Friday, January 6, 2012

John Cadbury: Raise Your Glass and a Half

When you read the word ‘chocolate man’, the image of Willy Wonker gleaming in his chocolate factory probably springs to mind. But perhaps it is time to push fiction to one side and pay tribute to the real chocolate man, John Cadbury, whose great business skills and passion for chocolate took him from being a tea maker to building one of the greatest chocolate empires this century has seen.

Early Years
John Cadbury was born in Birmingham into a wealthy Quaker family (a breakaway religious society of friends), he could  not according to his religion study practices such as medicine and law and so turned his attention to business like many other Quakers of his time (like the founders of Lloyds and Barclays). He started off as an apprentice as a tea dealer in Leeds before returning to his birth town in 1824. Here, according to John Cadbury facts he opened up his first shop, a tiny grocery store, but soon his religious beliefs and temperament drove him in the direction of chocolate.

Quakers in general are pacifists, and vehemently oppose social ills such as war, poverty and alcohol abuse. John Cadbury believed that the sweet soothing taste of chocolate could offer some sort of alternative to binging on alcohol, and so began manufacturing drinking chocolate and cocoa as well as selling tea. As sweet as it is, John Cadbury history was not limited to selling delectable drinking chocolate to wealthy patrons (cocoa was an expensive commodity during his time). John Cadbury also campaigned for social rights in other areas, including the banning of using young boys as chimney sweeps, as well as forming of the Animals Friends Society, now known as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The Expansion of Cadbury's
According to John Cadbury’s biography, in 1847 his brother partnered with him in the business, and they become known as the ‘Cadbury Brother’s of Birmingham’. Moving to London offices in 1854, the brothers received the Royal Warrant to make chocolate and cocoa for Queen Victoria. A few years later, import taxes on cocoa were reduced, meaning that affordable chocolate that the general public could enjoy was now possible to produce.

Moving down the John Cadbury family tree, Cadbury’s sons Richard and George took over the business in 1878 and moved the factory to new Birmingham offices, the 14.5 acres Bournbrook estate outside where the factory still exists today. Also built was a garden village, which in line with Quaker views was meant to 'alleviate the evils of modern more cramped living conditions'. The district was also designated a ‘dry’ zone where no alcohol was permitted to be sold. March 2007 saw a legal battle lost by Tesco, who attempted to subvert this condition. Until his death in 1889, John Cadbury remained a respected figure in the social and civic circles of Birmingham, ensuring that chocolate, not evil, made the world go round.

Penny Munroe is an avid writer in interesting people stories from across the globe, ranging from the Victorian era to the present day.