Days when ice cream treats came on trikes

It had been a staple of the English dessert since 1671, when the first dish was reportedly served at a banquet for the Feast of St George, at Windsor Castle. But it was not until the Victorian era that ice cream became an everyday treat for the masses – and these pre-war pictures tell of a time when no day out was complete without one.

Nurses commandeer the ice-cream man and his 'creamy ices' as soon as he arrives at the Radcliffe Infirmary Fete in Oxford, with his bicycle cart, England.  (Photo by J. R. V. Johnson/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Nurses commandeer the ice-cream man and his 'creamy ices' as soon as he arrives at the Radcliffe Infirmary Fete in Oxford, with his bicycle cart, England. (Photo by J. R. V. Johnson/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It was the invention of the ice cream machine that made it possible to turn out brickettes for tuppence and tubs for fourpence, and long before the age of the motorised truck, vendors were playing their trade wherever there were tourists.

The first machines consisted of little more than wooden buckets filled with ice and salt, and a rotating handle to mix them. Not long afterwards, electric and gas refrigeration made it possible to store the ice cream for more than a few hours, without using vast amounts of ice.

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A Swiss entrepreneur named Carlo Gatti is credited with making the product universally available in Britain. Having settled in the Italian quarter of Holborn, London, he opened a waffle and chestnut cafe and then an ice cream stall in Hungerford Market, dispensing “penny licks” – first in unhygienically reusable glasses and later in sugar cones that were ideal for eating on the go.

August 1937: Two young women enjoy tubs of ice-cream. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

The first mobile vendors, like the one in the picture (right) used tricycles to literally peddle their wares, and in the interwar years, Wall’s could boast a fleet of 50, which were stored in a single garage. In the three years between 1924-7, sales went from around £13,000 to close to half a million, and the company later doubled the capacity of its dairy in Acton by constructing a purpose-built ice cream factory in Gloucester.

It was one of their employees, Cecil Rodd, who was credited with having devised the slogan, Stop Me and Buy One.

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23rd July 1938: Three donkeys at Douglas in the Isle of Man crowd round a boy to get a taste of his ice cream. (Photo by George W. Hales/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

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1921: An ice-cream boat at the Kingston regatta. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

James Mitchinson, Editor

7th August 1939: An ice cream vendor wearing waders sells Bailey's ice cream to two women bathing in the sea at Brighton. (Photo by George W. Hales/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
3rd September 1935: The 'Stop Me And Buy One' Walls Ice Cream Tricycle salesman gets a small customer. (Photo by David Savill/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
1st August 1932: An ice cream seller sells ices to children by the Thames at Putney, London. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
A woman on Brighton beach holds up two enormous plastic ice cream cornets. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)