So said Dawn French in her infamous advert for Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Aside from the Vikings, Guy Fawkes and the railways, York is world-renowned for it’s chocolate. And what a sweet and rich chocolate heritage it has. Much has been made of the sad demise of Rowntrees and Terry’s chocolate factories, but a few artisan producers in York are going some way to put York as a chocolate-lovers destination firmly back on the map.
The positioning of York, with the Rivers Ouse and Foss giving easy access to the Humber, means we have the railways to thank for our illustrious chocolate history. Markedly different from it’s Yorkshire neighbours, busy flourishing with their textile mills, the chocolate industry brought York economic stability by providing thousands of jobs and homes to workers.
The Rowntree family were Quakers who purchased the Tukes family business in York in 1862, opened a factory in Tanners Moat, York and eventually expanded to the 24 acre Haxby Road site. Eventually bought for over £4 billion by Nestle in 1988, Rowntree’s was the home of Kit Kat, Aero & Smarties, all much-loved brands. His philanthropic vision was crystallised with the development of New Earswick Village in 1902. Their legacy lives on today in the form of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a charity still working towards social reform.
On the other side of town, Joseph Terry became a business partner in Robert Berry’s chocolate business. Upon his death, his son Joseph Terry Jr, who, like Rowntree, greatly expanded the business. in 1926 it movedfrom Clementhorpe to it’s current riverside site in South Bank. Terry’s All Gold, Chocolate Orange and York Fruits were it’s most successful brands. Die-hard chocolate fans today can see the old shop and tea rooms in St. Helen’s Square in York (now a Swarowski Crystal shop)
Terry’s was taken over by Kraft, who wound the York factory down, and eventually closed it in 2005. Plans were recently accepted to transform the site into an upmarket hotel/shopping/residential complex by The Chocolate Works.
I used to love pulling in to York Station, where the huge billboard advertised “Welcome to York, where the chocolate is chunky and the men are hunky.” Genius. I’m certain York is still a good bet for those on the chocolate trail today. It’s a lovely walk up the river (ironically through Rowntree Park) to see Terry’s factory, and there are some wonderful chocolate shops & producers flying the flag for York. So, come and visit and immerse yourself in this chocolate loving City.
Little Pretty Things , sell lovely chocolates as well as run chocolate making workshops for childrens parties, hen-do’s and tasting demonstrations.
Monk Bar Chocolatiers, 7 The Shambles. Luxury handmade chocolate shop in York’s most famous street.
Maxwell & Kennedy, 79 Low Petergate, York.
Hotel Chocolat, 34 Coney Street York. Part of the growing UK-wide chain.