Former Cadbury’s staff watch as sign comes down from old Keynsham factory

Former staff post for a picture with St Monica Trust chief executive David Williams , far right

Former staff pose for a picture with St Monica Trust chief executive David Williams, far right, before the sign comes down

loweredThe giant Cadbury’s sign weighing over seven tonnes was cut from the side of the old chocolate factory in Keynsham this morning and lowered to the ground.

The historic moment was watched by a large group of former employees including Hugh Evans, from Warmley who is the Fry’s archivist. He was due to receive the apostrophe from the sign as a keepsake.

The removal of the sign, which had been in position since 1982, is the latest milestone in the transformation of the old chocolate factory into a £60m retirement community by the St Monica Trust.

The scheme will create 151 assisted living apartments and a 90-bed care home when it opens in about 18 months as part of the wider development by Taylor Wimpey.

The Veasey family all worked at the factory

The Veasey family all worked at the factory

Wring Demolition removed the sign, which measures 22m wide x 6m high and weighs over seven tonnes. It will be kept in storage on the site for now.

Cadbury’s changed its name to Cadbury in 2003 and was bought by Kraft Foods in 2010. It announced the closure of the Somerdale site in Keynsham in October 2007 with the loss of more than 500 jobs.

St Monica Trust’s chief executive David Williams was there to watch the removal and to present the apostrophe to Mr Evans, who started working at the factory in 1975 and his career included roles as a microbiological technician, hygiene manager and quality, health and safety and environment manager before taking redundancy and starting  his own company.

Mr Evans, whose favourite bars are Crunchie and Turkish Delight, said: “Cadbury, or Fry’s as it was originally, was a good company to work for.

“A lot of people of my generation did 35 to 40 years’ service. It was a stunning setting to work in and we had lots of fun and lots of laughs. We used to joke you could be born on site, go to school on site and work on site – soon you will be able to live on site as part of a retirement community.”

Eric Miles

Eric Miles

He added: “The factory closure was very sad, but the land does not go away. St Monica Trust will breathe new life into the building and the land. It is a lovely location and if done sympathetically and its heritage is retained, it will be a really positive change.”

Also there was Eric Miles from Kingswood who worked at the factory as an engineer from 1950 to 1988 and who is behind the project to restore the factory’s Sentinel engine which is being carried out at Avon Valley Railway at Bitton.

He said the sign represented the identity of the factory while the old power house, pictured below, which is due to be removed soon as part of the redevelopment of the site, was its heart.

power houseAlso watching the sign coming down today were the Veasey family from Bitton. Sandra worked in the office there for eight years and her husband John was an engineer there for 10 years while their son Andrew spent 21 years there in production and in the shop before he was made redundant when the factory closed.

Mr Williams said: “All at St Monica Trust are looking forward to our role as custodian of this landmark building, and most importantly, to giving it a new life as a high-quality and welcoming retirement community.”

As well as the retirement community which will include a 90-bed nursing care home, there will be 700 new homes, a new club and conference centre, a primary school and nursery, shops and sports pitches.