As a child, train travel for me meant being able to have a Cadbury chocolate bar from the mini vending machines on the train platform. Some things never change and this is still something I look forward to when travelling by train, whether in Britain or elsewhere. Being an admitted ‘chocoholic’ I had long planned to visit Cadbury World in Birmingham on one of my trips to England and was able to do so with some like-minded relatives a couple of years ago. What I hadn’t realized was the extent of the village that George Cadbury had built for his employees. I soon discovered that he was not the only philanthropist of his time and also visited Port Sunlight Village in Liverpool built by Lord Lever (Sunlight Soap) for his employees which you can find in a separate review on this site.
If you are also attracted to all things associated with the cocoa bean, I highly recommend a visit to Cadbury World. According to “A Passion for Chocolate” produced by Cadbury World, doctors in Europe were proclaiming the benefits of consuming chocolate as far back as the early 1700s. Unlike the doctors of today they weren’t focusing on dark chocolate.
As you approach the visitor’s centre, the chocolate aroma will draw you in. We booked our tickets on line and were given an 11:30 am entry time however it was not very busy so we were able to enter the exhibit area a bit earlier. The start of the exhibit was a bit like a theme park ride as we began the journey of the discovery of the cocoa bean in the Aztec jungle. At our next stop we learned about cocoa being brought to Europe and then onto Bull Street where John Cadbury started the business. We saw a mixture of videos amid recreated streets of London and Birmingham as we followed the creation of drinking chocolate and eventually Cadbury Dairy Milk that we all know and love. There was a very interesting section that demonstrated how some of the different Cadbury chocolate bars are made and another with advertisements over the years some of which were very familiar to us. Who would have thought that the Flake was first made in 1920, the Crunchie in 1929 and the Crème Egg in 1923? There was plenty of time for us to explore each of the sections and we never felt rushed. We watched chocolates being made by hand and by machine, and chocolates being packaged by the thousands. Did I mention that you receive numerous free samples as you are wandering through? One of my favourite parts was making our own chocolate-covered sweets. Mine was dairy milk covered jelly babies. I thought it might be a bit too sweet but it was not. The warm melted chocolate was the perfect addition to the sweet jelly babies. If you are making a day of it, there is a restaurant/café on the premises for light refreshments and lunches. You can check out the menu on the web site and see if there are any vouchers that will coincide with your visit. It would be a shame to visit and not have a Cadbury hot chocolate. And before you leave you can stock up on the latest treats at the world’s biggest Cadbury shop.
After a late lunch we also took a walk around the village which is very well kept. We saw the Rest House which is built in the style of a late medieval English Butter Market. It was a gift from the workers to George and Elizabeth Cadbury for their Silver Wedding Anniversary in 1913. We heard and then saw the 48 bells in the Carillon that is in the clock tower of the school built by the same couple. Our afternoon was rounded off by a visit to the Bournville Garden Centre.
An unexpected and interesting aspect of the visit was learning about Bournville Village which the Cadbury family built for their workers. The Cadbury’s were Quakers and very much believed that their staff should live and work in an area free of the pollution and stress associated with most manufacturing plants of the day. Although the village is part of the larger city of Birmingham today, when it was built it was in the country four miles south of the city. The village they commenced to build in 1893 is said to have revolutionized standards of living and working. Not only was it a healthier environment to work in, they eventually added affordable and healthy housing along with all manner of recreational services. At its height it contained a variety of style of homes, medical centre, community centre, school, recreation ground, swimming pool and its own train station. As we walked through the manufacturing area we saw old black and white film footage of the workers clocking off and heading out to the various areas of the village to pursue the different recreational activities provided. It showed a veritable hub of activity.
The Cadburys believed in supporting the establishment of trade unions and in providing pension plans for their staff. To this day, the Bournville Village Trust exists separate and apart from the Cadbury Company to provide a healthy community and affordable housing in which the residents have a say in how the trust is run. Worldwide the Cadbury Company has a reputation for giving back to the communities in which they do business and is considered an excellent place to work.
Current entry fees for Cadbury World are £14.75 for adults and £10.75 for children though a family of four can get in for £45. Also, if you book on line you will save 5%. If you are planning a visit the web site is worth checking out for special offers (such as the 2 for 1 Purple Thursdays) and for opening times as they vary almost on a weekly basis. The web site is also a good source for chocolate recipes?.
Websites you might find useful include: www.cadburyworld.co.uk for Cadbury World information www.bvt.org.uk for Bournville Village Trust and activities.