We will take our virtual guided tour of the history of chocolate from north to south, beginning with the Quaker settlement of New Earswick, before heading down Haxby Road past the modern Nestlé factory to visit several sites of importance in the city centre. We will then move on in a southerly direction towards the now semi-derelict former Terry’s factory, and ending up at the National Trust property of Goddards on Tadcaster Road.
The information contained in this virtual tour has been mostly gleaned from Paul Chrystal and Joe Dickinson’s book The History Of Chocolate In York, a local history book about Rowntree Park called A Walk In The Park, The York Choccy and Sweetie walking tour (which runs once a month from outside the Museum Gardens), exhibitions at the York Chocolate Story museum, and various other leaflets about chocolate and the Rowntree and Terry families that I have accumulated over the past few months.
1. New Earswick
|Typical New Earswick houses|
|The Folk Hall|
Welfare was a key priority. Various shops were built, and Seebohm Rowntree set up a dairy in 1904 to ensure that residents had access to clean and hygienic milk, in a bid to reduce the infant mortality rate. There were twelve bungalows built for old people, all of which were fitted with emergency alarms connected to a nurses’ residence. The Folk Hall was the centre of New Earswick’s social and cultural life, as well as a place of worship and a children’s nursery. Numerous sporting clubs and the New Earswick Musical Society (which is still going strong today) also gathered there. Women who might otherwise be stuck at home were encouraged to join the various groups. There were weekly dance nights and regular adult education classes.
Schools were also established, initially in the Folk Hall for infants,and then in their own buildings for older children. The Open Air School, built in 1912, was light and airy, with plenty of space between pupils’ desks. The New Earswick trustees paid for extra teachers on top of the local authority’s allowance so that class sizes could be kept to 30 pupils. Elsewhere in the city, 50 or 60 pupils per class would have been the norm. Boys and girls were taught the same subjects, including science, though it was stipulated that “sewing and cooking will not be neglected for the girls. We want the girls when they grow up to be able to enter marriage with intelligent understanding so that they may be true and helpful companions to their husbands and able to wisely guide the minds of children.” There were scholarships to a local grammar school. Joseph Rowntree secondary school opened in 1942 and provided classes in more practical subjects like printing and fruit cultivation as well as traditional academic subjects. Its building was considered revolutionary in terms of the sense of light, fresh air and space it offered. There were also adult education classes. All of these facets are visible in the school’s latest guise, a beautiful new building which opened in 2010, a little out of the centre of New Earswick towards the A1237 Ring Road.
2. The Haxby Road plant (now Nestlé)
|The KitKat plant|
|Joseph Rowntree Theatre|
At the start of the 20th century, 2,000 workers were employed on this site and there were strict rules and regulations. The factory gates opened at 6am, and workers had to be inside them by eight minutes past or they wouldn’t be allowed in for another two hours and would lose a quarter of a day’s pay. After a time, the working week was reduced to 48 hours so employees did not have to be on shift until 7.30am. The loss of output was compensated for by a reduction in fuel costs from the later start.
At the time of the move out to Haxby Road, Rowntree’s didn’t in fact make much chocolate. It’s something they didn’t really have much success at until the 1930s, partly because it took them a long time to get over a phobia of advertising and mostly because they were unable to compete with the popularity of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. They also didn’t quite get the hang of chocolate, attempting to copy Swiss style milk chocolate in 1899 using powdered rather than condensed milk, and releasing products like the rather rancid-sounding “Bulgarian soured milk chocolates”, which contained microbes believed to prolong life. Joseph Rowntree was of the belief that milk chocolate would turn out to be just a fad. So Rowntree’s business was mostly cocoa, and fruit gums and fruit pastilles, which they had started manufacturing after a sales visit to their factory in 1872 by Frenchman Claude Gaget. At the time, “crystalised gum pastilles” had been the ailing company’s salvation, though until the late 1920s, these were marketed as medicinal rather than fruit products.
In the 1920s, they did have another good go at chocolate production, releasing products like the Plain York bar (featuring the mascot Plain Mr York of York) and a fruit and nut bar called Motoring, designed to be eaten on long journeys. But it was the launch of Aero, Black Magic, Smarties, and KitKat during the 1930s that finally led them to hit the chocolate jackpot.
Aero came out in 1935. (Did you, like me, think it would have been more recent?) It was originally going to be called Airways, in response to the increasing availability of jet travel, but in the end the company went for Aero, a name that they had to buy off Cadbury, who had already registered it. Its unusual aerated texture meant it overtook even Dairy Milk in popularity. There were failed attempts at a fruit and nut version, and the peppermint and orange flavours were launched in 1959 and 1960 respectively.
Smarties, launched in 1938, were originally called Chocolate Beans and sold loose, before being put into tubes. The famous letter on the caps was introduced in 1959. A former Smartie sorter at Rowntree’s told the York Chocolate Story that she used to store up Smarties of one particular colour under her work bench and, when she had enough, she would then fill a tube of just that one colour. Just for the hell of it. She was never caught. Other visitors to the museum, remembering getting a tube of all orange or green Smarties when they were children and being disappointed to discover that they hadn’t won a competition, have confirmed her story.
The chocolate selection Dairy Assortment (later Dairy Box) was launched in 1936 to compete with Cadbury’s Milk Tray. Dairy Box was packaged, whereas at the time Milk Tray was sold loose. However, Black Magic, launched in 1937 was really the first chocolate assortment Rowntree’s aimed at mass appeal. It contained twelve chocolates that were selected based on market research interviews with 2,500 shopkeepers and 7,000 consumers.
KitKat (1935) was originally known as Wafer Crisp, then Chocolate Crisp, then KitKat Chocolate Crisp, before finally ending up as just KitKat. “KitKat” was Christopher Catling, the proprietor of an 18th century literary club and pie shop owner who had featured on a box of Rowntree chocolates in the 1920s. KitKat is now Rowntree’s most famous and most successful brand. It was designed as a chocolate bar that people could take to work and use as a quick pick-me-up. The slogan “Give yourself a break at tea-time” was coined in 1939, eventually ending up as “Have a break, have a KitKat” in 1957. In 1986, a £16 million KitKat plant opened in York. Between three and five million KitKat bars are now made every single day at the Haxby Road factory. And that is just to meet the demands of the UK market. There are also several manufacturing sites abroad. Japan seems to have embraced KitKat more than any other country and offers about 45 different flavours, including green tea, custard pudding, aloe vera, cucumber, water melon, wasabi, soy sauce, cheese, sweet potato and jacket potato with butter. Nestlé sponsored York City FC between 2004 and 2006, which resulted in the city’s football stadium in Bootham being temporarily renamed KitKat Crescent.
Another successful launch of the 1930s was Polo Mints, in 1939. They were based on the American “Lifesaver” sweets, and were originally called Polo Digestive Mints. However, they were eventually marketed just as “the mint with the hole”, since they didn’t actually have any proven digestion-aiding (or life-saving) properties. Polo Fruits were launched in 1954 as a rival to Mars’ Spangles.
After Second World War chocolate rationing ended in 1953, more products were launched, including Nux in 1957 and Caramac in 1959. This was also the advent of television, and while they were quick to ban the aerials from the rooftops of New Earswick, Rowntree’s were also quick to also see the benefits of television, increasing their TV advertising budget from £50,000 to £650,000 in a single year. This was also the time that Rowntree’s started making multi-packs of products for supermarkets.
Moving on to the 1960s, Jelly Tots were launched in 1965, After Eights in 1963 and Matchmakers in 1968. In 1969, Rowntree merged with Halifax-based toffee manufacturer Mackintosh, which brought Rolo, Toffee Crisp, Weekend, Quality Street and Fox’s Glacier Mints under their remit. Operating for years as Rowntree Mackintosh, the company name was eventually changed to Rowntree PLC in 1987.
1976 saw the birth of the Yorkie bar, Rowntree’s most sexist product, since it was aimed squarely at men (though of course one might argue that most chocolate is unashamedly marketed at women), with adverts featuring lorry drivers.(Sadly, the actor who played the original lorry driver faced jail a couple of years ago after admitting smothering his terminally ill wife in a mercy killing.) The slogan “It’s not for girls” came about in 2001. For years there was a giant Yorkie bar on an advertising board by the railway line just outside York station which proclaimed (the I and E of the wrapper having been peeled back) “Welcome to York, where the men are hunky and the chocolate chunky.” Ironically, Yorkie bars were mostly manufactured at the former Caley factory in Norwich, which had been bought up by Mackintosh.
By 1988, Rowntree was the fourth biggest chocolate manufacturer in the world. But that meant people wanted it. The company by this point was vulnerable to takeover as the former Rowntree Trusts only had a stake of 7%. Suchard launched a takeover bid in 1988, but Nestlé eventually won out in 1989. Nestlé have made huge investments in chocolate and sweet production in York – a £15.5 million Polo plant opened in 1992, an £18 million chocolate plant in 1993 – and there have been various product launches since their takeover, such as Vice Versas in 1992, Maverick in 1997 and KitKat Chunky in 1999.
The old factory buildings are gradually being demolished or put up for sale and redevelopment, but the building of the new plants keep the hope alive that - unlike with Terry’s - the future of some mass-scale chocolate manufacturing on the Haxby Road site is secured.
3. St Helen’s Square
Continue on your way into the city centre and find somewhere to park. Good luck with that. Assuming you’ve managed to find a space in either Clarence Street or Marygate car parks, find your way towards St Leonards Place and cross Lendal with the Minster to your left. Opposite the Assembly Rooms on Blake Street, you will see York Cocoa House, one of the new artisan businesses I mentioned earlier. It has a shop and a café. It serves an array of chocolate dishes, both sweet and savoury, runs chocolate making workshops, has a library of chocolate books, and even has its own cocoa plant called Henry. It isn’t pushchair friendly, however. Continue down Blake Street into St Helen’s Square.
St Helen’s Square always has a queue for Betty’s tea rooms snaking round into it, but once upon a time, it was Terry’s who dominated the catering business in this part of town. If you look at the building that is now the Swarovski shop, you will see the name Terry engraved into both the stonework and cast in iron lettering on the marble. Joseph Terry was a farmer’s son from Pocklington. He was born in 1793 and served an apprenticeship at an apothecary in Stonegate before setting up his own shop on Walmgate, selling spices, vinegar, medicines and perfumes and offering bloodletting by leeches. Joseph married Harriet Atkinson, the sister-in-law of Robert Berry, who had a sweet shop and factory in St Helen’s Square. After marriage, Joseph gave up his chemist’s shop to join Robert Berry’s business. The shop sold cakes, candied peel, marmalade, and medicated lozenges, the latter meaning Joseph could still use his apothecary training. Robert Berry was succeeded by his son George and the company Terry and Berry was formed in 1825. George Berry left in 1828, and Joseph began to expand the confectionery business. Joseph Terry died in 1850, a rotund man who had seemingly greatly enjoyed his produce. By this point his products were selling in 75 towns across the country. The products were mostly his lozenges, such as “conversation lozenges”. These were a little like modern-day Love Hearts, festooned with such charming epithets as “Can you polka?” and “I want a wife”. Joseph Terry’s son Joseph took over the business in 1854, joined by his brothers Robert and John, but John did not stay long-term.
From 1858, a factory was leased in Clementhorpe across the river, and all manufacturing had moved there from the St Helen’s Square site by 1864. The St Helen’s Square premises were then converted into an exclusive shop, ballroom (with a sprung floor that is still in place today) and restaurant, run by Terry’s. The jazz emanating from the ballroom caused consternation at the neighbouring Harker’s Hotel, the manager claiming that the noise was disturbing his guests and making him ill. Harker’s tried to prevent Terry’s music licence being renewed in 1924, but lost the case. However, Terry’s had to restrict music after midnight, by keeping windows shut and only allowing piano and strings to play.
Terry’s in St Helen’s Square also ran a thriving mail order business and did outside catering at the Mansion House, Assembly Rooms and Merchant Taylor’s Hall. They were commissioned to bake the christening cake for Edward Prince of Wales in 1894 and much later catered for the Duke of Kent’s wedding reception at Hovingham Hall in 1961, as well as for several hunt balls with such guests as John Profumo, Mandy Rice Davies and Christine Keeler. As the 20th century progressed, they attempted to modernise the restaurant and appeal to more mainstream tastes, opening a self-service carvery and in the 1970s trying more “exotic” foods like spaghetti Bolognese, curry and chicken Kiev. But by then they could not compete with Betty’s opposite and the business closed in 1981 after 150 years.
4. Tanner’s Moat
|Aviva buildings at Tanner's Moat|
As for Tanner’s Moat, it was a bit of a hot-potch of improvised buildings, with a resident parrot and donkey. Seebohm Rowntree described it as “hell”. Night shift workers lived off pork pies and cocoa. People had to communicate with Joseph Rowntree via a trapdoor in the floor of his office. (Henry Rowntree died suddenly of appendicitis in 1883, leaving Joseph in charge.) Wages were literally paid out of a hat. The cocoa manufacturing process was gradually mechanised, but not in an especially efficient way, as different machines had been developed for each part of the process, and materials had somehow to be transported between each machine. Joseph Rowntree tried to turn the business around, but he hated advertising and preferred to let the quality of his products speak for itself. A grocer by trade, his intention was always to cater for the better-off rather than appeal to a mass market. So the company continued to struggle. As mentioned in the section on the Haxby Road factory, the manufacture of fruit gums did a lot to increase the company’s profits but it didn’t really become a real success until much later.
Joseph Rowntree always had a very enlightened attitude towards his employees, and despite the far from ideal working conditions at Tanner’s Moat, he still established a staff library in 1885. There was also a works outing to Whitby, which didn’t go so well when a group of walkers got blind drunk in a pub on the North York Moors. In 1891, as the company was increasing in size and he could no longer be personally available to all staff, he took on a girls’ welfare officer (or “onlooker”) to monitor the health and behaviour of all female employees. He was conscious that the majority of female employees were young teenage girls who left work as soon as they got married, and so the “onlooker”, a mature married woman, was intended to provide them with a suitable role model. The Cocoa Works Magazine was set up as another means of keeping in close personal communication with employees. It was published from 1902 to 1986, when it became RM (Rowntree Mackintosh) News, and later Nestlé Group News in 1992.
After the move to Haxby Road, a pensions scheme was set up in 1905, sickness benefit and paid holiday were introduced, and the company also provided for war widows after the First World War. A company doctor was made available to provide free medical care from 1904 onwards (44 years before the foundation of the NHS). Later on, there was also a company dentist (this was, after all, a sweetie manufacturer), an optician and a female doctor. A profit-sharing scheme was set up in 1923. Works councils were formed (one for women, one for men) to give employees a say in the running of their company, and there was also an annual company meeting. The company also had a strict moral code, refusing to employ mothers with illegitimate children and refusing honeymoon leave to any man who had had to get married because he'd got his girlfriend pregnant. Drinking was banned, as was gambling in 1904. Employees were not allowed time off to attend York Races until 1914, when staff protested en masse. Seebohm Rowntree had to relent but only the men were allowed half a day off, and just for the May and August meetings.
Joseph Rowntree Junior died in 1925, and is buried in a graveyard at the Retreat Hospital. Seebohm succeeded as company chair in 1923.
6. The York Chocolate Story
I hope you leave the museum feeling rather less shaky than I did, thanks to having eaten something close to my body weight in chocolate. But I had learned a lot about KitKats. Including the fact that Rowntree’s had to make a special KitKat for the Queen that didn’t contain any wafer biscuit because she didn’t like that part. Which kind of destroys the point, in my opinion. The museum has a chocolate café and large shop, should you wish to indulge.
7. The Origins of Rowntree’s
From the museum exit, turn right then walk down through the Shambles onto Pavement. (Feel free to stock up on more chocolate goodies at the Monk Bar Chocolatiers on the Shambles, a street which has been voted the prettiest in England, and which comedian Dara O’Briain claims is made entirely of fudge.) Turn right and outside the side entrance to Marks & Spencer's look across to the building that is now a Pizza Hut. This was where Rowntree’s set up in business. Joseph Rowntree (Senior) bought the shop in 1822 at auction. The auctioneer had been so drunk that Joseph had had to dunk his head in a pail of water to get him to go ahead with the sale. Joseph Rowntree was originally from Scarborough, and his father had been a grocer. Joseph refurbished the shop to very grand standards and worked ridiculously long hours, 7am-8pm six days a week, 7am-10pm on market days, with only two days’ holiday a year. (Though these hours were normal at the time.). As well his own son Joseph, who later ran the company, Joseph Senior’s apprentices at the grocer’s shop included Lewis Fry and George Cadbury.
|Lady Peckitt's Yard|
Joseph’s eldest son Henry bought a cocoa and chocolate business from William Tuke in 1862, which became Rowntree’s as we know it. Tuke’s had been set up as a grocery business by Mary Tuke, a 30-year-old single woman who had numerous legal wrangles with the Merchant Adventurers trading association as she hadn’t been awarded the status of freeman of the city. To gain this status you needed to pay the Merchant Adventurers either a £25 apprenticeship fee or be related to an existing freeman. Mary Tuke’s father had been a freeman, but the Merchant Adventurers still wouldn’t grant her a licence to trade. They prosecuted her, and she continued to defy the court for over two years before being allowed to trade properly in 1732, after a one-off payment to the Merchant Adventurers of ten pounds.
Mary’s nephew William took over the business in 1746. He specialised in coffee. William’s son Henry joined the business in 1785 and started to manufacture cocoa and chocolate too, and later to sell tea. William Tuke established The Retreat Hospital for the mentally ill, set up in response to the barbaric conditions patients were kept in at the York Asylum in Bootham. The Retreat tried early forms of occupational therapy, and went on to become the model for psychiatric hospitals around the world. William Tuke also set up The Mount School for Girls. Henry Tuke’s son Samuel joined the family business in 1805, but there the legacy ended as Samuel’s sons, related to the Barclay family, decided to go into banking instead. Thereafter, the business was run by a Henry Hipsley and John Casson, and was renamed Tuke and Casson. After Henry Rowntree bought Tuke’s, John Casson bought and took the tea part of the business to London. Henry Rowntree was actually a distant cousin of Mary Tuke, so really it was all kept in the family.
8. Mary Craven at Coppergate
|Mary Craven and an old tin of her toffee|
|The memorial window in All Saints Church|
Craven’s suffered mixed fortunes over the course of the 20th century, mostly declining between 1920 and 1966, when they moved out to a purpose-built factory on Low Poppleton Lane. This brought about increased production and a bit of a revival. By 1980, they were turning out 800 million sweets a year, exporting to Bloomingdales in New York and making own-brand confectionery for Harrods and Fortnum & Mason’s. They had patented the “flap wrap” in 1954, allowing boiled sweets to be unwrapped easily. But from 1987 onwards, M.A. Craven & Son was involved in numerous takeovers – bought by Trebor Bassett in 1996, becoming Monkhill Confectionery in 1999, and then bought by Tangerine in 2008, who also make Butterkist popcorn. However, production is still ongoing at the site on Low Poppleton Lane.
When the Craven Coppergate factory was demolished in 1978, Viking remains were discovered, which is why the Jorvik Viking Centre stands on the same site today.
7. The Castle Area
Continue along Coppergate and turn left into Castlegate. (The first building on the left, incidentally, is where the Tukes’ original shop was.) Down a passageway to the right is the Friends Meeting House, where Quakers worship today. As to why Quakers got so into manufacturing cocoa and chocolate, this is largely believed (at least by Paul Chrystal) to be coincidence. Cocoa was a good, available product that happened to come down to an affordable price for consumers at the right time. Though as Quakers were teetotal, they did have a mission to try and focus the public’s attention on something better for them than drinking alcohol, and cocoa was believed to be medicinal at the time. (Of course many thought the same about alcohol.) Joseph Rowntree Junior was very involved in the York Temperance movement (though apparently not averse to ordering the odd case of champagne to his home).
Quakers were almost forced into being businessmen as they were excluded from all other walks of life – they weren’t allowed to attend Oxford and Cambridge (the only universities at the time) or to serve in Parliament or the courts (as they would not take oaths), and they were also banned from the army (as they were pacifists). They set up strong networks and business partnerships by sticking together and supporting one another – and also by intermarrying amongst Quaker families. But they were very ahead of their time when it came to industrial welfare; the first to truly believe that factories should be pleasant places to work in.
At the end of Castlegate is Fairfax House, which houses the Noel Terry furniture collection. Noel Terry was Joseph Terry’s great grandson, and ran Terry’s jointly with his uncle Frank from 1923. Whether the furniture collection is still intact now that Goddards (Noel Terry’s family home) has had some rooms restored and been re-opened to the public by the National Trust, I am not sure.
Across the other side of the car park from Fairfax House, and beyond Cliffords Tower, is the Castle Museum, which has contained a replica Terry’s sweet shop since the 1950s. A chocolate potion was placed under the counter to create an authentic smell inside. This was one of my favourite places in the whole world when I was seven years old. You can still buy sugar mice there today.
8. Terry’s at Clementhorpe
Walk past Cliffords Tower and cross the river Ouse over Skeldergate Bridge. The River Ouse used to bring in the majority of the raw materials required for cocoa and chocolate manufacture, and export the finished products back out again.
This end of the river in Clementhorpe is where Terry’s second factory was based. It was leased in 1858 to make boiled sweets and lozenges (including violet, clove, cinnamon, lavender and “curiously strong” peppermint), candied peel and preserved fruits and marmalade. The site provided warehouse space and access to the Humber Estuary. Chocolate production began there in 1867 but Terry’s remained more of a confectionery company until the twentieth century. It also firmly marketed itself at the better off in Victorian society and its products won awards as far away as New Zealand. The chocolate assortment Neapolitans were launched in 1899. In 1906 their range of “very superior” boiled sweets included greengage, butterscotch, pine and lime flavours. However, some of their other medicinal lozenges carried a health warning: “Poison, these lozenges contain bella donna” or “opium”.
Joseph Terry (Junior), a Quaker of course, was Lord Mayor of the city four times and served on various prominent York committees, including the Races and the asylum at Bootham. He was knighted in 1887. He died in 1898 and was succeeded by his sons Thomas Walker Leaper Terry and Frank Terry. The business was known as Joseph Terry and Sons Ltd from 1895 onwards. Thomas was killed in a bicycle accident in 1910, after which his son Noel Terry joined the company in 1911.
A new chocolate block was built in 1920. In the 1920s, suspension punishments for workers included the following: reading a newspaper – 3.5 days, bad piping of chocolate – 5 days, incorrectly labelling boxes – one week, but hitting a girl with a funnel – only half a day.
In 1922, Frank and Noel travelled together to Venezuela and purchased a Criollo cocoa bean plantation near Caracas, which supplied them until 1940, when they had to sell it. The Terry’s palm trees logo is modelled on trees in Venezuela.
The Clementhorpe site, despite Terry’s moving out in the 1920s, was not demolished until 1987. A Roman mosaic was found, which is now in the Yorkshire Museum. Noel’s son Peter Terry paid for its restoration.
9. Rowntree Park and Chocolate In Wartime
|Shortly before the Reading Cafe vomiting incident|
|The lychgate war memorial under five metres of flood|
As for how life was in the chocolate factories during the two world wars, the answer is much changed. They were commandeered by outside organisations for both food and war materials production or billets for soldiers and refugees.
I’ve already mentioned York’s Lord Mayor sending Rowntree chocolates out to the trenches in the First World War. These (and cocoa) were packaged in a tin, one of which inadvertently saved a soldier’s life in 1915 by stopping a bullet that had pierced his pocket. The chocolate and cocoa orders gave the factory much-welcome business, but the factory also had to manage with severe manpower (with men at the front) and sugar shortages. Lots of their sugar supplies had come from Germany and Austria-Hungary. Belgian refugees ended up in New Earswick and were employed by the factory to relieve some staff shortages, and sugar substitutes like saccharin and vanillin were developed. Conscientious objectors were not employed after 1916, owing to bad feeling among other factory workers.
Noel Terry was sent away to war but was wounded in 1916 and thereafter seconded to work at the Ministry of Pensions with his uncle Frank. The Terry’s factory was run by flour mill owner Henry Leetham (who was Noel’s father-in-law) until his suicide in 1923, when Noel and Frank took over.
In World War Two, chocolate was rationed from 1942, reducing the need for output. Half of Rowntree’s male employees went to war, meaning that women had to operate the heavy machinery for the first time. Imports of the necessary raw materials were once again difficult, which affected the production of certain key products. Some were made to new recipes, such as KitKats, which had a blue rather than a red wrapper to indicate the reduction in quality. But many ceased production altogether for a few years, like Black Magic. But chocolate was once again sent out to the troops, being vital for energy and also useful for the soldiers as gifts and peace offerings. Chocolate was also included in emergency rations on ship lifeboats. Types of chocolate were developed to meet the needs of servicemen, such as jungle chocolate, which didn’t melt in the high temperatures overseas. Vitaminised plain chocolate was sent out to starving children in Europe and prisoners of war.
The Rowntree factory was requisitioned to make marmalade (in the Fruit Gums block) for Frank Cooper Ltd, chocolate for Cadbury, optical instruments for Cooke, Troughton & Simms, government-issue powdered milk and egg, and Ryvita. A site next to the sports ground stored explosives and anti-tank mine fuses made in the Smarties block. The dining block provided accommodation for victims of the Blitz. A nursery was built to allow women to work and have their children cared for.
At Terry’s, the Bishopthorpe Road site was taken over by Hill & Sons to make propeller blades, and they also made parts for Rolls Royce engines. They also made jams for Chives & Sons and did freezing for Birds Eye. Terry’s chocolates were also sent out as rations, and they took over chocolate production for London-based firm Charbonnel & Walker. During the time of rationing, Terry employees received a monthly “fancy order” of two chocolate oranges and six bars of chocolate, with an egg at Easter.
Both Rowntree’s and Terry’s built air-raid shelters. The Terry’s clock tower was used as a look-out post for the prisoner-of-war camp on the Knavesmire. Rowntree’s had an air-raid siren on top of its Elect Cocoa Block, though most of its cocoa manufacturing was done out in the Pennines during the war.
While York was targeted by the Germans in air raids in response to the bombing of Lübeck, Rowntree’s itself escaped relatively unscathed, only losing one storage warehouse in the attacks. In the 1942 raid, the Terry’s restaurant in St Helen’s Square also escaped, and was able to supply tea and coffee to the rescue workers. However, the family were not exempt from suffering, and Noel Terry’s son Kenneth was killed in 1943 at the age of 23.
10. Terry’s Chocolate Works Factory
After walking through Rowntree Park, exit on the far side near the Millennium Bridge, turn right into Butcher Terrace and then left onto Bishopthorpe Road. If you are unable to visit the park because of flooding, you will have continued up Bishopthorpe Road directly from Skeldergate Bridge. After a short while, turn right into Campelshon Road, where opposite Knavesmire Primary School you will arrive at the back entrance to the former Terry’s factory, now looking rather sorry for itself.
Terry’s moved out here in 1927. The architect was J.E. Wade, and the contractors who built it also worked on the Newcastle and Sydney Harbour Bridges. The front door was modelled on the one on the Woolworth Building in New York. The factory was extremely handsome, with air-conditioned buildings and many of the latest scientific innovations.
A farm was set up along the road at Bustardthorpe to supply milk, eggs and vegetables to the St Helen’s Square restaurant.
Noel Terry purchased a fleet of vans to carry Terry’s products around the country. Various chocolate assortments were launched from the 1920s onwards, of which All Gold (launched in 1932) was to become the most famous. One assortment, called Theatre Chocolates, was alleged to have rustle-proof wrappers. The Terry’s Dessert Chocolate Apple was launched in 1924, and was made until 1954. The iconic Chocolate Orange arrived in 1932. A luxury chocolate assortment was brought out for the coronation of King George VI in Mary 1937 which featured centres of blackcurrant trifle, cherry & pistachio Genoese, and champagne pineapple. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to visit the factory in 1937. Queen Elizabeth II visited in 1952, the same year that Waifa was launched to compete with KitKat. Queen Elizabeth II was presented with a gold and silver casket filled with sweets from Terry’s, Rowntree’s and Craven as a joint gift from all three manufacturers.
Similarly to Rowntree’s, Terry’s had a pension scheme, a holiday club, an amateur dramatics society and various sports clubs, though the annual one-mile swim in the River Ouse was eventually banned by early pioneers of health and safety. There was a sick room and a member of staff in charge of female hygiene, who ensured that no lipstick was worn, nails were clipped short and hair was kept tightly under caps. Frank Terry was knighted in 1936, and held a competition to pick 12 workers to go with him to London. They were put up in the Savoy and treated to a show on Drury Lane.
After the Second World War, the welfare department gave assistance to the sick and bereaved. Exports increased. One of Noel Terry’s other sons, Peter, joined the business in 1945. Sir Francis Terry died in 1960, having had many leading roles, including the Sheriff of Yorkshire. He had also been president of the hospital and a benefactor of St Peter’s School.
The Forte Group bought Terry’s in 1963, and Terry’s celebrated its bicentenary in 1967, prompting Blue Peter to make a special programme. The 81 employees invited to the party had clocked up a total of 3,078 years’ service between them, which is an average of 38 years each. So to get such longevity from its staff, it must have been a pretty nice place to work. In the 1970s, Terry’s sponsored races at the Knavesmire and their All Gold hot-air balloon came second in a cross-Channel balloon race.
Colgate Palmolive bought Terry’s in 1978, and they tried to bring out a Chocolate Lemon which turned out to be, well, a bit of a lemon. They had just been trying to use up a lot of leftover lemons from their soap production, apparently. Colgate had no confectionery experience and eventually sold Terry’s to United Biscuits in 1982. Initially, things went well and profits went back up again. They moved the manufacture of Curiously Strong Mints to Bridgend, but a new chocolate plant was built to make Chocolate Oranges on Bishopthorpe Road.
Peter Terry retired in 1985, going to work on the restoration of Fairfax House and Noel Terry’s furniture collection. Sales remained strong throughout the 1990s, particularly of All Gold. But chocolate assortments gradually went out of vogue, people preferring to give wine or flowers instead. Kraft took over the business in 1993. Initially chocolate production stayed in York, but the confectionery plant in Bridgend was sold to Wrigley and closed down. Then gradually chocolate production was moved to cheaper sites across Europe – Waifa to Belgium, All Gold to Sweden, Twilights to Austria, and then Chocolate Orange to Slovakia and Poland. In 2004, Kraft made 6,000 people redundant and announced the closure of the Terry’s factory on Bishopthorpe Road, with the loss of 316 jobs. The factory finally closed for good in 2005.
The site was sold off and was supposed to be redeveloped into houses, flats, hotels and shops, but so far there has been only further reselling, ransacking and demolition, as well as some protracted legal wrangles over planning permission. It is a sad state of affairs indeed.
Let us – provided we are not in winter, when it is closed to the public - end our tour somewhere beautiful. If it is not flooded, continue along Campelshon Road and then cross the Knavesmire to Tadcaster Road. Your destination is Goddards, near the junction with St Helen’s Road and the St Edward the Confessor Church. Goddards is the former home of Noel Terry and his family, built in 1927 in the Arts and Crafts style, overlooking the racecourse. Until July 2012, only the gardens were open to the public, as the house was used as office space by the National Trust. However, last summer, they decided to open up some of the rooms to the public and – even better – establish a tea room, serving cakes based on original Terry recipes. The interior has wonderful wood panelling and several interesting exhibitions, and there’s usually a box of Terry’s All Gold out with an instruction to help yourself. The gardens are a tranquil haven, with lawns, terraces, fish ponds, hedges and a large greenhouse where Charlotte has a worrying habit of slamming the doors. One of my absolute favourite places in York.
Well, if you’ve actually done this tour, you must be bloody knackered. Return to the city centre by bus down Tadcaster Road. Hopefully one will take you somewhere near your car.