Tag Archives: cadbury

‘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.


Chimney Sweeps

The nineteenth century was notorious for employing children in various industries, most notably in factories and mines and as chimney sweeps. Master sweeps would take apprentices from around age 6, usually boys from the workhouse but also girls, and train them to climb chimneys.

From the late eighteenth century there was concern for the health and safety of chimney sweeps. A series of laws attempted to regulate working conditions and increase the age of sweeps. The Chimney Sweepers and Chimneys Regulation Act of 1840 made it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to sweep, although the Act was widely ignored.

MS 466/253 A Few Extracts from Memory, to the Association for the Suppression of Climbing Boys

BA&H: MS 466-253

This pamphlet was written in the 1840s by Richard Bennett of 23 Allison Street, Birmingham, for the Association for the Suppression of Climbing Boys, a campaign led by John Cadbury (1801-1889).

Born in 1816, Bennett had been a climbing boy and later became a master sweep.

In the pamphlet, he reveals the hardship experienced by climbing boys:

The sufferings I endured then and subsequently I would not again repeat for any amount of wealth. I was forced up chimneys in a state of complete nudity, sometimes two or three times a day, and my bed for those ten years consisted of straw and soot-bags.

Bennett became his own boss at the age of 19 and took on two apprentices. In 1841, he purchased chimney sweeping machinery from Mr Russell, a master sweeper from Cheltenham; the following year the 1840 Act of Parliament, the Chimney Sweepers and Chimney Regulation Act, came into being, and so Bennett let his apprentices go. A mechanical brush had been introduced in 1803 to replace climbing boys, although it was resisted by sweeps until later in the century; Bennett remarks that

in reference to the mode of cleaning chimneys by machines, that I can truly assert that they are worth more than their weight in gold.

Reform eventually took effect after the 1875 Chimney Sweepers Act, which required chimney sweepers to be authorised by the police to carry on their businesses in the district, therefore providing the legal means to enforce all previous legislation.

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.

Suggested Rules of Health

Birmingham Archives & Heritage holds the Bournville Village Trust Estate archive, MS 1536.

In the 1920s George Cadbury (1839-1922) compiled a pamphlet titled ‘Suggested Rules of Health’, which was given to every new resident of BournvilleVillage. The pamphlet you can see here, ‘Suggested Rules of Health and Other Information for Youths at Bournville’, 1924 (MS 1536, box 5), was based on Cadbury’s original publication but was given to every youth under 21 years of age who worked at Bournville.

BA&H: MS 1536

Some of the suggested rules included:

Every morning take a cold bath.

To breathe is to live. To breathe deeply is to live a healthy life.

Aim at reading good books.

If you frequent the picture palace or theatre, remember that yours is the responsibility to decide whether it is beneficial and instructive or degrading or harmful.

Never spend money for the sake of spending it

Aim at making thoughtful allowance for others and always adopt a manly attitude

What rules of health would you suggest?!

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.