‘Nothing was too much trouble‘: How one milkwoman became a true Norfolk hero

Popular milkwoman Gwen Dearsley with her husband Charles Dearsley, delivering milk to the village. P

Popular milkwoman Gwen Dearsley with her husband Charles Dearsley, delivering milk to the village. Picture: Helen Addison - Credit: Archant

She was a popular sight in a Norfolk village, so much so that locals are still fundraising in her memory.

Horse and cart used to deliver milk around the village. Picture: Helen Addison

Horse and cart used to deliver milk around the village. Picture: Helen Addison - Credit: Archant

Milkwoman Gwen Dearsley, who died aged 93 in November 2018, is still fondly remembered in the village of Hilgay, in Downham Market.

Friends and family gathered for a coffee morning at Hilgay Methodist church on Saturday, July 27 in Mrs Dearsley's memory and to raise money for the Norfolk Hospice Tapping House.

Mother-of-two Florence Gwendoline Dearsley, nee Gooding, lived in Hilgay all her life after her father took up work as a farm labourer.

Mrs Dearsley met her husband Charles Edward Dearsley in

Gwen and Charles Dearsley with one of village children on horse and cart used to deliver milk around

Gwen and Charles Dearsley with one of village children on horse and cart used to deliver milk around the village. Picture: Helen Addison - Credit: Archant


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the village. The couple, who married at All Saints Church, took over Mr Dearsley's family dairy business and began a milk delivery service.

Deliveries to customers were made by horse and cart and in later years using an electrified milk float.

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Helen Addison, Mrs Dearsley's daughter, said: "The horse knew the exact timing to walk a row of houses on it's own so as to be ready for mum and dad at the other end.

"In an extremely hard winter they borrowed a tractor and trailer to collect milk from King's Lynn as the regular lorry could not make the delivery. Mum was so concerned that the customers needed their supplies."

Horse and cart used to deliver milk around the village. Picture: Helen Addison

Horse and cart used to deliver milk around the village. Picture: Helen Addison - Credit: Archant

Mrs Dearsley and her husband were very committed to the business, getting up around 5.30am to deliver milk and only taking Christmas Day off. The pair took their first holiday when they retired at the age of 65.

Mrs Addison said: "Mum was an extremely kind person who cared for everyone often neglecting herself.

"When doing her deliveries she would collect and deliver shopping, prescriptions, deliver letters and messages, get washing in, put deliveries inside and check on the elderly and children, nothing was too much trouble.

"On numerous occasions she would bring other people's washing home as they were ill or unable to do it themselves. She would return the washing not only washed but ironed.

Gwen Dearsley at the fairground two years before she died. Picture: Helen Addison

Gwen Dearsley at the fairground two years before she died. Picture: Helen Addison - Credit: Archant

"We as a family are very grateful for all who organised the coffee morning."

The coffee morning organised by Leslie Dent and the Hilgay Methodist Church raised £320.

Gwen and Charles Dearsley. Picture: Helen Addison

Gwen and Charles Dearsley. Picture: Helen Addison - Credit: Archant

Gwen and Charles Dearsley with members of the Hilgay Methodist Church. Picture: Helen Addison

Gwen and Charles Dearsley with members of the Hilgay Methodist Church. Picture: Helen Addison - Credit: Archant

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