Cadbury Archive Uncovered

Cadbury Archive Uncovered

My name is Branwen Onono, and I am a history student at the University of Birmingham. For the past six months I have been cataloguing the Sir Adrian Cadbury Archive at Selly Manor Museum. The archive contains objects and letters from the life of Laurence Cadbury, the man who collected the majority of the Tudor furniture on display today at Selly Manor. The content of the Sir Adrian Cadbury Archive is varied, and spans from letters to a young Laurence from his father, George Cadbury, to descriptions of his time spent in Moscow during WWII, to detailed descriptions of his travels in Alaska, Canada, and Europe in the 1910s, 20s and 30s.

The cataloguing work I undertook consisted of going through the unsorted boxes, filing and labelling each item, before writing a quick description in an attempt to fully capture all aspects of an item in just two short lines. One of the first objects I accessed in the collection was a 100 year old map of Venice, Laurence travelled through Italy when visiting Albania in 1927, and the archive contains detailed travel notes and complicated journey instructions. Along with the map the archive contains an English - Italian dictionary, which coaches travellers on how to say and pronounce common phrases such as: ‘I have bought a cheap booklet containing only the most useful words and phrases, which I have soon learned off by heart.’ The items associated with Laurence Cadbury’s many travels were particularly fascinating to catalogue as they offered an insight into life and society in the early 20th Century across the globe.

Some of the more personal items in the collection are the letters from George Cadbury to Laurence. The archive is home to over 350 of these letters spanning from the late 19th century up until the end of the First World War. Over the years George offers advice, congratulations, and reassurances to Laurence. When Laurence’s mother, Dame Elizabeth Cadbury, was ill George Cadbury sent Laurence daily updates on her health until she recovered. The sheer volume of letters sent in such a short period of time may seem odd to us today, however in the early 20th Century before mobile phones, this was quite normal.

The archive also contains items from George Cadbury’s life. Letters about Bournville show the care and time he dedicated to the village, and the pride he took in its success. The objects also exhibit his modesty. George Cadbury was offered an honorary degree from the University of Birmingham. However, he continually turned this accolade down even as he did not believe his achievements should be placed on a pedestal above the work of others. George was also offered an appointment to the Privy Council, another title he felt unable to accept.

The archive’s contents contain over 600 items and they offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Cadbury family. The Cadbury name is now a world famous brand, George Cadbury was a renowned social reformer, and Laurence successfully ran the business for many years. The objects in the Sir Adrian Cadbury Archive have allowed me to consider the people behind the brand and the personal lives of such an influential Birmingham family; hopefully my cataloguing efforts will make it easier for others to access a small piece of local history.

The photograph shows Branwen and Veronica Wootten (Laurence Cadbury's daughter) with items from the archive.