By Ann Evans

Ann working hard

Ann working hard

York is famous for so many things – it’s magnificent York Minster and medieval architecture, its Georgian town houses, its Victorian railway station, its Viking connection and of course its chocolate!


While other northern parts of the country made their wealth from wool, cotton and steel, York chose to create a thriving industry from chocolate – which continues to this day. Its rivers brought in the the vital ingredients and its railways distributed the finished products all around the country.

Remember these_

Remember these_

York’s chocolate story began in 1725 when Mary Tuke, daughter of a prominent Quaker took the unusual step of setting up a grocery store on Walmgate. In those days merchants had to be members of the Company of Merchant Adventurers and needed a licence if they wanted to trade. Mary wasn’t a member, nor did she meet their prerequisite rules to obtain one. So for seven years she battled against being put out of business by them.


Eventually, when a compromise was reached, the business began to specialise, importing tea from India and manufacturing cocoa and chocolate. The business passed down through three generations spanning over 100 years and eventually drew in a good friend of the Tuke family, a grocer and draper, Joseph Rowntree Snr., and his sons. In 1862 Henry Isaac Rowntree took over the cocoa and chocolate side of the business.

Flavours of chocolate

Flavours of chocolate

The company had its difficulties over the years but when Henry’s brother Joseph Jnr stepped in, he helped the company’s fortunes to improve. A new factory was built at Haxby Road, which grew to become a ‘town within a town’. Joined by Joseph Jnr’s son Seebohm in 1889, they took an active interest in the welfare of their workers and the community at large. Rowntree’s became the first to offer paid holidays, a company pension scheme and a works doctor and dentist.


Their legacy lives on through the charitable trusts they established, one being a forerunner of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the village of New Earswick, which was built for Rowntree’s workers and the people of York.

It's all about chocolate

It’s all about chocolate

If you are visiting the city, then be sure not to miss York’s Chocolate Story. It’s a fascinating guided, inter-active tour where you learn about these famous chocolate-making families and of course their delicious creations.


But you don’t just learn about the origins of chocolate and its history, you also get to watch chocolatiers at work – and even learn how to taste chocolate like an expert! And you get to make your own chocolate lollipop.


Dip into these 10 chocolate facts…


  • The Mayans and Aztecs added honey and sometimes chilli to their chocolate drinks to add flavour.


  • In the 15th century, Central Americans believed chocolate to be so valuable they used it as money.


  • Kit Kat is especially popular in Japan where the name sounds like ‘kitto katsu’ – a Japanese phrase that means ‘surely you will succeed’.


  • Six million Kit Kats are made in York every day and about 564 Kit Kat fingers are consumed every single second.


  • York’s Chocolate Story created the World’s Hottest Chocolate in 2012. Registering at five million on the Scotville scale, it was 100 times hotter than a vindaloo.


  • York produces 80,000 tonnes of confectionery a year.


  • The Terry’s Chocolate Orange was pipped by the Chocolate Apple, and there was even a Chocolate Lemon in the 1980s.


  • At its peak more than 14,000 people were employed in the chocolate industry in York.


  • York’s chocolate and confectionery companies were founded by three families – Rowntree, Craven and Terry.


  • Joseph Rowntree pioneered many social reforms which still benefit the city of York today.


Find out more at:

Making our own lollipops

Making our own lollipops



Visit to get an exclusive 20% discount off a 3 day York Pass. You can also book accommodation and discover what’s to see and do from this website.


The York Pass – once purchased this offers you a choice of free entry into over 30 York attractions and tours, as well as restaurant and shopping offers. You can buy a 1, 2 or 3 day pass making it a superb addition to your leisure break. Email, call the York Visitor Information Centre on 01904 550099 or visit: