian Joint Stock Dairy company was established in 1825 for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants of Edinburgh with pure milk (Source: Baldwin and Cradock, Cattle: Their Breeds, Management, and Diseases with an Index, 1842). When Anne visited in 1828 this would still have been a relatively new and modern agricultural enterprise. Given her very long and detailed description, it seems she may have been considering setting up something similar at Shibden. According to Baldwin and Craddock ‘by the 1840s [the Caldeonian dairy] was losing money. Rather than the aim of holding 200 cows under one roof, it was let to “a spirited individual” a Mr Bellis who had 60 or 80 cows.’ Big thank you to Andrew Dawes for finding this information.

You can read the original diary entry here:

https://www.catalogue.wyjs.org.uk/CalmView/GetImage.ashx?db=Catalog&type=default&fname=ae%5c462373-0498-4a80-8db4-047c2b729147.jpg

https://www.catalogue.wyjs.org.uk/CalmView/GetImage.ashx?db=Catalog&type=default&fname=1a%5cd70bde-fbcc-4866-ae76-b3f16cdbbac5.jpg

4 thoughts on “Friday 30 May 1828

  1. I’ve enjoyed catching up with your postings, particularly the one from May 30th 1828. The Edinburgh cow house AL visited intrigued me so after a bit of digging, unearthed this which complements AL’s diary entry.

    The Caledonian Joint Stock Dairy company was established in 1825 for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants of Edinburgh with pure milk. This was located at an area known as Meadowbank, about 1 mile from Edinburgh on the London Road, as AL notes in her diary. From: Cattle: Their Breeds, Management, and Diseases : with an Index : Baldwin and Cradock, 1842 it is noted

    “and [along with Meadowbank] also some other property named Wheatfield, were purchased at the expense of 8000 [£?]; and 14000 [£?] more were expended in the erection of a noble building”…. “The ground next to the road, and in front of the building, is tastefully laid out as a shrubbery; and there is an ice well to prepare the cream” However it seems that this larger dairy enterprise was short lived and by the 1840’s was losing money. Rather than the aim of holding 200 cows under one roof, it was let to ‘a spirited individual’ a Mr Bellis who had 60 or 80 cows.”

    Thus when AL visited, this would have been a state of the ark agricultural enterprise, something she would no doubt have been enthralled by and eager to see. Perhaps a thought by her of a smaller scale design for Shibden to supply Halifax with fresh milk as part of her business interests’? Possibly? It could explain her long and very accurately detailed description of the building for future reference.

    Source : Cattle: Their Breeds, Management, and Diseases : with an Index : Baldwin and Cradock, 1842.
    https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Cattle.html?id=HCBCAAAAcAAJ&redir_esc=y

    1. Thank you so much for finding this information. It would not surprise me at all if Anne was considering opening her own dairy concern.

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