A Brief History of Cadbury Chocolate

Cadbury Dairy Milk | ©  brett jordan/Flickr
Cadbury Dairy Milk | © brett jordan/Flickr
Photo of Richard Franks
Freelance Travel & Music Writer19 January 2017

Cadbury chocolate has been an integral part of Birmingham’s heritage, dating all the way back to the very first store in 1824. Read on as we delve in to the history of Cadbury and those who made the company what it is today.

Humble beginnings: 1824-1897

In 1824 John Cadbury opened his first store at 93 Bull Street in Birmingham city centre, selling tea, coffee, cocoa and drinking chocolate. Drinking chocolate was seen as a healthier alternative to alcohol, which was deemed a negative influence on society by fellow Quakers. In 1931, John purchased a four-storey factory on Crooked Lane, which sat between Corporation Street and the High Street. By 1842, John was selling almost 30 varieties of drinking chocolates and cocoa.

John Cadbury's first shop on Bull St, 1824 | © Cadbury

As John’s trade continued to grow, he asked his brother Benjamin for a helping hand and Cadbury became known as Cadbury Brothers. The Cadbury brothers’ business continued to perform admirably, and in 1947 they moved to a larger factory on Bridge Street which had access to all major ports in Britain through a private canal port. Due to ill health, John Cadbury retired in 1861 and passed the company on to his other brothers, George and Richard.

Bridge Street Works factory in central Birmingham | © Cadbury

Following the firm’s first major breakthrough with Cadburys’ Cocoa Essence, developments in 1875 saw the first Cadbury Easter egg. By 1897, the brothers had also manufactured their first milk chocolate bar.

The 1900s and the birth of Bournville

In need of a site with good rail and canal access, the Cadbury brothers subsequently found a 14 ½ acre site in a quaint countryside village just four miles south of the city. Purchasing the land and naming it Bournville, the site originally comprised of Bournbrook Cottage, a stream and a pear tree – and the tree is still there to this day.

By the 1900s, George and Richard Cadbury had built their new factory along with a ‘model village’ for their workers, with more than 300 cottages and houses within close proximity, along with amenities like schools and shops. As the family were Quakers, no pubs were built in Bournville. Alcohol was still prohibited for sale in the village until a local newsagent was granted a license in 2015 and ultimately ended the village’s 120 year ban.

Bournville Primary School 1902-1905 | © The JR James Archive/Flickr

Notable milestones

In 1905 Cadbury first produced Dairy Milk, their most popular product of all time. Further production included Bournville Cocoa (1906), Bournville Chocolate (1908), Milk Tray (1915) and Flake (1920), before poster advertisements for Dairy Milk rolled out in the late 1920s. Though not for Dairy Milk, the first Cadbury television advert aired in 1955 and ever since, Cadbury’s television adverts have been some of the most highly regarded in ad history.

Various Dairy Milk designs through the years | © Joe Anderson/Flickr

Though Cadbury is now owned by American confectionary giant Mondelez International, the suburb of Bournville will always be at the heart of the company.

To this day, Bournville remains a village steeped in its original history. The factory remains a popular attraction and many of the structures and cottages built in the late 1800s still stand. The historic Men’s Pavillion on the factory grounds has also been recently restored.

The Cadbury factory, Bournville | © sleepymyf/Flickr

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