Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Cadbury Family

by Anna Jones Buttimore

George Cadbury

One person can make a difference.

I visited Cadbury World last weekend. It's a chocolate factory, and the tour was almost as wonderful as the chocolate. What I found most interesting, however, (OK, second most interesting after the chocolate) was the history of the Cadbury family.

John Cadbury (born 1802) was a Quaker. His religion made him unable to go to University or into the military or professions, so as well as campaigning against animal cruelty he opened a shop in Birmingham which sold tea, coffee and chocolate drinks. With his brother, he successfully formulated a way to turn chocolate into an edible bar, which proved very popular. He bought a factory in Birmingham to manufacture the chocolate bar, and passed the business onto his sons George and Richard. When they developed milk chocolate in 1904 (chocolate had previously been very bitter) the company really took off.

George Cadbury's suggested rules for the health of his employees - apart from the cold bath, I think these are still great advice and ahead of their time.
Birmingham was (and is) a large industrial city, and it greatly upset George that many of his workers lived in the tiny and squalid back-to-back houses of the slums. So he bought a large site in the countryside, close to the railway and canal, and built not only a factory, but an entire village of comfortable, attractive and affordable houses for the workers. 

He named this village Bournville, after the river Bourne which runs through it. As well as the homes George built several churches, schools, separate swimming baths for men and women, sports facilities, and ensured that at least 10% of the land remained parkland. He didn't build any pubs, however. Quakers are teetotal and to this day there are no pubs in Bournville. In fact, in 2007 residents of the village went to court to stop Tesco, the largest supermarket in the UK, stocking alcoholic drinks in their new Bournville branch. They succeeded.

George was years ahead of his time in the way he treated his workers, too. He directed them to live healthy lives according to his personal philosophy (see above) and decades before the NHS they all had dental and medical care available at work. Their working week was just five-and-a-half days (a whole day shorter than normal for the time), and George Cadbury would even stand in the rain under his trusty umbrella looking for the tram so that his female workers didn’t have to. When he saw the tram coming, he would call them from where they were sheltering.

I love chocolate, as my waistline testifies. I also loved Bournville. It is still a beautiful village, even though the city of Birmingham has grown and swallowed it up. I’m happy to know that one amazing man, George Cadbury (and the brothers, sons and grandsons who carried on his business until it was sold to Krafft recently), could make such a difference to so many lives, and bring so much happiness.

1 comment:

Lynn Gardner said...

Wish I'd known about Bourneville when we were in England! Would love to have visited. We did pass by Birmingham on our way to the Cotswolds - I assume it may be similar??