This is the House that Fry built.
It was founded in 1728, nearly two hundred years ago, by a young Quaker doctor, Joseph Fry, and is historically famous as the parent of British cocoa and chocolate factories. Joseph Fry first specialised in the sale of "chocolate, nibs and cocoa" at a little factory in Wine Street, Bristol.
Cocoa, introduced into England in 1656, was still a novelty in this country when the hero of our story began to trade in it. But by that time it had become a fashionable craze, under the name of "chocolata," and the blue-bloods of English seventeenth-century society had acquired the habit of resorting to cocoa-houses to gossip, talk politics, and patronise the beverage which enjoyed the attractive recommendation of having been served at Montezuma's feasts in Mexico. Those cocoa-houses, by the way, were the origin of some of modern London's most exclusive clubs.
Inspired by a broad outlook and a scholarly appreciation of the valuable nutritive properties of the cocoa bean, Joseph Fry conceived the idea of popularising cocoa and chocolate. By 1777, his business had far outgrown the accommodation of its birthplace, so he moved to more commodious premises in Union Street, Bristol, near to where we are now standing. Those premises have developed into the group of twelve great factories we are about to visit, into a vast concourse of up-to-date buildings in which the oldest cocoa and chocolate making business in England has grown into one of the largest and most prosperous of industrial enterprises.
Throughout the record-making career in which this House of Fry has woven itself into one of the finest romances of British industrial history, the business has been captained by the founder's family. Although it is now a limited company, the able Chairman is a member of the historic family, and other members of that family are heads of departments, in daily attendance at the works, and popular among staff and workpeople as the right men in the right place.
We are welcomed by a genial descendant of the founder. Memory takes us back to the day when we first met a family representative of the House of Cad-bury, and as we recall the one example of a British gentleman-trader, and look on the other, we tell ourselves that both are true sons of the Merchant Adventurers to whom England owes her greatness.
Two members of the staff are deputed to show us over the factory. We robe ourselves in overalls and set forth.
In general principle, the processes of making cocoa and chocolate at the Bristol factory are similar to those we have seen at Bournville. Cocoa beans are roasted, crushed, winnowed and ground to a paste. For the manufacture of cocoa, part of the butter ingredient is extracted by hydraulic pressure, and the resulting cake is ground to a fine powder. For the manufacture of chocolate, sugar and more cocoa butter are added to the paste, with or without milk and flavourings; the mixture is well milled and passed through rolling and roll-refining machines. A special feature of chocolate-making at this factory is treatment of the mass, after the milling process, in large and powerful machines, called conches, fitted with steel rolls to beat the paste smooth. Another difference of detail we notice is a unique mill-room, with a decorative ceiling of gigantic wheels, which are continuously making picturesque revolutions to keep the mills below in motion.
Our expert guides have the rare gift of putting life into technical explanations. Also, they are bent on discovering what we have set our hearts on seeing. Will we, they ask as a favour, mention any department we would specially like to visit.
In chorus we greet this invitation: We want to see how chocolate is made into bars and cakes, and all our life long we have been wondering how almonds, creme and suchlike dainties get into their chocolate coats.
On we go to another large, cool and airy room. Canloads of chocolate, in the stiff paste form in which it leaves the mills, are incessantly arriving. The chocolate is fed through a hopper to shallow, oblong tins, divided by ridges into "bar" moulds. The mass is of the particular blend for that fine quality of Fry's plain chocolate called Belgrave, and this name is stamped on the bottom of each section of the moulds. The tins are automatically filled from the hopper, and passed on to a "dancing table"; as they dance up and down throughout the course of their passage along this table, the chocolate paste gets evenly distributed in the sections of the mould. At the far end of the table the tins enter a refrigerator, and when they emerge therefrom, their contents are a solid cake of chocolate. The cakes are turned out of the tins, and either wrapped whole in paper for sale in packet form, or packed in wooden boxes for sale in sections.
Now we are off and away to the fancy chocolate department. In a series of rooms we watch wholesale quantities of sugar and innumerable other good things being mixed by machinery to make creme, marzipan, nougat, jelly and suchlike dainties for the "centres" of fancy chocolates. In near neighbouring rooms we see white-coated men rolling out nougat; white-frocked girls, with healthy, happy faces, rolling out marzipan and stamping it into pretty shapes with miniature cutting moulds; more white-coated men pouring jelly into multiple moulds and running the moulds into cooling and. cutting machines.
Chocolate Grinding At J. S. Fry And Sons Factory, Bristol
The centres are covered with chocolate in an adjoining series of rooms, where all the operators are women and girls. Some of the fancy chocolates made at the Bristol factory are covered by "enrobing machines." Naked and unadorned centres are fed on trays to these wonderful machines, and in passing over a vessel filled with liquid chocolate they are clothed in a chocolate coat. This coat is ornamented with lines by little tools, cleverly manipulated by girls skilled at the work, or with raised patterns formed by trickling liquid chocolate through a funnel. Some of the centres are hand covered as well as hand ornamented, each being balanced on a special fork and separately dipped in a bowl of liquid chocolate. All fancy chocolates, whether hand dipped or enrobed by machinery, are put on trays and taken to a cooling room, so that their coats may set to their figures before they are packed.
In this House of Fry there are workshops for making all the tins, boxes and packing cases used in the packing rooms. There are, too, dining rooms, rest rooms, a surgery, dental room, and club rooms, for in the policy that has piloted the House to its honourable and successful position the social welfare of the workers is regarded as a matter of primary importance.
Our "Happy Day at Bristol" brings our cocoa-tour to an end. Here we© must part company, to journey to our respective homes and take up the round of our daily life, I hope we shall meet again soon for another trip together to the scenes of everyday life connected with the production of things for everyday use. Meanwhile I would ask you to remember, and to explain to all your friends, that although cocoa and chocolate are so nice that they tempt people into considering them as luxuries, they are amongst the cheapest and most nutritious of foodstuffs, and should therefore have a place of honour among the necessities of life.
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