The true meaning of Cadbury

The Cadburys were Quakers and pacifists – and cared enough about respect for (and the study of) other cultures and religions to fund a library where the oldest known fragments of the Qur’an were found in 2015.

The letters between Edward Cadbury and my grandmother that I have read also make it clear that the Cadburys cared deeply about the fate of refugees in the 1930s – giving money to help those fleeing, first, from the Spanish Civil War, and then from Germany and Czechoslovakia. Edward Cadbury also gave my grandmother, Elizabeth, the money with which she first travelled to Spain to work with refugee children.

This letter (transcript below), from 1939, captures the personal interest that Edward Cadbury took in refugees, and the financial help that he provided; as well as asking after the refugees that Elizabeth was currently housing (and sending them a tin of cocoa!), he makes reference to a number of refugees that he was involved in housing in Birmingham (and the difficulties in getting them to the UK – presumably because of bureaucratic barriers). It is interesting that Edward also draws Elizabeth’s attention to some “semi-Fascist publications”, published, “probably”, by an organisation connected with the Daily Express. Plus ça change…

1939.5 - Edward Cadbury


16th May, 1939.

My dear Elizabeth,

I am much obliged for your letter and am very interested in all you are doing; you will no doubt find it very interesting, and it brings you into touch with quite a new type of worker.

I am interested you were at the Presbyterian Assembly, and am glad you have met Mackenzie’s sister; I am pleased to hear he is good at heart, but he certainly does not wear his heart on his sleeve!

With regard to the Refugees, I am sending another tin of Cocoa, as they must be using up what we have got. We have already 14 Refugees in the Hostel here, in connection with Avoncroft College, and this is now going ahead, but it is rather difficult to get the Refugees.

We have our big Bluebell Party to-day, about 400 people, but the weather is cold and dull; however, I hope it will be fine. It is rather heavy work for your Aunt.

We are very much looking forward to a holiday at Ashintully, as we are having rather a heavy time.

My niece, Betty Cadbury, (Henry’s daughter) is getting married on Saturday, so that is another job for us.

Alison was out a week ago and seemed in good form, but I think she is very anxious about her exams.

You will let me know when you want some more money for the Refugees.

I am forwarding to you some semi-Fascist publications, which I note are posted from London, and I should suggest that the organisation is run probably by The Daily Express; I thought they might interest you.

Your affectionate uncle,

Edward Cadbury


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if you have any thoughts, questions, suggestions - or (even better!) further information - about any of the topics covered on Red Thirties, then please either leave a comment or e-mail me at: Thanks for reading, Anna

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