On this day in history : 24th October 1922 – George Cadbury dies at his Northfield Manor home, aged 83…. As well as giving us chocolate – he can also perhaps be attributed to bringing us the modern housing estate….

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George Cadbury, aged 78 – Public domain

Born in Birmingham on the 19th of September 1839, George was the third son of John Cadbury, a member of the Society of Friends – and a tea and coffee merchant…. George was sent to a Quaker school but when his mother died in 1855 and with his father’s failing health, he left school to join the family business….

When George was 22 he and his elder brother, Richard, took over the helm of the business…. Five years later, Cadbury became the first British company to sell cocoa….the roasted ground beans were blended with sugar to produce a chocolate powder to which water or milk could be added to make drinking chocolate…. The first edible chocolate Cadbury produced was very much like that being imported from Switzerland at the time…. In 1897 the first milk chocolate was made – by adding full cream milk Cadbury’s Dairy Milk was born….to become Britain’s best selling chocolate….

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1885 advertisment for Cadbury’s Cocoa – Public domain

We’ve obviously all heard of Cadbury – but there is so much more than chocolate to be associated with this company….and particularly with George Cadbury…. You could say he was responsible for the modern day housing estate….

George, who became chairman of Cadbury in 1899, after the death of his brother, had always been committed to helping those that needed it…. Throughout his life he was heavily involved with an adult school in Birmingham, teaching adults who had not been fortunate enough to receive an education…. In the grounds of his own home, Northfield Manor, George had a building constructed that could accommodate 700…. Over the summer months as many as 25,000 children from deprived parts of Birmingham would visit to be fed and entertained…. He also held annual events for students he had taught at the adult school….

Cadbury always had a reputation for being a good employer; introducing half days on Saturdays and allowing Bank Holidays off…. In 1906 George Cadbury paid £60,000 into a pension fund for Cadbury employees…. Facilities in the factory were good, a kitchen to heat food and later the addition of a canteen…. Concerned for the health and well-being of its employees Cadbury acquired land at Rowheath in the 1920s…. On this land football and hockey pitches were created; a grass running track, a fishing lake and a swimming lido with a natural mineral spring were all added…. No money was charged to use the facilities….

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Rowheath Lake – David Stowell CC BY-SA 2.0

George Cadbury was convinced that the cause of many evils in society was down to bad housing – which was so often the way in those days, slums and poverty were everywhere…. In 1879 the Cadbury Company needed new business premises, due to expansion the existing ones had been outgrown…. A 15 acre site, 4 miles to the south of Birmingham was chosen for the new factory….it was name ‘Bournville’ after the stream running through the site…. Being an attractive area it became known as the ‘factory in a garden’…. Twenty four houses were built as homes for key workers at Cadbury….

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The packing room at Bournville, circa 1903 – Public domain

In 1893 George Cadbury bought a further 120 acres close to the factory and planned at his own expense a ‘model village’ – a self-contained community…. By 1900 Bournville village had 313 houses and cottages set on a 330 acre site and building continued right up to World War 1 and then on a smaller scale after into the 20th century…. The houses were of a far higher standard to the usual working class homes of the time, with larger rooms and generous sized gardens…. They were built in small clusters, around central gardens….or in cul-de-sacs….giving a sense of community…. There was a triangular shaped village green added, which saw various events such as fetes and maypole dancing….

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The Rest House, Bournville Village Green

In 1900 the Bournville Village Trust was set up to formerly control the development of the estate – independently from George Cadbury or the Company…. The trust focused on providing schools, a hospital, wash houses, reading rooms, a museum…. By 1960 the trust held 1,000 acres with 3,500 homes upon it….

The Bournville Trust still continues today….it is now responsible for some 7,800 homes…. Cadbury continues to be one of Birmingham’s major employers….

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Bournville Village Trust houses

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