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Booth, Norman Parr (1879–1950)

by Peter Chapman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Norman Parr Booth (1879?-1950), analytical chemist and businessman, was born at Honley near Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England, son of Clarkson Booth of Cadbury Bros Ltd at Bournville. He was educated at Huddersfield, at King Edward VI Grammar School, Camp Hill, Birmingham, and Mason Science College.

In 1898-1901 Booth was employed in the analytical laboratory of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London, rising to chief assistant. In 1900 he became an associate of the Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain and Ireland and in 1903 a fellow. He joined Cadbury Bros in 1901 as its first analytical chemist. His research was central to the development of both Cadbury milk chocolate, produced commercially in 1905, and the famous Bournville cocoa, marketed in 1906. He was responsible for the technical aspects of the company's first milk-condensing factory at Knighton in 1911 and of the later Frampton plant.

In 1924 Booth, by now chief chemist at Bournville in charge of a large research laboratory, succeeded William Cooper as chairman and managing director of Cadbury-Fry-Pascall Ltd, opened in 1922 at Claremont, Tasmania. Following in the tradition of the Quaker Cadbury family, Booth excelled in industrial relations and was respected for his fairness, firmness and courtesy. He presided over a remarkable expansion at Claremont, despite temporary 'heartbreaking' cut backs in production and employment during the Depression.

In England Booth had been a member of the Bournville works and village councils, a trustee of the men's pension fund, and a substantial contributor to the firm's war effort for men on leave during World War I. He also contributed to the Tasmanian community. He had a lifelong interest in theatre and had been a founder of the Bournville Dramatic Society: he helped to establish the Hobart Repertory Theatre Society, was later its president and took the lead in the acquisition, renovation and extension of its present playhouse. Tall and handsome, Booth himself was an enthusiastic player, his performances being notable for their force and gusto.

Interested also in technical education, Booth was a member of the Engineering Board of Management of the University of Tasmania and the Hobart Technical College; served on the latter's council, where he emphasized the importance of chemistry; and was a promoter in 1938 of the Tasmanian section of the Australian Chemical Institute. He was a member of his State's committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Food Standards Committee, the Hobart Chamber of Commerce, the Tasmanian Chamber of Manufactures and the Tasmanian branch of the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand. He was active in Rotary, a justice of the peace, a trustee of the Tasmanian Museum and Botanical Gardens and a member of the Tasmanian Club. He visited England after his retirement in December 1938 but returned to lend his expertise to the wartime control of industry as a member of the Administrative Authority for Tasmania.

Booth married Ellen Fellows (d.1945) on 28 May 1902 at Balsall Heath, Birmingham. She shared his theatrical interests, was a special magistrate under the Infants' Welfare Act (1935) and also a justice of the peace. Booth died of hypertensive heart disease in Hobart on 18 February 1950, aged 71, survived by two sons. In Hobart he was remembered for the part he played in the community and at Cadbury's as the man who made 'Claremont something more than a factory and who was something more than a Chairman of Directors'. His estate was sworn for probate at £33,925 in Tasmania and £3344 gross in England.

Select Bibliography

  • I. A. Williams, The Firm of Cadbury, 1831-1931 (Lond, 1931)
  • Hobart Repertory Theatre Society, Golden Jubilee, 1926-1976 (Hob, 1976)
  • Bournville Works Magazine, Aug 1939
  • Tasmanian Mail (Hobart), 6 Mar 1924
  • Mercury (Hobart), 24 Sept 1934, 19 Dec 1938, 20 Feb 1950
  • private informationt.

Citation details

Peter Chapman, 'Booth, Norman Parr (1879–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/booth-norman-parr-5292/text8929, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 17 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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