A Q&A with Helena Chance, author of The factory in a garden

Posted by Bethan Hirst - Monday, 20 Feb 2017


A History of Corporate Landscapes from the Industrial to the Digital Age

1. What book in this field has inspired you the most?

Gillian Darley’s marvellous cultural history of factories – Factory (Reaktion, 2004) gave me the starting point for my research. I was intrigued by a photograph in the book showing female employees at Cadbury in their garden at the factory in Bournville and wanted to know more. I found far more examples of factory gardens in Britain and the USA than I expected.

2. Did your research take you to any unexpected places?

Yes, Dayton, Ohio, which in the early 20th century was one of the leading industrial cities in the USA and is now one of most economically challenged cities in the USA. Also I went to Pullman, an industrial village near Chicago, now being gentrified, and the Hagley Research Library in Delaware which was astonishing in its scope, the beauty of its setting and the helpfulness of the staff.

4. What did you enjoy the most about writing your book?

Working with company archivists, particularly Jeff Opt and Curt Dalton at the National Cash Register Company archive at Dayton History and Sarah Foden, the Cadbury archivist at Bournville, near Birmingham.

5. What did you find hardest about writing your book?

Knowing when to stop re-writing and editing and be satisfied.

6. Is this your first published book, or have you had others published?

This is my first published book, although I have two book chapters. The first is about the American novelist Edith Wharton and her influential books on interior design and gardens, in Edith Wharton in Context (Edited by Laura Rattray Cambridge University Press. 2012). The second, in The Cultural History of Furniture in the Modern Period (Bloomsbury, 2018) is a cultural history of furniture in public places in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

7. How did you feel when you saw your first published book?

Excited, proud and relieved!

8. Why did you choose to publish with MUP?

MUP has a strong reputation for high quality publishing in social and industrial history and art and design. I also heard over the academic grape vine that MUP has a good reputation for courteous treatment of authors. You have lived up to it, thank you!

9. Did you approach writing this book differently to any of your previous work?

I tried to write it to be accessible to a general audience as well as to academics.

10. Have you had time to think about your next research project yet? What are you working on now?

I am working with on a project called ‘The social landscape of industry’ starting with the High Wycombe furniture industry (working with High Wycombe Museum) and moving on to Stoke-on-Trent and south-west Birmingham. The project looks at the ways in which industries in ‘single- industry’ towns or regions shaped the local social life with their social welfare programmes, sports grounds and social centres.

A selection of fascinating images from inside the book, depicting corporate landscapes (click to enlarge),

The ‘Cadbury’s Angels’ resting in the Girls’ Grounds at Bournville, c. 1900. The girls reading a book reinforces the message of respectability and self-improvement in a high-status environment.

The girls’ Allotment Gardens near the Cadbury factory, Bournville, c.1910

Cadbury advertisement, early 1930s. Employees dressed for hygiene in the factory look down over the Men’s Recreation Ground from the roof of the Girls’ Grounds pavilion.

Dancing in the Girls’ Grounds at the Cadbury factory, 1920

A carefully composed photograph of tennis in the Girls’ Grounds at Cadbury, c.1910. Pavilions converted from the old stables of Bournbrook Hall overlook the court.


















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