Tag Archives: Cadbury

Creative responses to First World War archives: a letter to my dear Sister


As part of 2018’s Explore Your Archive campaign and following on from Monday’s blog post, another creative response from the Creating Writing workshop was inspired by the letters of Elizabeth Cadbury (MS 466 FN:466/433 (1916)).




Margaret Hale wrote the following:

January 1915

My dear Sister,

I am writing this letter to you while sitting nearly on top of the fire, that is  because the weather here is so very cold and it is trying very hard to snow.

Our new home, which we moved into before Christmas does not seem as warm and friendly as the old one, but I am having a large number of friends visiting probably to be inquiring in a nosey sort of way to tell me their news.

Mrs Freda Smythe called yesterday to tell me that Mr and Mrs George Brown’s son Frederick George Brown, do you remember him? He was at school with our cousin Michael Arthur Jones, they were at Upton together was killed last week. Then Mrs Ursula Thomas came to tell me that her daughter Mary, who you remember married Simon Albert Hall, also at Upton with Michael has had a baby daughter Flora Mary.

I have had a very busy week apart from all the visitors I have been asked to help Chair the Woodlands committee for helping the wounded, Mrs Duncan Cadbury is the Deputy Chairman and the Lord Mayor and the Bishop of Birmingham are also on the committee. The first one was on Monday morning and Mrs Cadbury had to leave us early because her son Edward had come home on sick leave and she wanted to be with him.

At church on Sunday the preacher was the new Curate, the Rev Gordon Harvey-Jones quite an elderly man for a curate I thought, his sermon was good but quite short so John and I walked home in the wintery sun.

John is very busy at the factory going in most days, he had to go to the Ministry in London, and unfortunately the train was slow and late. I think he is missing going to Torquay this year. Our Cousin Ada and her husband Victor, you know the one who talks a lot, wrote to say that the weather is dreadful and most of the hotel has influenza and she was not enjoying it.

I am thinking about colours for the morning room, I have been to Worcester and picked some china that I like and I think it looks quite nice on Mother’s old side board.  Do you remember how we were forbidden to open the drawers and cupboards?

I am still writing Christmas replies as the move has taken up so much time. I have written to our cousin Sarah in Calcutta, her husband Roger Michael Cadwell is now in charge of the plantation and they now have four children, Mollie, Olive, Walter and Freda. It must be lovely to be warm all the time. I have heard from Aunty Beatrice and she says that her sons, Andrew, Arthur and Albert, are all away at war.   Victor, her husband, thinks the War will be over by Christmas this year.

I went to a Concert by the London Symphony Orchestra which was nice, but some people did not stay till the end.

I do hope that you will be able to come and stay with us at Easter, and we can see the spring flowers together in our new garden. I hope that you will be able to have some time off from the hospital.

Your ever loving sister.


On this Day: Tuesday 17th April

Elizabeth Cadbury (1858 -1951), n.d. [Birmingham Portraits Collection]

The Cadbury name is one we all recognise; they are famous across the world as successful business owners and makers of delicious chocolate and confectionery. However the family members behind this colossus of a name may still be somewhat of a mystery to some. For this reason, and for my first blog post, I have decided to delve into the Cadbury family collection at the Library of Birmingham and view the family’s personal papers. I have chosen a letter written by Elizabeth Taylor Cadbury.

Elizabeth Cadbury (nee Taylor) was born on 24th June 1858 to a Quaker company director and stockbroker named John Taylor, her mother was Mary Jane Cash, she was one of ten children. Elizabeth seems to have enjoyed being part of a large family as she married George Cadbury, the son of John Cadbury, who already had 5 children from a previous marriage. They married in 1888, and went on to have 6 children of their own.

George and Elizabeth Cadbury with 2 of their children, Laurence (on George’s lap) and Norman (on Elizabeth’s lap) and George’s 5 children from his first marriage to Mary Tylor: George junior, Edward  (standing at the back), Isobel and Eleanor (sitting), and Henry (on the floor in front), 1890 [MS 466]

The letters that I have looked through reflect a large family, full of love and devotion to each other. They seem to enjoy visiting and spending time with each other. The letter that I have chosen discusses visits from family and friends, and an enjoyable Easter spent surrounded by good company in the family home, The Manor House in Selly Oak. In this letter dated Tuesday 17th April 1934 Elizabeth writes of family members fondly and paints a vivid picture of a few days full of love and adventure.

Continue reading

Easter Hope

When researching our blog for Easter, the obvious collection to look in was the records of the Cadbury Family. Easter and Cadbury now go hand in hand but this is no new phenomena. Before the Second World War, Cadbury were making and decorating some splendid Easter Eggs and photographs in the collection not only show the production line machinery that was used, but also staff adorning the eggs with intricate decoration by hand.

Machinery used to create Easter Eggs, 1939
©Cadbury/Mondelez International [MS 466/41/Box 4A/81]


The mechanical techniques used to make the eggs were clearly advanced as the annotation on the photographs convey:  

‘Can it be that these fabulous Easter Eggs were issued as a production line? Such would seem to the case, and it is an indication of the high quality of Grade 1 products before the 1939 war brought the end to these expensive lines. When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to Bournville in 1939, one of the show pieces was the decoration by hand of even larger eggs. Sic transit Gloria mundi.’

Decorating Easter Eggs, 1939
©Cadbury/Mondelez International [MS 466/41/Box 4A/83]

Also in the Cadbury Family papers is an uplifting sentiment that Easter is full of hope. Published in Women’s Leader and Common Cause on 10th April, 1925, Mrs. George Cadbury wrote: Continue reading

An educational holiday destination

MS 466/41/box8a/26

Elizabeth Cadbury (standing, right) at the Beeches, December 1938 (MS 466/41/box8a/26)

While researching my last blog post about the work of the Religious Society of Friends in helping the unemployed in the 1930s, a search in our archives catalogue brought up several entries referring to the Beeches Educational Centre, Bournville and included the above photograph of Elizabeth Cadbury at the Beeches in December 1938. Knowing that today the Beeches is a hotel and conference centre, I was intrigued to learn more.

Originally owned by the Cadbury family, in the 1890s Elizabeth Cadbury set up the Beeches as a country holiday home for children living in the impoverished slum areas of industrial Birmingham, and it was later rebuilt in 1908. By the 1920s, the building was used as a girls day continuation school and from November 1933, with agreement from the trustees who included a number of Cadbury family members, it had become The Beeches Educational Centre for unemployed women, offering two week residential educational programmes.

A colleague suggested that Elizabeth Cadbury may well have written about the centre in one of the weekly letters she wrote to her large family recounting her activities and news.  So off I went to look in the numerous boxes of letters for one written in December 1938. Sure enough, on Tuesday 20 December 1938 Elizabeth wrote a letter (MS/466/438(1938))  in which she described the Beeches as follows:

The Beeches, as you will know, was lent by the Trustees to the Government for the purpose of the experiment of giving short intensive terms of teaching Handicraft, Social Civics, and Methods of running clubs, to Women, wives of Unemployed men, from the depressed areas. [….] An excellent local committee helps tremendously.

Other entries in our catalogue referred to a couple of volumes of Beeches committee minutes and press cuttings and a quick look through them told me that the committee was presided over by Prof. H. G. Wood, director of Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre and included Elizabeth Cadbury, Richard Clements, Midland Regional Officer of the National Council of Social Service, Sylvia Pearson, Miss Roberts, Miss Butcher and Mr W. H. Leighton among others.  The centre was funded from a combination of sources: the Trustees, subscriptions and donations, and a grant from the National Social Service Council. Attendance at the centre cost the women a few shillings per week.

Members of the Beeches Education Committee, with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress at the opening of the new wing of the Beeches, June 1936 (MS 396/2 National Service Council Press cuttings, Birmingham Gazette, 11/6/1936)

Continue reading

Rest House at Bournville – One Hundred Years On

Crowd on Bournville Green during the opening of the Rest House [MS 466/41 Box 8/44. 1914]

Crowd on Bournville Green during the opening of the Rest House 1914
[MS 466/41 Box 8/44]

George and Elizabeth Cadbury celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in April 1913 and the Rest House at Bournville was built to commemorate this occasion.  The Building was designed by William Alexander Harvey, who was architect of many other buildings on the estate, from workers’ ‘cottages’ to Bournville Junior and Infant Schools. Harvey aimed to design a building that “would be in entire harmony with its surroundings.”  The Rest House was based on a seventeenth-century market hall at Dunster in Somerset.  Interestingly, Dunster was not unknown to Cadbury’s employees.  In 1909 the Bournville Youths’ Club had held its summer camp there: perhaps this experience influenced the choice of the Market Hall as the inspiration for the Rest House?  Paid for by the world-wide employees of Cadbury Bros Ltd, the Rest House was officially opened on 18 April 1914 and these photographs record some elements of that day. 

E. S Thackray handing over Rest House to Mr and Mrs George Cadbury [MS 466/41 Box 8/41. 1914]

E. S Thackray handing over Rest House to Mr and Mrs George Cadbury
[MS 466/41 Box 8/41]

Opening of Rest House [MS 466/41 Box 8/39 1914]

Opening of Rest House 1914
[MS 466/41 Box 8/39]

Following the formal opening ceremony and the many individual speeches from a wide range of Bournville employee representatives, cables were read on behalf of the Cadbury overseas operations, including India and Australia. In his response, George Cadbury recalled the difficulties of the early years of the company before the move to the Bournville site, several miles from the crowded centre of Birmingham.  The decision to move in 1879 had been seen as something of a rash act but had given the firm space to respond to the needs of the growing business and to expand from a workforce of 250 to 6,855.  George Cadbury also referred to these early years of struggle but equally the fellowship between himself, his brother Richard and their workers that had developed and continued still.   He described the importance he had set on improving the housing provision so as to ensure children could “enjoy the benefits sunshine, fresh air and the beauties of nature”.  The housing experiment had garnered international interest and had influenced similar experiments around the globe, including Ebenezer Howard, the young garden city exponent.

Elizabeth Cadbury expressed her gratitude for the “delightful and appropriate gift” and commented on the value of a place of rest in the midst of the busy life of work, school and home, commenting that the building was “symbolic of our need in these hustling, materialistic days” with the Rest House providing kind shelter and seating. Towards the end of the twentieth century the Rest House was re-opened and became a focal point for the carillon and associated activities at Bournville.

Miss Phoebe Robinson presents Mrs George Cadbury with a bouquet [MS 466/41 Box 8/42]

Miss Phoebe Robinson presents Mrs George Cadbury with a bouquet
[MS 466/41 Box 8/42]

This important 1914 event and the memory of George and Elizabeth is to be celebrated on Saturday 12 April 2014 with a formal gathering at the Rest House at 12 noon, with further carillon recitals during the day.  Full details can be found at:



The Rest House, The Green, Bournville. Grade 11 Listed building

Octagonal with 3-light mullioned windows with, above, projecting gables with 2-light mullioned windows. The 2 tiers of windows are separated by deeply overhanging eaves supported on brackets. The steep-pitched roof is surmounted by a small glazed lantern with elaborate metal weathervane.

Alison Smith

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is the time for giving chocolates and flowers and to illustrate that we have an image from the Cadbury Album of chocolate box covers which is part of the extensive collection of records held here in Birmingham from the Cadbury business archive.

Chocolate Box Covers  MS 466/ 785924

Chocolate Box Covers
MS 466/ 785924

John Cadbury started his one man grocery business in the 1820s in Birmingham selling tea and branching out into the luxury market of preparing drinking chocolate and cocoas. His business flourished, there was endorsement from royalty and the chocolate became refined and eatable. However, the firm did begin to fail along with the health of John and eventually, in 1860 John passed the business over to his two sons Richard and George.  The artistically inclined Richard concentrated on sales and George concentrated on the manufacturing side.  The two young men in their early twenties faced bankruptcy on a daily basis but, determination fostered by the work ethic and Quaker beliefs instilled in their characters drove the business forward. The business flourished again and eventually expanded to new premises 4 miles south of Birmingham in 1879. Richard had employed his considerable artistic talents to promote the eating chocolate market by creating the first British chocolate boxes and enhancing them with his own designs and paintings, using his children as models and scenes and landscapes from his travels.

Chocolate Box Covers  MS 466/ 785924

Chocolate Box Covers
MS 466/ 785924

Mother’s day is traditionally a celebration of mothers and motherhood and the place of mothers in society. The commercial celebration began in the United States in the early 20th century, but the tradition has its roots in Greek and Roman society and before. The Christian mothering Sunday was originally a celebration of the mother church. Now, around the world,  the day is usually fixed to an existing Spring holiday; for example in the UK we celebrate Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday of Lent before Easter, whilst socialist countries tend to honour motherhood on International Women’s Day in March. The extent of celebration varies greatly from country to country, from a little celebrated event to places where it is positively offensive to one’s mother not to mark the occasion (that is the case in my place I would have to say!)

However you celebrated, let’s have a high five for your mom and here’s to chocolates all round!

Judy Dennison     March 2014