250 years of the Terry family business

Women at work in the Terry factory in 1930

From chemist to chocolatiers - discover crucial part Terry's of York played in York's chocolate heritage.

The early years

The business was started in 1767 as a small shop in York’s city centre close to Bootham Bar. The owners at that time were William Bayldon and Robert Berry.

Joseph Terry - the chemist

Joseph moved to York in 1813 and served as an apprentice apothecary in Stonegate, later setting up his own chemist shop in Walmgate. In 1823 he married Harriet Atkinson, a relative of Robert Berry and joined the Berry family business which was now in St. Helen's Square.

Joseph Terry (the younger) - the confectioner

In 1854, Joseph Terry (junior) married Frances Goddards and had three sons, Joseph, Samuel and Thomas (who becasme Noel's father). 

By 1867, the Terry business price list had 400 items but only 13 were chocolate, the rest were boiled sweets and confectionary. The business was based at Clementhorpe by the river.

By 1890 the business had around 300 employees who worked 59 hour weeks, which they petitioned to reduce to 50 hours!

Thomas Terry - the businessman

Joseph's son by his first marriage took the business international. He died in a road traffic accident leaving Noel Terry without a father figure.


" Terry’s of York was the Rolls Royce of confectionary."
- Tony Coward, former employee at Terry's

A family affair

Terry’s was a great employer in York and not only a family firm in terms of ownership, but many employees worked with, or succeeded, family members in the factory or met their spouse whilst at work. 

Noel and Sir Francis Terry - the chocolatiers

Noel first met Kathleen in 1910, he was 20 and she 17. He started working at Terry's a year later and they married in 1915.

Noel and his step-uncle Francis became joint managing directors in 1923 and work started for transition of the business to its Bishopthorpe Road site the following year. The new factory was finished in 1926, designed by J.E. Wade with the, now iconic, 135ft clock tower. 

They led the business through its heyday in the 1920s and 30s. The focus was very much on chocolate with the creation of the iconic Terry's Chocolate Orange and All Gold. Under their control, production and revenue almost doubled. 

By 1937 the company had 2500 employees, of these 492 were male, 1495 female. Socially, the company had many sports teams its workers participated in, as well as dinners and dances.

Wall mural from the old chocolate factory
Wall painting showing a chocolate orange and the words Welcome To Chocolate Orange from the old chocolate factory
Wall mural from the old chocolate factory

A royal visit

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the Bishopthorpe factory on 19 October 1937. The Queen and the two princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret who were not actually present, were presented with chocolates.

Banners, ribbons and a marching band marked the occasion, as well as thousands of workers who cheered from the side lines, you can get a flavour of the day from this Yorkshire Film Archive footage. Noel and Sir Francis led the welcome committee before the king and queen were shown around the factory visiting everywhere from the testing laboratories to the production lines. 

Life at Goddards for the Terry family

At the same time the business was growing and moving, Noel commissioned Walter Brierley to build his family home on a 3 acre site in Dringhouses with George Dillistone to design the garden. They move in to Goddards 1927 and had four children: Peter, Kenneth, Betty and Richard; Peter joined the company in 1945.

" We were not allowed to visit the chocolate factory until we were 12 years old. Before that, our closest connection to Terry’s was the chocolate drawer in our father’s study which we were permitted to visit more or less at will."
- Betty Lawrie, daughter of Noel and Kathleen Terry

The end of an era

In 1963 Forte, the multi-billion pound owners of various hotels, took over Terry’s, with Noel being offered a directorship on Forte’s board. The Lord Mayor of York at the time, Mrs. Mona Armitage, was widely quoted as saying that she didn’t know whether Terry’s had been 'fortified' or whether Fortes had been 'terrified'. 

in 1978 it was consequently bought by Colgate Palmolive for around £17 million. Sales continued to grow and United Biscuits bought the business in 1982 for £25 million.

In 1993, Kraft bought it for £220 million and production moved to Estern Europe in the early 2000s with the York factory closing in 2005 and the loss of 317 jobs. When Peter heard that Kraft were closing the York factory, he called it ’the saddest day’ of his life and remarked ‘So Terry’s of York will be no more…’

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