The Bournville Village Trust

Bournville Village Trust is an active memorial to the inspired social concern of its founder George Cadbury who, in the late 19th century, was moved to action by the sights he saw in the back streets and slums of Birmingham. Mr Phillip Henslowe, Director of Public relations for the Trust, in his well illustrated talk to the Civic Society on 19th November, traced the history of the prototype model village development from the building of 16 cottages for workers, the only dwellings built specifically for employees of the Chocolate factory, to the salubrious and pleasant well-treed suburb it was to become.

The Cadbury cocoa and chocolate empire had been founded by John, father of George and Richard, who expanded the business and moved it to a green field site to the south of Birmingham. Those first cottages had been built to meet commercial needs of maintaining a 24 hour production process in the new factory. George, with his own money, purchased land and, employing his own architect, started building leasehold houses. Here was an example of vigourous social reform typical of the Quaker dynasty. Birmingham was expanding but Bournville was not to be part of the uncontrolled sprawl. The Trust was established and Bournville became a self-contained village with its own schools and meeting houses. Alms houses were built for retired workers, amenity areas and green spaces were designated and a variety of house type designs were developed.

The extent of benevolent paternalistic control has gradually been liberalised but sufficient has survived to make the village secure and highly desirable as a place in which to live. A story, possibly apocryphal, tells of George Cadbury's dislike of wearing a hat on formal occasions - even when King George V was visiting Bournville. Walking beside the King, also hatless, an imperious female voice commanded "George, put on your hat!". They both obeyed. We wonder who owned the voice!

Ivor Mitchell
November 1991