Philanthropists in Bournville and Dumfries


If half the wealthiest emulated the work of philanthropists in Bournville and Dumfries, the country could be transformed

bournville js 1Bournville Junior School (left) was founded by factory owner George Cadbury in 1906 and built with pride, to provide education of the highest quality in an ethos which was forward looking and tolerant.

Cadbury Brothers moved their factory from Bridge Street in Birmingham to a country location, in order to improve the quality of life of their employees and other incomers. Families in the new town, Bournville, had houses with yards, gardens, and fresh air -improvements in living conditions which enhanced public health. To this day, the town offers affordable housing. Figures published in 1915 show that the general death rate and infant mortality for Bournville was significantly lower than that for Birmingham as a whole, over a five-year period.

Training and employment opportunities multiplied as the factory site became a series of ‘factories within a factory’; everything needed for the business was produced on site.

This policy continued until well after the second World War, when – deplored in hindsight – it was considered advisable to use specialised ‘outside’ suppliers.

Work in progress
Work in progress

In 2007 a philanthropist mobilised a consortium of charities and heritage bodies to buy Dumfries House near a former coal-mining town with 16% unemployment, which according to Strathclyde University, “suffers from social deprivation and widespread degradation of the built environment and associated infrastructure”.

dumfries traineeDumfries House is now employing and training many young people who come from families with three generations of unemployed. They usually progress from apprenticeships to full-time employment.

An engineering centre is being created to revive skills in an industry considered vital to the country, counteracting the prevailing view in education that engineering is dirty and manufacturing ‘dead and gone’.


An outdoors centre; a cookery school; mill, woodyard, cookshop and training allotments and vegetable gardens (below) have been created – a comprehensive business, social and environmental approach designed to kick-start regeneration in impoverished East Ayrshire, where mining communities once flourished.

dumfries allotments