‘In the happy days of our childhood’

Maria Cadbury (1838-1908) was the daughter of John Cadbury (1801-89) and Candia Barrow (1805-1855). She wrote this memoir, ‘In the happy days of our childhood’,  later in life at the request of one of her nieces (MS 466-344).

BA&H: MS 466-344

The memoir vividly describes the idyllic childhood she and her brothers enjoyed during the 1840s at the family home in Calthorpe Road, Edgbaston, then a very rural area. She describes breakfasts of ‘milk with delicious cream on the top and toast to dip into it, afterwards bread and butter, and coffee’.

The Cadburys would holiday in Blackpool, where the children ‘ran wild, and built wonderful castles on the shore’. There is a particularly evocative description of the clothing Maria wore:

a white frock with two tucks to let down when growing, and worn long . . . boots and white socks . . . a bonnet of white rice straw, lined with white silk and a white silk curtain of ribbon stripes.

Maria remarks that ‘our own home was one of sunshine, our dear Parents doing all they could to make us happy, under a gentle, but firm discipline’. We learn more about this discipline in Maria’s description of the punishment she and her brother George received after ‘an act of disobedience’: when playing in the garden, Maria and George filled their watering cans after being told not to and were punished by being ‘dipped overhead, quickly in and out’ of a deep-filled tub of warm, soapy water. As Maria remembers, ‘it was a distressing ordeal and we cried a great deal, but never forgot the lesson given for an act of disobedience’.

Appointments to view material held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage can be made via email at: archives.appointments@birmingham.gov.uk or by telephone on 0121 303 2468.

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