Story 3 of our 110 Stories series #Fircroft110


Many people, including myself, are instantly struck by the sheer beauty of our college. When I first started here at Fircroft, I believe I repeated the phrase ‘what a gorgeous view’ some 14 times in one day. Despite my short time here, I do admit to a small thrill of walking up the drive and taking in the surroundings in which I call work, and for our students, for a short while at least, home.


Fircroft College is stunning and rich in heritage. In this edition of the 110 Stories series, we read the history of our origins, and the involvement from the Cadbury family, as told by Roger Cadbury himself.




George Cadbury Junior, my grandfather, started Fircroft in 1901, largely influenced by a teacher Tom Bryan who became the first warden. He was also impressed by Danish High Schools. The main objective was to help adults of all ages, who had missed out on education, go back to their work with the benefit of a liberal education. His interest in adult education must have been influenced by his father, my great grandfather, and another George to our family tree, who after work used to travel into Birmingham to teach in the poorer areas, who introduced the ground breaking inclusion of Adult Education for his employees of the chocolate factory.


Our founder furthered the cause of Adult education in his own way, the importance of being residential was one of them. He also established a sister college, Avon croft, in Worcestershire, under the same governing body for the benefit of agricultural workers.


Fircroft was originally located in Oak Tree Lane, Bourneville, a building which has since become the offices of the Bourneville Village Trust. The Trust are still the landlords and the college is on a long-term lease.


Soon after my grandfather died in 1954, his second son Christopher, my father, arranged for the college to be relocated to the present site, formerly my grandfather’s family home, in its six acres of garden. Christopher Cadbury chaired the Governors for many years until the 1980s. I was invited to become a member of the governing body.


Following my father, I chaired the Croft Trust and became the nominated Trustee on the Governing Body. The Croft Trust continued to support the College as its first priority, assisting financially when times have been tough. Avoncroft ceased as a college and was leased to Birmingham for training purposes, and ultimately the building was then sold to a Bromsgrove School.


In the early 2000s the croft trustees decided that they no longer had a valid role, and the lead and investments were transferred to the college and the Avoncroft Estate to the Bournville Village Trust.


One of the worst experiences that we have encountered was the college fire. Happily, it ended well and the benefits can be seen today with the refurbishment of the main building and subsequently the creation of the new teaching block.


One of the family wishes was that the garden should be used as part of the educational offering, and off and on this has been made possible. It is our wish that this should continue and the Cadbury family continue to support the cost of maintaining the extensive gardens.


The college has been blessed by having some inspirational Principals and staff (teaching and non-teaching) who have put into practice and more, everything that George dreamt of. This continues to be the case.


Quite amazingly, the foresight of George Cadbury has stood the test of time and the college’s purpose and ethos has largely remained unchanged. One change, however, is that education now has a focus on short courses, but the liberal bias is still there.


The portraits of George and Christopher hang in the college library looking down on the students working. I am certain that they would be pleased that college continues to thrive. I have since ceased to be a Governor, but was honoured to become your patron.




The Cadbury family and their ever-lasting impact on the landscape of Birmingham and our college is something that we are collectively thrilled with. The college would not exist without the family, and our work in supporting students in education at all stages of their life journey continues as a result of them.


If you would like to share your stories and experience of your time here at Fircroft, no matter how long ago you may have graduated please get in touch.

Want to experience Fircroft for yourself? Why not attend an Open Day?