One of the ways you can make your travel more sustainable is to get the most out of every journey you make. So with a morning to spare before I caught the train home from a recent trip to Birmingham, I decided to drop in at Cadbury World where I discovered the legacy of the Cadbury Family is about more than just chocolate….
Who were the Cadbury Family?
The Cadbury’s were a prominent family of British industrialists, philanthropists and Quakers from the West Midlands in England.
Oldest son John Cadbury founded the Cadbury Company in 1824 when he started selling tea, coffee and chocolate from a small shop in Birmingham. He also began a campaign against animal cruelty, forming the Animals Friend Society, a forbearer of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Younger brother Benjamin joined the business in 1848 and they rented a larger factory to grow the chocolate business. He later developed the recipe for Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, the first British chocolate to be made like Swiss chocolate with fresh milk.
Together with his brother Richard, Benjamin took over the family business in 1861. In 1878 they acquired 14 acres of land in open country in what became known as Bournville, four miles south of Birmingham. They opened a new factory here in 1879.
Today Cadbury’s is no longer a family business. It is owned by American multinational Mondelez International (formerly Kraft Foods) which took over the chocolate company in 2010.
Visiting Cadbury World
Cadbury World is located in the grounds of the original Bournville factory and has become one of Birmingham’s largest leisure attractions – welcoming over 500,000 visitors each year. It isn’t a full factory tour, but there is an opportunity to watch chocolatiers at work and see a packaging line in operation.
There are 14 zones which tell the story of chocolate and the Cadbury business through static sets, animations, video presentations, 4D cinema, interactive displays, and staff demonstrations. Much of this was a little ‘kid-tastic’ for me, but I’m sure it would be a fun place to visit with children. The story behind it was certainly fascinating.
On arrival you are presented with a handful of chocolate bars to sample, including a Curly Wurly, a Crunchie Bar and a Dairy Milk.
But don’t eat this all at once, as there will be more chocolate samples to come when you’re invited to add your favourite treats to a pot of molten Dairy Milk. I went for honeycomb and popping candy!
Cadbury has been known for its innovative advertising campaigns, and my favourite part of the tour was Advertising Avenue where several childhood favourites like the drumming gorilla were on display.
As Quakers, the Cadbury family believed all humans should be treated equally and should live in peace. They believed in social responsibility and social reform and invested in good quality, low cost homes for their workers.
They also improved working and social conditions for their employees and the local community, building a village where workers could live with parks, recreation grounds and open space.
The brothers set new standards for working and living conditions in Victorian Britain. The firm was among the first to offer holiday pay, pensions and study opportunities in the local community, as well as providing canteens and sport grounds.
George’s second wife Elizabeth, was heavily involved in philanthropy. Together they opened Woodlands Hospital in Northfield and built The Beeches, where children from the city slums could go on holiday. The legacy of the Cadbury family can be seen throughout the city of Birmingham.
Cadbury Dairy Milk has been Fairtrade since 2009 and was the first mainstream chocolate brand to become Fairtrade certified. So far Dairy Milk, Cadbury’s chocolate buttons and Cadbury’s hot chocolate are the only products to be certified Fairtrade.
According to the Fairtrade Foundation, Cadbury Dairy Milk is the biggest purchaser of Fairtrade Cocoa, buying around 16,000 tonnes of Fairtrade certified cocoa a year from Ghana. With this in mind, I was surprised the story of Fairtrade didn’t have a higher profile at Cadbury World.
Bournville Village and Selly Manor Museum
Cadbury World is located in the historic Bournville Village, where the Cadbury brothers built the first sixteen houses for their workers. By late 1900, the village had grown to 313 houses and the family had also provided a school and a hospital. Today the village is managed by the Bournville Village Trust.
Bournville Village has been known as ‘The Dry Village’ because of a 120-year ban on the sale of alcohol, which ended in 2015 when a newsagent was granted permission to sell booze for the first time.
It is well worth taking a walk around Bournville Village, just five minutes’ from Cadbury World. Near the village green you will find two of Birmingham’s oldest buildings. Selly Manor and Minworth Greaves are timber framed buildings over 700 years old.
The Selly Manor Museum offers talks and tours, including an hour-long guided tour which examines the history of the buildings and their beautiful period furniture collection. Selly Manor also has a pretty Tudor garden which you can explore.
Woodbrooke Study Centre
One of George Cadbury’s former homes in Birmingham is now Europe’s only Quaker Study Centre.
Woodbrooke, a Georgian style mansion built by Josiah Mason, was bought by George in 1881 and later he and John Wilhelm Rowntree established the Quaker Study Centre in the building in 1903.
Not only can you join short courses on personal and spiritual growth, theology, creative arts, and training for Quaker roles here, but Woodbrooke is also available for meeting room hire and offers reasonably-priced bed and breakfast. It is a great place to stay thanks to its peaceful surroundings.
The highlight of Woodbrooke are the beautiful gardens. The lawns around the house contain specimen trees which go back to the original planting of the garden. There is a turf labyrinth and some beautiful landscaping. An arboretum holds a collection of exotic trees and the walled garden provides herbs, fruit, vegetables and flowers for cutting. Beyond the lake, an area of woodland has been designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation.
Located in Selly Oak, Woodbrooke is a short hop on the train to Bournville or the city centre in the opposite direction.
To guarantee entry to Cadbury World you are encouraged to book in advance. I didn’t, but I was able to get in to the attraction after queuing for about 20 minutes when it opened in the morning.
The cost of an adult ticket is £16.75 and a child ticket costs £12.30 (under 4s go free). Concessions are available for students and over 60s and a family ticket is also available.
The cost of admission to Selly Manor Museum is £4, and this is discounted by 20% if you have already visited Cadbury World. Concessions and child tickets are also available.
Another convenient place to stay in the area is The Beeches, which is about 10 minutes walk from Cadbury World. The hotel was clean and quiet, and reasonably priced for a major city.
Thanks to Cadbury World for the featured header photo.