© COLIN BAKER 2007
Richard Tapper Cadbury was born in 1768, in Exeter; he arrived in Birmingham in 1794 with his friend Joseph Rutter, and opened a drapers shop at 92, Bull Street. His son, John born 1801, took an apprenticeship with a tea company in Leeds, and upon his return to Birmingham in 1824; he borrowed money from his father to start a business. He opened a shop on the 4th March 1824 at 93 Bull Street, next door to his parents, selling tea and coffee.
By this time, his father had become a respected citizen and businessman in the city, serving on the Boards of the General Hospital, the dispensary, the Eye Hospital and other institutions, and as a Quaker, had contact with most of the leading figures in the city at this time, it wasn’t long before John supplied tea and coffee to most of the famous names of Birmingham, amongst his customers he could list the Ryland’s, Galton’s, Bolton’s, Watts, Murdock’s and Lloyds families. John also traded in Cocoa and drinking chocolate, these were sold in small blocks and made into a drink by adding boiling milk with sugar to taste. Due to the cost of such items, only the rich could afford to purchase them.
In 1826, Joseph Storrs Fry, of Bristol had developed a process to produce chocolate lozenges which were “a pleasant and nutritious substitute for food whilst travelling”, and in 1831, John Cadbury rented a warehouse in Crooked Lane, to experiment with the making of chocolate and cocoa on a larger scale, with the intention of supplying his own shop. In 1847, the warehouse in Crooked Lane was knocked down to make way for a tunnel for the Great Western Railway, so he moved his business first to Cambridge Street, and then a couple of months later to premises in Bridge Street.
About this time John was joined as a partner, by his elder brother Benjamin Head Cadbury, who had given up the drapery shop which he had taken over from his father. Two years later in 1849, the brothers pulled out of the retail side of the business and passed the Bull Street shop onto one of their nephews, Richard Cadbury Barrow.
In 1854, they opened an office in London and received the Royal Appointment as Cocoa Manufactures to Queen Victoria.
When John retired the company was taken over by two of his sons; Richard and George, they controlled the company through a very bad 5 years when it seemed the company would close, but gradually the brothers turned the business round.
The brothers were determined to be good employers and began to pay female workers by their output (piecework), which trebled their previous wages of between 2s 6d and 7s 6d a week. They also started a sick club and gave the members a tea party at the end of the first year, this party developed into an annual gathering. They were amongst the first company to introduce a “half day holiday” on a Saturday, and introduce bank holidays. They also provided facilities, out of work for staff to play football and cricket.
By the late 1870’s the Bridge Street factory became un-suitable, the area around the site was densely packed with factories and workshops, road access was difficult, and there was no room for expansion. It became obvious to the brothers that they would have to move to another factory, the brothers looked all around Birmingham for a site big enough for a new factory, until they found a 14 ½ acre site west of the city in the agricultural district of Kings Norton. The site was purchased by them at an auction on 18th June 1878. The position was considered ideal for the new factory, being adjacent to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and the West Suburban Line of the Midland Railway, to the north of the site ran a trout stream, known as Bourn Brook, it was decided to name the premises Bournville a combination of the name of the brook with the French word for town, as French chocolate was considered to be the best.
In January 1879, work began erecting Bournville, the company took the unusual step of employing contractors and managed the construction themselves, building was finished by the autumn, it was a single-storey block suitable for the mass production of quality products. The main building was surrounded by a number of smaller blocks housing the boiler house, engine house, saw mills and shops for tinmen, joiners and box makers. There were also offices, stables, a coach house and smithy along with a kitchen and mess room.
The move to the new premises took a number of weeks with the majority of plant moved by canal.
As most of the existing staff lived close to the old premises in Bridge Street, workers faced a long journey to Bournville, and with the train service not beginning until 8.30 many faced a long walk to work. There was very little chance of workers finding accommodation near the works, so the firm supplied a number of bedrooms and sitting rooms in the cottages they had built adjacent to the works. At one stage the company hired a van to bring workers from the city to the works, until the Midland Railway introduced an earlier train service to Bournville. Within a short time after opening, the workforce increased from 230 to 300, ten years later it had risen to 1,193, and by the end of the century they were employing 2,689 workers.
In 1882, Richards’s eldest son Barrow Cadbury joined the family firm, concentrating on the finance and accounting. He introduced accounting systems to modernise the running of the company including telephones and typewriters and staff records.
The company had very strict rules regarding lateness, stealing, inferior work, wasting materials and the eating of chocolate, those who broke these rules could be cautioned, fined, suspended or discharged, with the details entered on the staff records. There were specific regulations regarding the employment of women and no woman was employed “who is not of good moral character”, George Cadbury also insisted that women had to leave their jobs when they married, and from 1887 a marriage gift of a Bible and a carnation was given to the women who had to leave because of this ruling. On the positive side the company, provided many facilities for use by the staff, including a sports field and a swimming pool, and encouraged membership of the many clubs and activities promoted by the company. They had their own football, cricket, cycling, tennis, hockey, netball clubs and a musical society, which had its own brass band and orchestra. Amongst the other facilities on the site, was a kitchen and dining rooms for the staff, which in line with company policy had separate dining rooms for men and women.
When John Cadbury died in 1889, he had lived to see his business become one of the most important in Birmingham, and over the next ten years his sons Richard and George continued to improve the company to become on of the most significant in England.
Richard Cadbury died in March 1899, whilst on a visit to Egypt, and so as a result of his death, Cadburys became Cadbury Brothers Limited, a private limited company, with George as chairman and Barrow, William, Edward and George Jnr. Members of the board.
In 1895, George brought 120 acres of land adjacent to the Bournville, and in an attempt to improve the living conditions of the workforce, built 143 houses to be sold at cost price with the help of low interest loans, these were followed by the building of houses to rent, and in 1900 the Bournville Village Trust was established. The Trust had control of 330 acres and set about building a planned village for the benefit of all. The houses were well built, light and spacious and sanitary with front and rear gardens, with one tenth of the estate reserved for open spaces.
The Cadbury family felt it had an obligation to the people of Birmingham, and were crucial in setting up a number of organisations which are still serving Birmingham. They brought a large house in Northfield known as Woodlands, and in 1907, gave it to the Birmingham Cripple Union it became the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, they paid for a school to be built in Bournville and in 1910 for the construction of Bournville Baths.
In 1910, Richard Cadbury’s son Barrow, and Geraldine, his wife, made available 5 acres of Uffculme estate with funds of about £400, to erect an open-air school., and in 1914, Emma Cadbury, widow of Richard allowed Uffculme to be used as a hostel for Belgium refugees which then in 1916 became a hospital for wounded soldiers.
During The Great war more than 2,000 Bournville men joined the armed forces and the company insisted on keeping in contact with them, they insured each man had a supply of books woollen hats, scarves and socks all knitted by the female employees, and twice a year a 1lb block of chocolate. Most of those that returned from the war went back to their own jobs and 36 who had become disabled were sent for training “to fit them for special occupations” within the company.
In 1920 “Cadbury Dairy Milk Flake” was introduced, initially as an un-named miscellaneous line whose recipe was registered in ledger number 99, hence one of the explanation of the origin of the “99” flake. In 1923, whipped fondant cream eggs were introduced which are still produced today.
By 1938 over 10,000 men and women were employed at Bournville alone, the company was always very health and safety conscience with a high hygiene standard expected from all members of staff, there was also a very strict discipline code, however in return Cadburys was one of the best employers in Birmingham and their good wages, secure employment and safe working conditions ensured the best from their workforce.
With the outbreak of WW2, many manufacturing companies Lucas, Dunlop, B.S.A., Morris and many others were turned over to the production of military items, at Cadburys, a separate company was created and over 2,000 workers were transferred to war work, this included the manufacture of milling machines and specialist machinery for Lucas, and machines, jigs and tools
TO BE CONTINUED
Details extracted from The Cadbury Story by Carl Chinn