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The Blue Bird Toffee Factory

An Industrial Romance

Article published in The Midlander, February 1927

Vincent's new model factory, nestling at the foot of Clent Hills, is a striking monument to the enterprise, business ability and hard work of Mr. Harry Vincent, founder and Governing Director of the firm of Messrs Harry Vincent Ltd., Birmingham, manufacturers of the popular "Blue Bird" and "Harvino" brands of Toffee.

Hunnington Toffee Factory 1927

The complete scheme, including the model factory and the garden village, involves a capital outlay of upwards of £250,000, and is the more noteworthy in that it is being carried out by a private firm, the shares of which are limited to the members of one family, with the exception of a number of preference shares presented to the older employees when the Company was incorporated.

Before proceeding to describe the factory and garden village, it will, perhaps, prove interesting to give brief particulars of the personality and career of the man responsible for this great achievement.

Mr. Vincent came to Birmingham from Evesham in 1895 as a young man of 20 years with technical knowledge of the manufacture of various food products. He took a small factory in Burbury Street and within three years he found it necessary to make his first move, larger premises being taken in Guest Street. The business continued to expand, however, and a further removal had to be effected in due course, this time to Park Road, Hockley. Here the business developed even more rapidly than before necessitating a further removal to more commodious premises.

In 1906 Mr. Vincent purchased the freehold of the present works in Wiggin Street, Birmingham. This was the biggest venture he had so far attempted (the works covered 98,712 square feet), and caused some anxiety among his friends who freely expressed the opinion that he was taking a very big risk, as the new works had a capacity far in excess of the requirements of his business. Mr. Vincent is intensely individual in his decisions and actions, and what might have seemed a risk to his friends was no risk to him, because he never takes a forward step without being sure of his ground.

Eloquent proof of this trait in his character may be seen at Hunnington where his greatest ambition, so far, has been realised. Mr. Vincent is still a comparatively young man - just turned 50 years - and despite all he has accomplished up to now, it can safely be predicted that he is not content to rest upon his laurels. It is quite possible that more ambitious things in embryo form are already taking shape in his brain.

The erection of the new model factory was officially commenced on the 25th July, 1925, when in the presence of a small company of intimate friends, Mrs. Harry Vincent laid the Foundation Stone at the entrance to the Administration Buildings. It is expected that the formal opening ceremony will take place in the early summer of this year.

Mr. Vincent is a family man of the best kind, entirely devoted to his home and family. He is wise enough not to become so obsessed with business as to neglect healthy recreation. A very keen yachtsman, he is a member of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club and the Royal Clyde Yacht Club, and cruises extensively during the summer months. His yacht "Estelle" is well known round the coast of the British Isles and in Continental Ports.

He is greatly interested in art and is the possessor of a valuable collection of paintings by famous artists. He has given generously to many charitable institutions particularly to the Hospitals of the City, and for the past three years has been President of the Birmingham Nerve Hospital, which, with the exception of the London Hospital, is the only Hospital in England devoted solely to nervous diseases.

Hunnington Garden Village 19271Hunnington Garden Village 19272

The new factory, which is now near completion, is situated at Hunnington, a pretty Worcestershire hamlet on the road from Halesowen to Bromsgrove - quite near to the Clent Hills, and commands unobstructed view of miles of open undulating country. It was designed by Mr. S. N. Cooke, F.R.I.B.A., of Birmingham, and for simplicity of design, beauty of outline and general utility is probably unsurpassed by any other similar industrial structure in the country.

No one can fail to be profoundly impressed with the almost super-excellence of the quality of the materials and workmanship employed in its construction, and total absence of all those ugly and unnecessary excrescences usually intended as ornamentation.

The main entrance, with its flight of broad steps and its massive Doric columns of Portland stone suggests rather the porch-way of some beautiful Municipal building than that of a modern factory shortly destined to become a veritable hive of industry for the manufacture of sweets for the sweet.

The Administration block is an extremely handsome building extending along the front of the main buildings, throughout which, every possible care has been taken to ensure a maximum of light and air – an essential feature in any factory.

The Main Boiling Room measures 200ft, by 150ft, and right up to the apex of the roof the walls are constructed of glazed bricks, which can easily and frequently be washed down, and so be kept perfectly and permanently clean - a vital consideration in the manufacture of any class of foodstuffs.

Rest Rooms, change rooms, first aid rooms etc. indicate the consideration devoted to the welfare and comfort of the workpeople, who will number approximately 1,000 when the works are in full commission. A theatre and large Canteen is available for amateur theatricals, dancing and other social recreations. From a verandah along the main front of the canteen building, which is 212ft. long, employees may sit between their labours and enjoy the beauty of the rural scenery. On the opposite side of the road, land has been allotted for playing fields and recreation grounds.

To allow for possible extension of the factory and to obviate those unpleasantly crowded conditions common in most cities and towns, more land has been acquired (154 acres in all) than is required for present needs. Building operations are in progress for the erection of nearly 100 houses for the accommodation of the operatives. The first batch of 24 dwellings is already nearing completion - they ale of varying types but all are semi-detached and fitted with bathrooms, electric light and other modern conveniences.

The local authorities are putting in the necessary sewage system. The railway company has granted special train facilities for the conveyance of the workpeople and staff, and also undertaken to erect goods sheds for the accommodation of the heavy volume of traffic which can be expected from the enterprise of Messrs. Harry Vincent Limited. There is no need in this article to dwell on the many excellent virtues of Vincent products. "Harvino" and "Blue Bird" toffees have become household words.

We are perfectly sanguine that Messrs. Vincent will progress in the future as they have progressed in the past, and we are sure that our readers will join us in wishing prosperity to a firm that is leading the way to ideal conditions for its workers.

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