The History of Chocolate Factory 1 & 2
The name calls up memories of childhood: Liquorice Allsorts, Aniseed Balls, Jelly Babies, Dolly Mixtures, and Sherbet Fountain. All these, and many more besides, were made by Barratt’s of Wood Green on the site now partially occupied by Chocolate Factory 1 & 2 development. George Osborne Barratt and his wife started a confectionery business in Islington in 1848. As their business grew, so did their family –
four sons and a daughter eventually worked for their father. The move from crowded inner London to Wood Green in about 1880 was a logical one. The railway arrived in 1859. Alexandra Palace opened as a major entertainment centre in 1873, and the area was becoming part of London’s Victorian suburban sprawl. New housing brought in a local workforce eager to work for an employer manufacturing products for which demand never fell.
The site itself had plenty of room for expansion, and by 1953 had reached 5 acres with almost 1000 employees. The original headquarters building in Mayes Road (now occupied by the Metropolitan Housing Trust) was constructed in 1897; the words Labor et Probitas (‘Work and Honour’) were picked out in the brickwork above the entrance. New factory buildings were erected in 1904, 1914, 1922, 1936 and 1953.
Barratt’s set great store by its ‘family spirit’: workers are not regarded as cogs in a machine but as individual persons who have every right to fair treatment and social care. In 1953 the company offered good pay and a bonus scheme, two weeks paid holiday, a canteen and medical facilities, a pension scheme, and a Social Club.
Barratt’s left Wood Green in the mid 1970’s to move to Hertfordshire, and now forms part of Trebor-Bassett, which is itself part of Cadbury’s. Caxton Chocolate replaced Barratt’s at Wood Green for a few years, but then also moved away.
Collage Arts moved into the Chocolate Factory 1 in 1996 when it converted derelict units into artist studios. The building is home to over 110 artists covering a range of art forms from visual arts to music and performing arts. Due to the high demand Collage Arts renovated Chocolate Factory 2 in 2002 and this building is home to over 50 artists and creative businesses covering a range of art forms from music, film, and media to performing arts and fashion.
Chocolate Factory 1 & 2 have become a landmark development of a hub of excellence in the creative industries. The development started with a few artists’ studios. Today there are more than 200 artists and creative companies providing work for over 500 people.
It is perhaps a far cry from sweet manufacturing, but the revived Chocolate Factory 1 & 2 is continuing to make a vital contribution to the economy and the community as it has done for the past century.