Terry's of York: The story of a chocolate empire that shaped a city

The Chocolate Works still dominate the York skyline
The Chocolate Works still dominate the York skyline
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York is a city that has been intrinsically linked to chocolate for hundreds of years.

The story of the growth of the confectionery giant Terry's - which became one of the city's biggest employers - is one of constant innovation and canny foresight.

The St Helen's Square shop and restaurant was a popular destination in York for over 150 years

The St Helen's Square shop and restaurant was a popular destination in York for over 150 years

The Yorkshire chocolate baron's mansion that you can visit

Early days

The business pre-dates the Terry's name. it began as a sweet and lozenge shop on Bootham Bar in 1767, when two men, Robert Berry and William Bayldon, formed a partnership. In 1818, they moved to the St Helen's Square premises that were to become the focal point of the brand over the next two centuries.

Enter Joseph Terry, the man who outlasted them all. He was an apothecary and chemist who was invited to join the Bayldon & Berry business after Bayldon's retirement - he had married a Berry woman. When Robert died in 1825, George Berry joined Terry, and it became Terry & Berry. Another man later came in, but by 1830 he and George had both left. Joseph Terry was the sole owner and free to pursue his expansion plans.

The Terry's factory entrance in the 1930s

The Terry's factory entrance in the 1930s

This Norman castle in Yorkshire is owned by the Queen and only open for one day each year

The chocolate kings

Joseph Terry was astute at harnessing improving transport links to benefit his business. He put his chemistry skills to good use by creating new chocolate lines, and began to use the developing North Eastern Railway network, which had York at its heart, to send his products for sale in London.

He died in 1850, and control was passed to his three sons, Joseph Jnr, Robert and John.

Joseph Jnr was the driving force behind the company's rapid industrialisation. He moved production to a new factory at Clementhorpe, next to the River Ouse. This location was convenient for the shipment of cocoa and sugar from the Humber docks to the production site by steam ship. Coal also came by boat.

His profile grew and he was knighted in 1887 before becoming Lord Mayor of York in 1890. The St Helen's Square site became a shop and restaurant which would continue to trade until 1980 - it's now a Carluccio's restaurant.

New generation

Joseph Snr had ridden the first wave of chocolate's popularity following the increase in sugar imports from British colonies in the Caribbean. By the time his grandsons Frank and Thomas took over 1898, sweet products were becoming more accessible to the masses. Thomas's son Noel - who lived at the family's Goddards House mansion in Dringhouses that still stands today - joined in 1910.

After World War One, a new period of expansion began, with new products launched and the huge Chocolate Works factory on Bishopthorpe Road opened. The famous Chocolate Orange went on sale in 1931.

For sale: Railway station house at Dent on the Settle to Carlisle line

The family lose control

Terry's gradually fell victim to globalisation and consolidation in the years following World War Two. Several large food conglomerates acquired the Terry's brand at various times, including Colgate and United Biscuits. Kraft Foods bought it out in 1993.

In 2000, the company's links to York were eroded when the name was changed from Terry's of York to Terry's. Production was scaled back at Chocolate Works.

The hammer blow came in 2004, when production was moved to factories in mainland Europe. The famous Chocolate Works plant closed in 2005.

The legacy lives on

The St Helen's Square restaurant was loved by generations of York residents - it even had a ballroom. It's Grade II-listed, and in 2017 Joseph Snr's great-great-great-grandson Anthony Terry unveiled a blue plaque dedicated to his ancestor.

Nothing remains of the Clementhorpe factory - it was demolished in 1987, although a Roman mosaic was discovered on the site and preserved.

The Chocolate Works still dominate the York skyline - they've also been listed and converted into a residential development.

The National Trust now own Goddards House, the Arts & Crafts mansion built in the 1920s for Noel Terry and his family. The house contains exhibitions about the family's history and the stunning gardens, which include a tennis court and croquet lawn, are open to the public.