Bournville once offered a model of economic and social relations based on Quaker values, ‘benevolent patriarchy’ and the enforced stability of the British Empire. The codes of conduct have gone which once governed relations between the men and women who worked for Cadbury, although the gendered division of space is still visible. Today, Bournville is marked with Cadbury’s corporate purple on signs, doorways, lamp posts, and railings. On our first visit, we became interested in the ornamental pond which had been the focus of George Cadbury’s ‘Women’s Recreation Ground’ in the period when the Suffragettes used purple in their identity. Despite being in an architectural conservation area, the pond had suffered years of neglect; it had been drained and was being used as a tip for garden and builders’ waste. We had the pond repaired, the paving replaced with newly quarried stone, and new fountains installed. Cadbury’s filled the 37,000 gallon pond by diverting their factory water supply one night. We worked with their Food Scientist to formulate a solution of food-grade purple dye. The dye blotted out the light, preventing photosynthesis in a suffocating extension of the corporate identity. The water in the pond grew dark, translucent so that it was impossible to judge as to depth, and reflective so that its surface mirrored the surrounding garden and the viewer. Utopia played the part of a high profile and popular ‘gift’ to Cadbury’s. This drew the company into a situation whereby the pond — symbol of old time philanthropy — could not disappear without considerable loss of face. To a corporation poised between the pressure to conserve its tokens of benevolent paternalism, and the demands of its shareholders in today’s ‘free’ market, we hope this gave pause for thought.
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