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Except for a few reprinted old documents, articles on this site are copyrighted by the author, and may not be reprinted without permission. You are, however, free to link to any article or page on this site without prior permission although it's nice to know who's linking to us.

Bill Samuel, August 4, 2002
Bill Samuel

The Cadburys
Quaker Social Reformers

by Bill Samuel
Originally published March 1, 2000 at

In my Quaker Food? article, I focused on the Quaker contribution to the popularization of chocolate. This article focuses on the social reform efforts of the Cadbury family, founder of Cadbury's chocolates, including treatment of their labor force.

While this article covers only the work of the Cadburys, it should be noted that they were far from unique among Quaker business people. Many other Friends (Quakers) active in the business world also treated their workers far better than many other businesses, and involved themselves in social reform efforts.

Cadburys' Social Concerns

For a considerable time, the Cadbury family were prominent both in the life of the city of Birmingham, England, and in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). They sought to put Quaker testimonies such as that of human equality before God into practice.

Even the choice of chocolate as a line of business related to their Quaker testimonies. John Cadbury, the founder of the Cadbury chocolate business, was active all his life in the temperance society. He felt alcohol was a major cause of poverty and other ills among working people. He saw cocoa and chocolate as an alternative to alcohol.

The Cadburys were involved in social reforms far beyond those directly impacting their own business. John Cadbury led a campaign to ban the use of climbing boys to sweep chimneys. He was also a leader in the struggle against animal cruelty, forming the Animals Friend Society, a forerunner of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Members of the Cadbury family, particularly George Cadbury and George Cadbury Jr., were actively involved as teachers in the adult school movement to provide education to the working classes.

Labor Relations

The Cadburys were pioneers in employee welfare and labor relations, setting standards which other enlightened employers adopted. Cadbury Brothers was the first firm to introduce the Saturday half-day holiday, and also pioneered in closing the factory on bank holidays. In 1918, Cadbury Brothers established democratically elected Works Councils, one for men and one for women. Departments elected representatives to these Councils by secret ballot. The Councils dealt with working conditions, health, safety, education, training, and the social life of the workers.

Conditions and benefits were superior to those workers generally knew in the Victorian era. Young employees were encouraged to attend night school and were allowed to leave work an hour early twice a week. When the Bournville factory opened in 1879, it featured heated dressing rooms, kitchens for hearting food, gardens, and extensive sports fields. Management negotiated special workers' fares with the railway company. The Cadburys even provided swimming pools for employees. They also encouraged the spiritual development of employees, starting morning prayers and Bible readings in 1866, continuing for half a century. Around the turn of the century, the Cadburys established medical and dental departments. They established a Pension Fund in 1906.

Housing Reform and Bournville Village

George Cadbury was a housing reformer active in the Garden City movement. When the growing company needed to build a new factory, the Cadburys decided to move out of the unhealthy Birmingham industrial quarter to a country location on the outskirts of the city. They named this property Bournville.

When they built the Bournville factory in 1879, they built 16 houses for senior employees. In 1895, George Cadbury bought an additional 120 acres and began to build more houses in the garden city. He sought to provide affordable housing for wage earners in a healthy environment. The community was not limited to Cadbury workers, and was designed to be mixed in both class and occupation. Cottages were grouped and set back from tree-lined roads. Each plot had space for gardens, and building was restricted so the gardens were not overshadowed. In 1897, Richard Cadbury built a quadrangle of houses for pensioners.

To preserve the character of the Bournville Village for future generations, George Cadbury founded the Bournville Village Trust in 1900. The Trust was always separate from the company. Several Cadbury family members are still trustees today. The Trust continues to follow the original principles, including the preservation of parks and open spaces. The Trust has established 12 different kinds of special needs housing, diversifying the population even more than in the early days. Self-build co-partnerships, where members do the work themselves under expert direction, built 400 homes.

There's Lots More...

If you want to read more about the social accomplishments of the Cadburys and other aspects of the story of the Fry and Cadbury chocolate businesses, you can find extensive information at the Cadbury corporate Web site as The Story of Cadbury. If you get to the Birmingham, England, area, you might also want to tour Cadbury World, located at the Bournville chocolate factory.

© by Bill Samuel. Do not reprint in whole or in part without prior permission of the author, except for limited quoting in accordance with "fair use" principles. You are welcome to link to this page.

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