Cadbury Chocolate's Founder Was a Christian and Activist Who Fought Slavery and Exploitation – Hope 103.2

Cadbury Chocolate’s Founder Was a Christian and Activist Who Fought Slavery and Exploitation

By Annie HamiltonMonday 1 Apr 2019

If you’ve ever travelled to the Cadbury factory in Claremont, Tasmania – or to Bourneville in the UK, you may know a little of their remarkable history.

Tasmania’s Cadbury factory and the residential development around it, is in fact modelled after Bourneville, a town that was specially-created by the Cadbury family and inspired by their love for Jesus.

In the Victorian era, factories in England were usually dark, oppressive and unhealthy places to work. Fatalities often occurred. But the Cadbury brothers, who revolutionised the production of chocolate, were at the forefront of improving working conditions for their employees.

The family were devout followers of Jesus and his teachings. They were continually conscious of Jesus’ golden rule – do unto others as you would like them to do to you. They built a radically innovative workplace with warm rooms to dry clothes and rooms to cook food. They followed this with a workers’ village incorporating sporting fields and lily ponds and enough land for each house to have a vegetable garden. To cap off these ground-breaking social benefits, there was even a retirement plan.

Pioneer of Drinking Chocolate, Activist Against Slavery

Cadbury factory

Above: The Cadbury factory in Birmingham, UK.

Despite many setbacks, John Cadbury pioneered the commercial production of drinking chocolate and cocoa. A social activist, John campaigned against slavery, the exploitation of children in the work force and cruelty to animals. His dream was to produce a drink that would be an alternative to alcohol.

“John Cadbury’s concern for the welfare of workers continued through many generations of his family.”

His belief that drinking chocolate was not only healthy but could pull families away from pubs is reflected in some of his early brand names: Churchman’s Chocolate and Homeopathic. Certainly neither of them has the ring of Rocky Road or Caramello, does it?

Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by

Yet his vision has continued to influence Bourneville. This district, around the original Cadbury factory outside of Birmingham, has been ‘dry’ for over a century. Even today, none of the local pubs, bars or shops serve alcohol.


Above: A portrait of John Cadbury. Source: Wikipedia

John Cadbury’s concern for the welfare of workers continued through many generations of his family. Historian Lindsey Flewelling writes that in the early 1900s, William Cadbury heard reports of slavery in West African cocoa plantations, and conducted investigations into the labour conditions. He discovered that slavery and poor treatment of workers was taking place in the Portuguese colonies such as the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe off the coast of Africa, from where the company was sourcing its cocoa. So in 1909 he announced a boycott on cocoa grown on those islands, and motivated other American and British chocolate companies to join the boycott.

When a newspaper accused Cadbury Brothers of exploiting slave labor, they successfully sued for defamation, and William Cadbury wrote a book, Labour in Portuguese West Africa, proving that the company was active in working to prevent slavery.

John Cadbury’s son George ploughed the profits of the firm into pension reform and, as a pacifist, opposition to the Boer War.

Pacifists Who Opposed Enlisting for War

Bournville village

Above: Bournville village in Birmingham, England, was originally built by the Cadbury family around their chocolate making factory. This is the village green.

Quakers, also known as Friends, fervently believe in pacifism – non-violent solutions to the world’s problems. It has been a challenge for them during the world wars of the twentieth century to show their patriotism, despite refusing to enlist.

In the Second World War, Paul Cadbury reactivated the Friends’ Ambulance Unit to support the troops in many battle theatres. Because of the Cadbury connection, the name given to pacifists and conscientious objectors who worked in the war zone as non-combatants was ‘chocolate soldiers’.

Unfortunately the high ideals of the Cadbury family have been all but lost in our modern society.

cadbury chocolate vintage advertisement (1)

Above: A vintage billboard advertisement for Cadbury chocolate.

Their Christian legacy however has not totally been lost as their efforts to create a just and equitable society have changed the face of the western world. They were people who not only put their money where their mouth was, but where their heart was. They followed the Scriptural directive: ‘…what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ (Micah 6:8 NIV)

And those qualities are the very things the Cadbury family has shown the world –when you’re told not to bring a thing: justice, love, mercy and humility are never out of date.

Article supplied with thanks to Diduno, a group dedicated to educating and informing the next generation of Australians of our Christian heritage.

Hope 103.2 Email Updates

Get more news like this delivered straight to your inbox!
  • Get daily encouragement straight to your inbox

  • LifeWords will encourage you every day with a piece of Scripture and a practical application to your life from Hope 103.2's David Reay!