Designed to be totally different to the typical ‘tunnel-back’ terraced housing which populated large swathes of Birmingham in the 1890s, Bournville was to become a model village like no other.

Today, the estate, which covers 1,000 acres and has been credited as laying the foundations for the development of garden cities, is managed by Bournville Village Trust and is home to approximately 25,000 people.

The Trust not only maintains the village’s many homes, buildings and a significant number of its open spaces, but also continues to build new and affordable homes to meet people’s needs now and in the future.

Among these new homes is a brand new care village, which is being built in Bournville in partnership with the ExtraCare Charitable Trust, Birmingham City Council and a range of other health and social care partners.

A large village green area will be an integral element of this multi-million pound care complex and will complement the other attractive and well-used open spaces that make up around 10 per cent of Bournville.

Open spaces and well-designed and quality built homes are what gives Bournville its distinctive look and feel, and the Trust has opened up its archives to the Birmingham Post to reveal photographs which are believed to have never been published in the press before.

The photographs show Bournville as it was as far back as 1879, painting a picture of the estate, which was the vision of George Cadbury, in its formative years.

Gillian Ellis, Heritage Manager at Bournville Village Trust, explains more about this insightful and captivating collection of images.

George Cadbury
George Cadbury
 

Amongst this fascinating collection of images is a photograph dating back to circa 1879 featuring the first cottages to be built in Bournville Lane.

The cottages were built for key workers from the Cadbury factory which George Cadbury and his brother Richard moved from Birmingham city centre to its present site in 1879.

Houses in the Bournville estate were planned in groups of two or four with large gardens, as demonstrated in the photographs of Acacia Road, Holly Grove and Hay Green Lane.

A young unknown architect, William Alexander Harvey, was appointed to design the homes on the Bournville estate and for inspiration he looked to the local traditions of rural villages.

Many of Bournville’s iconic buildings were designed by Harvey and his influence can be seen in several of the estate’s more recent buildings.

In 1897, Richard Cadbury established Bournville Almshouse Trust, a Quadrangle of 33 bungalows for retired workers of the Cadbury factory.

The Quadrangle still stands today and is managed by Bournville Village Trust, providing sheltered housing for the elderly with help and support on hand if needed.

One of the houses in Bournville with great architectural merit is known as the Bath House and is situated in Laurel Grove. Its history was revealed by the Birmingham Central Library three years ago.

Constructed in 1897, it was paid for entirely by George Cadbury and, as its name indicates, was intended to allow members of the public to take a bath, costing three old pence per bath.

However, very soon after its opening, George insisted that each home should have its own bath. In the early designs, these took the form of a sunken bath in the kitchen or the famous ‘tip-up’ bath in a kitchen cupboard.

A few years later, the houses built in Bournville had their own separate bathrooms meaning that the local demand for public bathing reduced significantly and subsequently, the Bath House closed in 1912.

 

The building is now a residential property and one of the 8,000 homes managed by Bournville Village Trust across Birmingham and in Shropshire, where the Trust is developing a new village which reflects the aims of Bournville in a 21st century setting.

Also amongst the collection of photographs are images of Bournville Infants and Bournville Junior Schools. Opened in 1906 and 1910 respectively, the schools were part paid for by George and his wife Elizabeth Cadbury, and to this day the Trust continues to maintain the external fabric of these buildings.

Within the schools’ distinctive tower, lays a relatively hidden gem that can still be heard ringing out across the estate today. The Bournville carillon, which is a musical instrument made up of a set of bells and played from a keyboard, is considered to be one of the finest and largest in Britain. 

George Cadbury ordered the bells after being inspired by the famous carillon in Bruges during a visit to Belgium and they were installed in 1906.

The visitor centre for the carillon is housed in the Rest House on the Green Flag award-winning Village Green, which is also home to the Day Continuation School.

Dating from 1925, the School was used by workers from the Cadbury factory who were encouraged  by George Cadbury to take time out from work to improve their general education. Today it forms part of the Birmingham City University International College.

George also encouraged the construction of local facilities that would help communities to thrive, which is why Bournville is populated by attractive open spaces, shops and community halls amongst other facilities such as bowls, cricket and tennis clubs, playgrounds and parks.