Sweet Charity

The Quakers behind Cadbury chocolate.

Crème eggs and milk chocolate bars might seem like the height of decadence, but, believe it or not, some of the world's leading confectioners got into the candy business to promote healthy living. The Cadburys, for example, filled their sweets with dreams of social progress and Christian compassion.

Victorian Britain, home to John Cadbury and his sons Richard and George, had serious problems. Industrial workers, including mothers and children, spent their days in dirty, dangerous factories and their nights in cramped tenements. Widespread alcoholism deepened the workers' poverty and contributed to domestic violence. While the Salvation Army attacked these ills with "soup, soap, and salvation," the Cadburys fought back with cocoa.

The Cadburys belonged to the Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers. As dissenters from the Church of England, they were closed out of the country's Anglican-allied universities, and as pacifists, they would not serve in the military. So they became entrepreneurs.

In 1831 John opened a shop near the center of gritty Birmingham, selling coffee and tea—wholesome alternatives to harder drinks. He soon added cocoa to his product list, powdering it himself with a mortar and pestle. In 1861 he retired and ceded control of operations to his two oldest sons. By 1878 the business had grown to employ 200 workers. It was time to build a larger facility.

The brothers purchased land in the countryside near Birmingham and dubbed the site Bournville. They intended to build not only a state-of-the-art factory, but a village as well, to enable their employees to escape the dingy city. The village featured modest cottages with gardens, spacious public parks, swimming pools, and, eventually, shops, schools, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

June
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Christianity Today
Sweet Charity
hide this
Access The Archives

Member-Only Access

Subscribe to Christianity Today to continue reading this article from CT's digital archives.