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Rest House at Bournville – One Hundred Years On

Crowd on Bournville Green during the opening of the Rest House [MS 466/41 Box 8/44. 1914]

Crowd on Bournville Green during the opening of the Rest House 1914
[MS 466/41 Box 8/44]

George and Elizabeth Cadbury celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in April 1913 and the Rest House at Bournville was built to commemorate this occasion.  The Building was designed by William Alexander Harvey, who was architect of many other buildings on the estate, from workers’ ‘cottages’ to Bournville Junior and Infant Schools. Harvey aimed to design a building that “would be in entire harmony with its surroundings.”  The Rest House was based on a seventeenth-century market hall at Dunster in Somerset.  Interestingly, Dunster was not unknown to Cadbury’s employees.  In 1909 the Bournville Youths’ Club had held its summer camp there: perhaps this experience influenced the choice of the Market Hall as the inspiration for the Rest House?  Paid for by the world-wide employees of Cadbury Bros Ltd, the Rest House was officially opened on 18 April 1914 and these photographs record some elements of that day. 

E. S Thackray handing over Rest House to Mr and Mrs George Cadbury [MS 466/41 Box 8/41. 1914]

E. S Thackray handing over Rest House to Mr and Mrs George Cadbury
[MS 466/41 Box 8/41]

Opening of Rest House 1914
[MS 466/41 Box 8/39]

Following the formal opening ceremony and the many individual speeches from a wide range of Bournville employee representatives, cables were read on behalf of the Cadbury overseas operations, including India and Australia. In his response, George Cadbury recalled the difficulties of the early years of the company before the move to the Bournville site, several miles from the crowded centre of Birmingham.  The decision to move in 1879 had been seen as something of a rash act but had given the firm space to respond to the needs of the growing business and to expand from a workforce of 250 to 6,855.  George Cadbury also referred to these early years of struggle but equally the fellowship between himself, his brother Richard and their workers that had developed and continued still.   He described the importance he had set on improving the housing provision so as to ensure children could “enjoy the benefits sunshine, fresh air and the beauties of nature”.  The housing experiment had garnered international interest and had influenced similar experiments around the globe, including Ebenezer Howard, the young garden city exponent.

Opening of Rest House [MS 466/41 Box 8/39 1914]Elizabeth Cadbury expressed her gratitude for the “delightful and appropriate gift” and commented on the value of a place of rest in the midst of the busy life of work, school and home, commenting that the building was “symbolic of our need in these hustling, materialistic days” with the Rest House providing kind shelter and seating. Towards the end of the twentieth century the Rest House was re-opened and became a focal point for the carillon and associated activities at Bournville.

Miss Phoebe Robinson presents Mrs George Cadbury with a bouquet
[MS 466/41 Box 8/42]

This important 1914 event and the memory of George and Elizabeth is to be celebrated on Saturday 12 April 2014 with a formal gathering at the Rest House at 12 noon, with further carillon recitals during the day.  Full details can be found at:


The Rest House, The Green, Bournville. Grade 11 Listed building

Octagonal with 3-light mullioned windows with, above, projecting gables with 2-light mullioned windows. The 2 tiers of windows are separated by deeply overhanging eaves supported on brackets. The steep-pitched roof is surmounted by a small glazed lantern with elaborate metal weathervane.

Alison Smith

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