With Easter just around the corner, there’s only one thing that is sure to lighten our spirits just now: chocolate, of course. The UK has a rich chocolate history, particularly the city of York, where chocolate production dates back to almost 300 years ago. So, with Easter only a matter of days away, hopefully York’s chocolate story will put you in the mood for some sugary goodness if you aren’t already.
There are many iconic chocolate factories all across the UK such as Fry’s in Bristol, England’s first confectionary company, and Cadbury World in Birmingham, arguably Britain’s most popular and recognisable chocolate brand. But it’s really York that is known as Britain’s home of chocolate, simply because it’s the city with the richest chocolate history and home to the factories of Rowntree’s, Nestle and previously Terry’s.
First came Rowntree’s. Its history can be traced back to the 1700s, when a woman named Mary Tuke set up a grocery store which would go on to specialise in cocoa and chocolate. In 1862, the business was purchased by Henry Isaac Rowntree and eventually Rowntree’s Cocoa Works was established in 1890, a factory so big it even had its own fire brigade. In 1988, Rowntree’s was bought over by Nestle. Now, chocolate that was once produced only by Rowntree’s is branded as Nestle’s.
Terry’s Chocolate Works opened in 1923 by Joseph Terry and began producing the iconic Chocolate Orange. However, the factory closed in 2005 as it was bought over by Kraft Foods and chocolate production was moved to factories in Europe. Nonetheless, the Terry’s legacy continues to live on in York.
York has to thank its location on the River Ouse for making it the UK’s chocolate capital as this made it easy for ingredients to be shipped in from afar. Once the railway industry took off, chocolate distribution did too. Terry’s and Rowntree’s soon became household names as they were transported all over the UK. Railways also helped to bring new workers to the city, many working in the chocolate factories and ultimately helping York’s chocolate empire thrive.
Much of Britain’s best-loved chocolate was born in York, including KitKats, Areos, Smarties, After Eights and Yorkies.
A Chocolate City
Not only does York have a sizable amount of chocolate factories, there are museums dedicated to the history of chocolate making in the city and a Chocolate Festival that takes place annually.
In March 2012, the York Chocolate Story museum opened, showcasing the history of chocolate making in York. Located in the centre of York, it has become one of the city’s main tourist attractions. For anyone who is keen to learn more about the history of chocolate or taste some, a visit to the York Chocolate Story museum is a must.
The Chocolate Festival usually takes place on Easter weekend each year, bringing together the chocolate industry and confectioners, chocolate lovers, artisan chocolatiers, museums and attractions.
Did you know?
Here are some facts you might not have known about York’s chocolate history. Who knows when these might come in handy?
- ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ by Roald Dahl was inspired by the competitive rivalry between Cadbury’s and Rowntree’s
- Before the iconic Terry’s Chocolate Orange, there was Terry’s Chocolate Apple, but this didn’t do so well.
- Rowntree’s factory once employed up to 14,000 staff
- The Queen was the first person to ever receive a bar of entirely English chocolate, made from cocoa beans grown in the Rowntree’s hot house in York
Indulge in the York’s rich chocolate history through our English Food and Drink package.
If you’d like to find out more, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.