From son of a Pocklington baker to founding one of the greatest of York's businesses - Terry's of York
Joseph Terry was born in Pocklington in 1793 the son of a local baker. He grew up in the town before moving to York and starting out in business as an apothecary, then switching to making cakes and confectioneries. By the time of his death 1850 his firm, Terry’s of York, was the city second biggest employer, and under successive generations of the family it became a world famous chocolate manufacturer that is still renowned to this day for such delicacies as ‘Terry’s Chocolate Orange’ and ‘Terry’s All Gold’.
Joseph Terry was born in Pocklington on 11 November 1793. His father, Thomas Terry, was a local tradesman who is listed as a baker in the 1791 directory of the town’s trades and professions, his mother was Elizabeth Dales. Thomas Terry is later recorded as being in business as a butcher in Market Place in the 1823 Baines directory of Pocklington.
After growing up in Pocklington he served an apothecary’s apprenticeship and then opened his own apothecary’s shop in Walmgate in York. In 1823 he married Harriet Atkinson, the daughter of William Atkinson, a substantial farmer from ten miles up the road from Pocklington at Leppington.
One of Harriet’s sisters was married to Robert Berry whose family had been making confectionery, mainly candied fruit peel, in St Helens Square in York since 1767 and Joseph immediately became involved in the business. His initial partnership was called Terry & Berry, but by 1830 Joseph was in sole control. His upbringing in the Pocklington baker’s shop, plus his training and experience as an apothecary gave him an excellent grounding to develop new products, and Terry’s of York quickly developed a wide reputation. The company produced an extensive range including fruit cakes, biscuits, sugar confectionery such as mint balls and acid drops, marmalade, mushroom ketchup, pickles and medicated lozenges.
He also had considerable business acumen and Joseph used the expanding railway network to supply his products to a growing market during the 1830s. He established retail agencies in 75 towns, mainly in the north, but also in the midlands and London, and in 1836 he was a leading light in establishing a trade association in London to protect the quality of confectionery products.
It is likely that he also enjoyed sampling his own handiwork as he is described as “a roly-poly of a man” before his death in 1850 at Huntington, York, aged 56. At the time of his death he employed 127 workers, second only to the city’s glassworks as York’s biggest employers.
His three sons took over the business, and under the leadership of his middle son, who became Sir Joseph Terry (1828-1898) and was four times lord mayor of York, the business further expanded and moved into a new steam-powered factory at Clementhorpe in 1864.
The next generation of Terrys oversaw more expansion, developing up an overseas trade to Australia and New Zealand, and building a separate factory to just produce chocolate. The company had become one of the first in the country to produce chocolate for eating, rather than drinking which had previously been the vogue.
Terry’s remained a family run business for another hundred years, before Terry’s chocolate factory in York was closed in 2005. But Terry’s chocolate is still enjoyed around the world, and five of the old factory’s buildings are listed and still survive – including the clock tower with its impressive large clock that was manufactured by the company of another famous Pocklington man, Thomas Cooke, who also began life in Pocklington and went on to become one of York’s biggest Victorian industrialists.