The Chocolate City

The Chocolate City

About the Author

York resident and regular contributor. Fascinated by this historic city and always keen to promote local, independent businesses. The man taking the photographs and tweeting from @Jorvik

York Pass

One of York’s claims to fame is its illustrious chocolate connections. The evocative names of Rowntree’s and Terry’s of York are synonymous with the city. Think Smarties, All Gold, Aero, Chocolate Orange and Kit Kat (6 million of which are produced in York every single day), all familiar names from childhood still going strong today. In 1781 eight confectioners were in production. 19th-century York gained economic stability via its booming chocolate industries whose success hinged on the exceptional railway service.

Fry’s put Bristol on the map in 1847 with their invention of the first edible chocolate bar. However, York is the city to which the top names in the history of chocolate in the UK have been attracted, boasting a wider confectionery history than any other UK city and more confectionery factories than Birmingham with many of the products displayed in York’s Castle Museum.

The Chocolate Story is still at the heart of York

The Chocolate Story is still at the heart of York

York continues its love affair with chocolate having a chocolate Festival and chocolate visitor attraction; York’s Chocolate Trail will lead you into an assortment of sweet delights or join the York Chocolate Club. Craving chocolate on a boat trip on York’s River Ouse is well known, experiencing the heady aroma of chocolate in the air from the nearby chocolate factories. Along with the railways the river played its part in bringing the raw goods to these factories.

Quaker families, which the prestigious chocolate makers originated from, were held in the public’s esteem as being decent and trustworthy business people. The Terry’s name was established in 1823 when Joseph Terry became a partner in a confectionery firm dating back to 1767, gradually increasing and perfecting the company’s chocolate products. In 1993 Terry’s came under the ownership of Kraft Jacobs Suchard but with a Terry family member Peter Terry as its honorary president. St Helen’s Square had a thriving Terry’s chocolate shop and restaurant; the Terry name, set in stone, is still evident today.

Former Terry's shop still bares the name

Former Terry’s shop still bares the name

The Cadbury/Fry link with York came when Joseph Rowntree Senior took George Cadbury and Lewis Fry, both sons of chocolatiers, as apprentices, along with Joseph Rowntree Junior who went on to be the renowned chocolate entrepreneur.

In 1908 Edward Shackleton took a tin of Rowntree’s Elect Cocoa on his Antarctic expedition; in 1958 this tin was discovered intact, still in perfect condition and is now housed in the Nestlé archives in York, which opened in 2011 to safeguard historical records of the city’s fine chocolate-making past. 2012 marks the 150th anniversary year of Rowntree’s, which was acquired by Nestlé in 1988.

Chocolate and its feel-good factor are well known, consequently at the beginning of World War I York’s Lord Mayor sent a Rowntree’s chocolate bar to every York fighting soldier. Rowntree Park on Terry Avenue was gifted to the City of York by Rowntree’s in 1921 as a memorial to those cocoa factory workers killed in World War I.

York remains a chocoholic’s paradise; one can indulge in Yorkshire company Gifttag Chocolate Box, Hotel Chocolat, the Cocoa House on Blake Street, and Bettys Café, the famous Yorkshire business specialising in hand-crafted chocolate, to name but a few.

More Chocolatey Goodness…

For more information on York’s Chocolate story you can visit York’s Chocolate Story and learn about it’s history and Quaker roots. They have an exhibition in King’s Square which is well worth the visit. You can also join York’s Chocolate Club who work closely with York Chocolate Festival to make sure every event is a chocolatey treat for every visitor, as do York Cocoa House who provide a range of chocolate making and tasting sessions on Blake Street.

Leave a Comment