History of the Rest House
Right in the centre of Bournville Village Green is The Rest House. This historic building became disused many years ago but is now home to the carillon shop and visitor centre. Additional content courtesy of 'The Iron Room', The Library of Birmingham.
The Rest House on Bournville Village Green was erected to commemorate the Silver Wedding of Mr. and Mrs. George Cadbury and given, as inscribed on the stone tablet:
"by the employees of Cadbury Bros. Ltd., at Bournville and in all parts of the world, as a lasting memorial of esteem and affection, as an expression of gratitude for the unceasing interest in their welfare, and in admiration of manifold social services to the world at large".
At a ceremony in May 1914 Mr. and Mrs. Cadbury received the gift from the assembled gathering which included many members of the Cadbury family together with old employees who had served at Bridge Street, young ones in their teens, together with retired servants who by their presence were "revealing their sustained interest in the doings of the factory life and their devotion to the head of the firm".
Crowd on Bournville Green during the opening of the Rest House 1914.
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.
Miss Phoebe Robinson presents Mrs George Cadbury with a bouquet
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.
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
The Rest House today
These and many other facts concerning the occasion and the many tributes paid to Mr. Cadbury are recorded in the May 1914 edition of the Bournville Works Magazine a copy of which is displayed in the new carillon visitor centre
The Rest House became disused many years ago with the necessity to make it permanently secure as a protection from increasing incidence of vandalism and abuse. However, in his speech at the opening proceedings in May 1914, Mr. H.E.Johnson, chairman of proceedings said that he "looked forward in imagination centuries hence, when in a happier England, this Rest House will still speak of our appreciation, and still help to keep green the memory of our dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. George Cadbury".
In this context it is most fitting that in November 1997 this beautiful but long since disused building should once again be re-opened by Mr. Robin Cadbury as the Carillon Visitor Centre and used as a focal point for the carillon as another wonderful legacy from the founder of Bournville.
E. S Thackray handing over Rest House to Mr and Mrs George Cadbury