York is well known for its remnants, the fragments of the past that provide the bedrock upon which the city is built.
When we think of historic buildings and the city’s past, not just visitors, but incomers and natives, we initially think of the Minster, Multangular Tower and the grand houses on The Mount.
Today, in a city where 90% of people work in service industries, it is important to remember the not so distant past when tens of thousands toiled in factories, many of whose buildings still survive.
Whilst not the largest, the Terry’s Factory next to the Knavesmire, presided over by its clock tower, is by far the grandest.
On Monday work began to construct flats and houses for the city’s growing population on the site of the demolished late twentieth century buildings. Plans to bring the remaining buildings back into use are currently being negotiated.
As such the original 1920s blocks still stand, proud but slightly dilapidated.
They aren’t entirely unused these days. Over the last few months the second series of Channel 4’s, graphic novel inspired, Utopia was partly filmed here.
However, for those who like buildings and their quirks the key delight of the Terry’s Factory is its intricacy and the way in which it is slowly going to seed, sadly decaying.
A building where thousands once toiled-up until 2005, producing famous products like the Chocolate Orange. A product then when first sold in the 1930s was called an apple, because oranges were scarce and even the wealthy demographic targeted by Terry’s were unlikely to consume many of them. Today the factory is resting.
No longer a clanking hive of production it has become almost like a part of the landscape.
Whereas other building’s in York, the Minster, say, or from a more industrial perspective the “Destructor” chimney besides Morrison’s, are clearly part of the urban texture. What Lionel Esher, the city’s conservation consultant in the late 1960s, described as its distinctive “silhouetted character”. The Terry’s buildings don’t conform to this, they stand proud, alone.
Richards Partington Architects, the developers of the housing scheme, told us last month that they hope to unify their development with the factory buildings. It will be as if they are in conversation. Their plans are proud to draw upon the area’s industrial heritage, in many ways once built property firm David Wilson homes will have delivered the “mill town” that the factory never had.
For now, though, the factory continues to rust. Its interiors slowly turning the same shade as the famous burnished gold logo, stirring an autumnal sense in the viewer.
As a piece of social history the factory is fascinating. This is what happens when an industry packs up, leaves, and relocates half a continent away. Today the surviving Terry’s brands are manufactured in Poland.
We are drawn by its tarnished ornateness and the minutiae, a sign here, office workers cubicles there, that draw us into a lost world. A world at once very much like, yet unlike our own.
We think how strange it must have been for the employees of the Terry’s firm to walk away from their close knit South Bank industrial world.
In terms of experience, pretty and prosperous York is a million miles away from the grim and ground down former pit villages of Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire and County Durham. Or a burnt out mill town like Keighley, Blackburn or Burnley. However, even if they “moved on” and got new work, to leave such a world must have been a wrench for Terry’s staff.
Hopefully the redevelopment plans will come to full fruition and the former halls of industry shall one day sing again. However, for now, take a gander, at wonderful remnants of the Terry’s chocolate company.
The former factory is so evocative its no wonder that it fires the imagination of filmmakers.