Who Do You Think You Are?

Richard Laycock 1771–1834

Why London’s milk-drinkers used to bow down to the king of ‘Cow Town’


No individual epitomises the ‘capitalist cowkeeper’ more completely than Richard

Laycock of Islington.

Born into a family of establishe­d goose-farmers, he took over what would become Laycock’s Dairy on Liverpool Road from his stepfather, North London landowner Daniel Sebbon.

The areas of pasture on the city’s northern perimeter had a long and esteemed heritage of rich pasture and highqualit­y dairy produce. As Jill Hetheringt­on notes in ‘Dairy Farming in Islington in the Early Nineteenth Century: the Career of Richard Laycock’, published in Transactio­ns of the London & Middlesex Archaeolog­ical Society in 1987: “From Tudor times, Islington had been known as ‘Cow Town’, a Parish of Dairy Farms and ‘ the place where groweth creame’.”

By 1810, the year of his stepfather’s death, Laycock had built up an empire of between 500 and 600 cows. The scale and industriou­s approach of Laycock’s operation set him apart, taking clear cues from the factory system.

He was a successful property developer too, building grand addresses around Canonbury, while Laycock Street still bears his name. A contempora­ry descriptio­n of his opulent fivestorey house, with marble bath and stainedgla­ss windows, suggests he lived like royalty.

 ??  ?? The milking shed of Laycock’s Dairy Farm in Highbury
The milking shed of Laycock’s Dairy Farm in Highbury

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom