24th October 2022 by

Centenary of the death of George Cadbury (18 October 2022)

George Cadbury, third son of John Cadbury, founder of Cadbury’s coca and chocolate company, was an English businessman and social reformer who, with his elder brother, Richard, took over their father’s failing enterprise (April 1861) and built it into the highly prosperous Cadbury Brothers cocoa and chocolate manufacturing firm. George was perhaps more important for his improvements in working conditions and for his successful experiments in housing and town planning.

In 1879 the Cadburys moved their business 4 miles from industrial Birmingham to a rural site they called Bournville (then in Worcestershire, but now part of Birmingham). There they introduced a private social security programme and improved working conditions much in advance of their time. In 1893 George Cadbury (who became chairman of the firm on Richard’s death in 1899), bought 120 acres nearby. His long experience as a teacher in a Birmingham “adult school” for working men had convinced him that bad housing was the cause of many social evils.

From 1894 he and his architect, W. Alexander Harvey, built working-class dwellings unusual for their ample gardens and other amenities. By 1900, when Cadbury renounced his proprietorship of the estate and set up the Bournville Village Trust, there were 313 houses for various social classes; by 1960 the trust held 1,000 acres with 3,500 houses. It has been a model for other “garden cities” and “garden suburbs.”

George Cadbury was one of the prime movers in setting up the Birmingham Civic Society in 1918. He donated the Lickey Hills Country Park to the people of Birmingham.  He also donated a large house in Northfield to the Birmingham Cripples Union that was used as a hospital from 1909, now the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital.

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