Valentine’s Day brings to mind roses, heart-shaped notes, chocolates, and significant others. This year, it may also bring to mind preservation. And we’re not talking about saving the pretty box or tin your chocolates came in, we’re talking about the chocolate factories themselves.
I first saw the Somerdale Cadbury factory from the train between Bristol and Bath. It was an image right out of a coffee table book: there were the quintessential rolling British hills in the background, field hockey players – or perhaps soccer – on broad fields in the foreground, and between them, the stately brick factory. It stands five broad floors high at the tallest section of a conglomeration of buildings and wings. And at the top, swooping white letters read “Cadbury’s.” That building immediately found a place in my heart and every time I rode that train I watched for it.
It turns out that this chocolate factory has an important history, though its future may not be as bright. For nearly a hundred years, the Cadbury factory – known as Fry’s factory to most locals (the J. S. Fry & Sons business merged with Cadbury in 1919) – has been bread and butter to the community of Keynsham, a small southwest England town. Or should we say cocoa and sugar?
Keynsham Cadbury – also known as the Somerdale plant – provided some 500 jobs to the local community and, to the rest of the world, Fry’s Chocolate Cream, the Double Decker, Dairy Milk and Mini Eggs, Cadbury’s Fudge, Chomp, and Crunchie.
In 2007, Cadbury announced plans to close the Somerdale plant, moving production to factories in Birmingham and Poland. No surprisingly, Keynsham was in for a great many changes.
The story is not over. Though the factory closed in 2010, the building retains a stately presence, providing playing fields for the people of Keynsham and a cornerstone view for the commuters between Bristol and Bath. It is not easy to forget. I am still thinking about it after seeing it four months ago. Hang in there, Fry’s factory.
If you want to read more or see what you can do to help, check out Save Our Somerdale, or view an update on the property from BBC News, Bristol.
– Susie Trexler