On Friday NAH and I visited the recently closed Cadbury's factory in Keynsham to see an exhibition about the history of the site which was on for one week only. The factory opened in the 1920s when Fry's moved out of central Bristol to a roomy country site perched next to the River Avon.
Fry's and Cadbury's are rooted deep in both NAH's and my psyche, not only for the amount of their chocolate we've eaten over the years. Peter Cadbury was in NAH's form at school and I've spent most of my life going past a Cadbury's factory every weekday. It was Bournville during my schooldays (and we could smell the chocolate roasting from there when the wind was in the right direction) and then over 20 years of commuting past the pictured factory on my way to Bristol.
We'd gone to the exhibition with that heritage in mind, but also because we find any insight into the way things work or are made is fascinating. We were expecting to be two of a handful people there, but that wasn't what we found. The car park of the company's social club was full to bursting and of the hundreds of people there, pretty much everyone apart from ourselves were dressed in their Sunday best.
It soon became clear that the majority of them were ex-employees and whilst the exhibition was fascinating, it was even more interesting to catch snatches of their reminisces. It was a matter of pride to be there and there was a great sense of community spirit around us. It was more like witnessing a family at a wake, than being at an exhibition.
There were many jovial stewards to welcome everyone and all were anxious to ensure we went downstairs afterwards to have a drink and to collect our free chocolate. The bar was open and many were nursing a pint or having a glass of wine. We had mugs of frothy hot chocolate and sat looking at our Crunchie bars: a palette from the last batch ever made in this country had been saved for this occasion.
Towards the end of the afternoon I went outside to take some pictures of the now redundant factory site. There were a few people in there: occasionally one of them would emerge from the entrance like a ghost and sometimes I would glimpse the security guard on his rounds. It seemed apt somehow to take photos of this place in the freezing cold and dying sun.
I took my Crunchie bar home where it still sits on the table in the kitchen. There will be Crunchie bars in the future: they'll be from Poland from now on. Somehow I don't feel ready to eat my last British one yet. It feels a little like cannibalism.
A statue of Peter Pan presented by Fry's employees to the Fry family on the occasion of the firm's bicentenary in 1928. Peter Pan was chosen to represent 'the factory that will never die'.