John’s trip to Chocolate Quarter brings back ‘sweet’ memories
A recent trip to The Chocolate Quarter was particularly special for one St Monica Trust care home resident.
Once home to Fry’s and then Cadbury’s chocolate, John Dennis worked at the former Somerdale Factory in Keynsham for 44 years as an engineer.
After starting as a mail boy aged 14, John took up an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering while making parts for the machinery that produced some of the UK’s most popular chocolate bars.
He quickly rose up through the ranks and became the factory’s Engineering Manager before retiring in 1989.
John’s 44 years at Cadbury’s were briefly interrupted by his national service and then a 10-week sabbatical, where the company paid for him to study American History at Wolfston College, Cambridge.
He also worked in Nigeria, helping to establish a manufacturing facility there for Cadbury’s in the mid-60s.
"A very loyal person"
The Somerdale Factory was purchased by the St Monica Trust in 2015 and converted into The Chocolate Quarter Retirement Village, which was officially opened by HRH the Princess Royal in 2018.
John was joined on his visit to The Chocolate Quarter by his daughters, Tina and Jane, which included a presentation by Fry’s historian, Hugh Evans and a meal in B Block Pizzeria.
Tina said: “Dad is a very loyal person and the reason he worked there for so long was simply that he enjoyed it so much.
"He never looked for another job and he never wanted another job. He was very loyal to Fry’s and then Cadbury’s.
“Growing up as children, there was nothing he couldn’t mend or make for us. Being an engineer he loved restoring old cars and was a fantastic footballer, once turning down the opportunity to play for Bristol Rovers as he was a life-long City fan.”
John was married to his beloved wife, Mary for 68 years. He has been living with dementia for a number of years and became a resident at The Russets Dementia Care Home following her sad passing in 2022.
Tina said: “My sister and I could not be more delighted with the care home. It was my friends that recommended the Russets to us.
"We put Dad’s name down to go there without even seeing it and we cannot fault it. The staff are absolutely amazing.
"There is such a fun atmosphere and if we have any questions regarding dad’s care they are sorted instantly. We love the whole set-up – it’s just fantastic.
“Everyone refers to it as Dad’s home and pride of place in his room is a piece of a machine from the Somerdale Factory, which was mounted on a plaque and presented to him by Cadbury’s when he retired.”
Creating cherished memories
Located within the St Monica Trust’s Sandford Station Retirement Village, The Russets is a 105-bed care home offering specialist dementia care.
John’s trip was organised by The Russets Well-being Coordinator, Wayne Lawn. He said: “Regular outings and events are a very important part of the care we deliver at The Russets - not just for our residents, but also their friends and family too.
"It helps residents reconnect the past with the present, creating new and cherished memories for themselves and their family members to hold on to.
“It was great to see John catching up with Hugh Evans, who he used to work with, and swapping tales, looking at old photos and showing each other their memorabilia from the factory’s heyday, including old chocolate bars.
“Working for Fry’s, and then Cadbury’s, was such a huge part of John’s life, so it was an honour for us to be able to share with him how the Trust has given the former chocolate factory a new lease of life.”
For further information on The Russets or any of the St Monica Trust’s care homes please contact our admissions team on 0800 952 0300 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.