The Founder is desirous of alleviating the evils which arise from the insanitary and insufficient accommodation supplied to large numbers of the working classes, and of securing to workers in factories some of the advantages of outdoor village life, with opportunities for the natural and healthful occupation of cultivating the soil. The object is declared to be the amelioration of the condition of the working-class and labouring population in and around Birmingham, and elsewhere in Great Britain, by the provision of improved dwellings, with gardens and open spaces to be enjoyed therewith.The evils arising from the insanitary and insufficient accommodation here referred to are now pretty generally recognised. Thousands of our fellow-countrymen are compelled to live under conditions again which are a scandal to our civilisation. They are housed in close, dirty, evil-smelling lanes and courts, deprived of fresh air and sunshine, strangers to the sight of grass and flowers and trees, and without opportunity for healthy recreation.
All this inevitably tends to produce moral and physical deterioration. It is almost impossible for people to maintain a high standard of character and physique where all the conditions are adverse, and we have only to visit the places described in order to see how disastrous are the results. Little wonder if, while many battle bravely against their surroundings and rise superior to them, an immense number succumb, and go to swell the mass of vicious, criminal and diseased humanity, which is a disgrace and menace to our country.
Further, it should be remembered that, while many live under conditions far removed from those just depicted, their lot is often cast in those dismal monotonous streets, so familiar in all our great towns, where gardens are an impossibility, and acres of brick and mortar intervene before the country can be reached, and where those who work during the day in office, factory, or shop, must spend their leisure in the club, the theatre, the reading room, or the public house, instead of in the pure free air of the country.
Here, then, is the problem to be faced. Population overcrowded in houses ; houses overcrowded on land ; streets and houses in innumerable cases in a shamefully insanitary condition.
These facts are, of course, open to all, but they were specially impressed on the mind of the Founder through his intercourse with the working men of Birmingham. For over fifty years he has been the teacher of a largely attended Men's Bible Class, going into Birmingham every Sunday morning at 7 o'clock for the purpose. In this way, and also as an employer of a large number of workpeople, he came to know the life histories of hundreds of men, and was profoundly impressed by the grievous disadvantage at which many were placed by the adverse conditions alluded to. In a word, he found himself in direct contact with the " Housing problem." It was not something he had read or heard about, but an actual fact in the lives of men whom he knew and visited again and again in the midst of these very' surroundings.
Thus confronted with the evil, Mr. Cadbury resolutely set himself to find a remedy. The most hopeful solution that presented itself was to give an opportunity for people to remove from the crowded city and settle amid the wholesome, helpful sights and sounds of the country. In a word, they must be brought " back to the land."
Having come to this conclusion, Mr. Cadbury proceeded to set apart a large portion of his Bournville Estate in order to give it practical effect. In doing this, every precaution was taken to avoid a repetition of the evils which it was sought to remedy.
The whole project was well considered, and the planning of the Village carefully thought out in advance.
There must be no crowding either of cottages on the land, or of people in the cottages. Each house must have a good-sized garden ; no building must occupy more than about one-fourth part of the site on which it is erected ; the roads must be wide and tree bordered, and about one-tenth of the land, in addition to roads and gardens, must be reserved for parks and recreation grounds. On these lines the Village of Bournville was rapidly brought into existence, nearly 200 houses being built in one year.
Mr. Cadbury's first intention had been to sell the sites and cottages outright, and so create a class of small freeholders. It was, however, found that this would be open to many objections, the chief being the difficulty of insuring that the property thus sold would be administered by the new owners in harmony
with the motives and wishes which inspired the vendor.
The plan was, therefore, not carried into effect. Instead, it was decided to sell the houses and land on leases of 999 years, charging ground rent, and inserting covenants in the leases to secure the accomplishment of the purpose of the lessor. To assist those who wished to avail themselves of this opportunity, but had not sufficient capital, mortgages were granted on the property and money advanced on most favourable terms. To those who paid less than half the cost of the house, 3 per cent, was charged ; and to those who paid half or more, the rate was 2 per cent. In this way about 140 cottages were sold.
The arrangement, while satisfactory in many respects, was found in others to be open to some of the same objections that applied to the sale of the freeholds, and was, therefore, discontinued. In response, however, to a strong demand, the system has been restored in a modified form, and land is now let for building purposes on 99 years' leases.
To avoid misunderstanding, it should be said that the Village is not reserved for Messrs. Cadburys workpeople, the scheme not being intended primarily for their benefit, but as a contribution towards solving the Housing problem, especially as it exists in large cities. As a matter of fact, less than half the
householders work at Messrs. Cadburys. the others being employed in the neighbouring manufacturing villages, or in Birmingham, which is easily accessible by Rail, Electric Car, or Bicycle.
The scheme once launched, and the Village having become an accomplished fact, the next question to be answered was how to secure its perpetuation and extension. Very careful consideration was given to this, and it was eventually decided to establish a Trust, which should hold and administer the property in accordance with conditions embodied in the Deed of Foundation.
This was accordingly done, and on the 14th December, 1900, the property was transferred to the Trustees, Mr. Cadbury surrendering all private interest in it, both as regards capital and revenue. The income, whether from house and farm rents, ground rents, or any other source, is now received and administered by the Trustees, and the Trust Deed enacts that, after making full provision for repairs and maintenance, it shall be employed in laying out the Estate, building houses, and in purchasing other estates, either in the neighbourhood of Birmingham or elsewhere, to be developed in the same way as Bournville.
It will be seen that, as the gift is absolute, no part of the capital or revenue returning to the Donor or his representatives, the scheme contains within it the principle of continual expansion, and the income, in course of time, will so increase as to admit of an almost unlimited extension of the benefits of the gift. Since the Trust was formed, Mr. Cadbury has added large additional gifts of land and capital. The total value presented to the nation is estimated at £264,000.
The present area of the Estate is 612 acres.
It should also be mentioned here that a generous gift of £6,000 was received by the Trustees in 1905 from a Donor who insisted on remaining anonymous.
Frequent reference having been made to the Deed of Foundation, some extracts from it will be read with interest.