Biography of George Cadbury

Photo of George Cadbury

George Cadbury is famous for founding a chocolate company from humble beginnings and giving beneficial conditions to his staff.

When and Where was he Born?

19th September 1839, Edgbaston, Birmingham, England.

Family Background:

George Cadbury was the son of John Cadbury, a tea and coffee dealer, and his wife Candia. George and his brother Richard took over their father’s failing chocolate business in April 1861. The Cadbury’s were members of the Society of Friends or Quakers. (Quakers believe there is a direct relationship between God and every human being contains something of God).

Education:

Local Quaker schools until age 16.

Timeline of George Cadbury:

1855: Death of his mother when he was 16 years old. His father’s health was also poor and George joined his brothers to help out in the family business.

1861: His eldest brother Richard and he took control of the company.

1866: The Cadbury Company became the first in Britain to sell cocoa as a drink. The beans were ground with sugar to make a powder to which milk and hot water were added. Despite his hectic business life Cadbury still taught on Sundays at the Birmingham Adult School and was well known for his good works to those less well off than himself.

1872: He marries Elizabeth Mary Tylor.

1879: The headquarters of the Cadbury chocolate and cocoa firm moved to Bournville, Birmingham as the existing premises had been outgrown. A model factory and village was built at Bournville and was one of the first examples of a garden city in England. The area was so known as it straddled the Bournbrook and Cadbury added Ville after the Bourn to sound exotic as, at the time, French confectionary was thought to be the best in the world. Cadbury built twenty-four houses on the site for the main workers but later another 300 were added to form the attractive Bournville Village. These houses were vastly superior to other homes of the working class and Cadbury saw to it that each had its own garden. Other facilities such as schools, wash houses reading rooms and hospitals were all included in the Village. Cadbury also encouraged sporting activity amongst his employees.

Cadbury Factory Bournville
The Cadbury “Factory in a Garden” (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1887: Death of his wife.

1888: Cadbury donates the Lickey Hills to the south west of the city to the people of Birmingham. He had been buying up tracts of land in the area for some time with his friends including the Earl of Plymouth.

1896: The men’s recreation grounds were laid out in front of the factory to encourage the health of Cadbury employees.

1897: The first production of milk chocolate began. The first chocolate was based on the Swiss model but Cadbury’s later added full cream milk to make the famous lighter coloured Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Cadbury was actively involved in politics and supported William Gladstone and became a Councillor for the Liberal Party on Birmingham Town Council and Worcestershire County Council.

1899: Sudden death of his brother Richard leaves George in sole control of the Cadbury Brothers empire.

1901: He became proprietor of the newspaper the “Daily News” which he used to put forward his views on social reform such as the introduction of the old age pension. A pavilion was built in the men’s recreation grounds to commemorate the coronation of King Edward the Seventh.

1905: He builds the Friends Meeting House (commonly known as Quakers) in Bournville Village as a place of worship for local people.

1906: Cadbury paid over £60,000 into a pension fund for his employees. He still taught at Sunday School and organised events for local children in his specially constructed theatre in the grounds of his home Northfield Manor.

1907: George Cadbury has the derelict fourteenth century building Selly Manor removed from Selly Oak and re-erected at Bournville where it finally formed the centrepiece of a museum when it opened in 1916.

1914: He was a devoted pacifist who had opposed the Boer War (1899-1902) and was dismayed at how the Liberals took the country into the First World War (1914-1918) and switched his allegiance to the Independent Labour Party who were anti war. Cadbury built the Rest House on Bournville Village Green (which is based on the Yarn Market in Dunster, Somerset) for the use of local people to commemorate his silver wedding anniversary.

Cadbury Rest House Bourville
The Rest House built in 1914 and now a museum for the Carillon (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1918: He becomes one of the major founders of the Birmingham Civic Society.

When and Where did he Die?

24th October 1922, Northfield Manor, Birmingham, England.

Age at Death:

83.

Northfield Manor where George Cadbury died
Northfield Manor where George Cadbury died before it was destroyed by arsonists and later demolished (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Marriage:

In 1872 to Elizabeth Mary Taylor.

Site of Grave:

Cremated at Perry Barr Crematorium, Birmingham and his ashes were laid to rest in an urn in the Friend’s Meeting House, Bournville.

Friends Meeting House, Bournville
Friends Meeting House Bournville, built by George Cadbury in 1905
 (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:

BIRMINGHAM:

Cadbury World, Bournville.
Bournville Village Green.
Former home now Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, 1046 Bristol Road, B29 6LJ.
Carillon in Bournville Junior School.

Bournville Carillon
The Famous Bournville Carillon which forms part of Bournville Junior School and is still regularly played (copyright Anthony Blagg)