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Bournville’s story

By the late 18th century, brothers George and Richard Cadbury had seen the chocolate business, started by their father John, flourish thanks to the quality of their cocoa.

As demand for their products soared, they needed room to build a new, larger factory that could accommodate their expanding business.  

And they found it, just four miles south of the city centre with a stream called the Bourn. By adding ‘ville’ (French for ‘town’), the Cadbury’s named the site Bournville.

Bournville had great transport links and the room the brothers needed to expand, but the Cadburys wanted more than profit; they wanted to challenge the status quo.

‘Why should an industrial area be squalid and depressing?’

Unlike most factory owners of the time, unmoved by the poor working and living conditions of their employees, the Cadbury brothers were different.

They had a deep-seated concern about the way so many people were forced to work and live in overcrowded, dirty and dangerous places.

In fact, conditions were so bad at the end of the 19th century that the average life expectancy was around 40 years.

George and Richard wanted their staff to have a better quality of life and so, in January 1879 they began building their new factory, along with 16 houses for employees.

But more was to come…

In 1893, the Cadburys bought 120 acres of land close to their new factory and started to plan a model village to, in their words, ‘alleviate the evils of modern, more cramped living.’

Designed to be totally different to the typical ‘back to backs’, houses in Bournville were spacious, well-designed, and built with quality in mind.

Homes were no longer just for factory workers either and anyone who wanted to live there could.  

As the village grew, so did the facilities it offered, with schools, parks, recreation grounds, sports facilities and village halls all springing to life.

George and Richard had set out to give people a better quality of life, and in Bournville they did just that.

So much so that Bournville later became a blueprint for many other model villages in Britain.

Many have credited it with laying the foundations for the development of garden cities and introducing the benefits of open space into modern town planning.

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