11 Jun 2021

Sweet trove of documents unearthed at Cadbury factory demolition

From Checkpoint, 5:54 pm on 11 June 2021

A sweet trove of documents has been unearthed during the demolition of the old Cadbury office block that will be the site of the new Dunedin Hospital.

The old books are full of details about R Hudson & Co. - the local family business that made yummy biscuits and chocolates, and went on to merge with the global company - Cadbury.

This is what dreams are made of for archaeologist Megan Lawrence, who might have done just a little dance when they were discovered.

"We've come across about 16 books, all minute books from the directors from the R Hudson Company, starting from about 1899 right through into the Cadbury Fry Hudson Company history. And they continue on right till about 1988," she told Checkpoint.

"So we've got quite almost 100 years of history in these 16 books. 

"There's lots of facts and figures and lots of numbers, which unfortunately we haven't had too much time to go into detail. But there's some really key events that are noted down into these books. 

"The incorporation of the R Hudson & Company in 1889 is in the first page. 

"As we go through the history, it's got some great fascinating details about improvements to the factories and improvements to other buildings such as cottages on there.

"It goes through both the war year periods, so there's notes in there about how raw materials were becoming very expensive during the First World War, but trade continued pretty well. 

"Each record is quite brief in itself, so not too much detail, but we still extract little bits of information."

Lawrence said much of the first book is handwritten.

"It actually covers quite a number of years from 1899 to 1950. 

"That book starts off in cursive writing and then at the very end of the book we start hitting some typed records there as well. 

"A motor wagon is noted down in November 1912 and it was expected in the following April.

"However, immediately below that record, they're also still talking about stables, and new stables on the property as well. So still making use of horses."

She has not seen any chocolate recipes hidden in the artefacts.

"But we had some cool finds with plans that we also came across, that had plans for the Curly Wurly machine and chocolate fish moulds, which was quite exciting.

"And when you walk around the buildings, occasionally you come across the odd Jaffa or Easter eggs that have been left behind.

"We found quite a few plans kept in some architectural drawers there and they've all been digitally scanned. So we have preserved them for the future [and to] make that accessible to people."

The discovered books will now find an appropriate home in a museum for the public to view.

"It absolutely made my day," Lawrence said. "Made the office's day when we brought them back and yes, these are great finds. We're very excited."