SATURDAY INTERVIEW: A Taste of the Good Life - the Cadbury Legacy; George Cadbury's Granddaughter Has Continued His Good Works

Article excerpt


Veronica Wootten nee Cadbury has a confession to make.

"I can't stand milk chocolate. Hate it," she says, amused by the irony.

"I love dark chocolate but milk chocolate is just too sweet."

Unsurprisingly her aversion to her grandfather George's most famous creation developed due to over exposure to it, following a stint working on the production line before she went to Cambridge.

"I had quite a few jobs. I used to put the squiggles on by hand on the chocolates that went into the assortments, whatever was the right squiggle for the right chocolate."

Back then she was one among thousands of workers, so many "they used to come in by the coachload from all over the Black Country."

And she wasn't the only one with the same name as the one on the wrappers. There were "quite a few Cadbury's in different positions' there aren't any there at all now."

As a temporary worker on the production line Veronica didn't expect any special treatment just because her great grandfather John had started the business back in 1831.

"They paid us jolly little. Only about pounds 3.50 a week but I saved up and bought myself a radio to take to university.

"I suppose there was all the chocolate you could eat - there was plenty around, but after a while you just didn't bother."

The pleasure she took her in modest purchase is still evident and seems typical of her character. There are no airs and graces that one might expect from a member of Birmingham's first family. Instead there is a natural graciousness and consideration for the well being of others.

Before we even start the interview she busies herself making fresh coffee and putting out biscuits, prompted by an old memory of once being found wanting as a hostess after she inadvertently neglected to offer a journalist a cup of tea and he pouted about it in print.

We settle at a dining room table and an elderly black lab flops down underneath. This is Troy, short for Destroyer because of Veronica's husband Richard's fondness for boats. Portia, an over-excitable corgi, has been banished to another room.

Veronica has broken off from packing, both for a holiday and to leave the house where they have lived for 34 years, tucked away in the Worcestershire countryside.

A sprawling Tudor manor dating back to 1503, they are handing it over to their daughter while they move to a modern house nearby.

"It is only three years old, it will be a complete culture shock. But we are moving now because I don't want my children to have the hassle of sorting us out as we did trying to sort out my mother's house and all its belongings."

Her mother lived in The Davids, where Veronica and her five siblings were raised.

Veronica had what sounds like a privileged but idyllic childhood. Bournville was then still remote enough from the city to feel almost rural, though there were trams running down the street to ferry them into the centre.

The children had acres of garden to play in. Their father, Laurence, was director of works at Bournville as well as being a director of the Bank of England and the News Chronicle in London, but still took a keen interest in his children's activities.

"He and my mother had to suffer years of my sister and I practising the piano before we went to school, right underneath their bedroom.

"He was very tolerant though. The only time he ever lost his temper with me was when the rabbits got out and I wouldn't go to school until I got them back and he threatened to have them 'done in'."

The Davids is gone now. Following the death of Veronica's mother it lay empty and was destroyed by fire after vandals broke in.

"It was always going to be demolished to make way for a housing development but it is a bit sad when your family home is gone."

The Manor House opposite, where her grandmother Dame Elizabeth Cadbury lived, still exists though. …