MATT CLARK enjoys a new exhibition at Goddards, the former home of Noel Terry, which celebrates the house's 90th birthday

ANYONE for tennis? proclaims a board in a hidden corner of the garden at Goddards House and Garden. Or for that matter how about a game of croquet. Bats and balls are provided at reception, so no need to bring your own.

Perhaps you’d prefer something a little more sedate. If so a glass of sherry in the drawing room should be just the ticket and while you’re there be sure to catch up on the latest edition of the Terry Times.

Priced 2 ½d, it’s always a fascinating read. Apparently the current headline reads 'Terry’s factory has been on Bishopthorpe Road for ten years, already'. How time flies.

Of course it refers to the company’s heyday during the years after World War One. While others were struggling, the company was at its height, but Clare Alton-Fletcher, Goddards site manager for the National Trust, says for all his success in business, the only thing Noel Terry really wanted was to provide for his family.

“He undoubtedly had enough money to build a huge peacock of a house, but he built Goddards on Tadcaster Road in York away from prying eyes with the gatehouse in front,” says Clare. “He famously didn’t aspire to fame, rank or riches, he just aspired to a home.”

And now that Goddards is cared for by the National Trust we can make ourselves at home there too.

The decision to adopt a relaxed attitude came partly because the priceless Terry furniture collection is now housed in Fairfax House, which meant a ‘do not touch’ approach was a lot easier to resist.

So you really can put your feet up in the drawing room, pour yourself a glass of sherry and just while away the afternoon. Some visitors have even been known to doze off.

“One of the most frequent comments we hear from people is that they could imagine themselves living here,” says Clare. “I think the scale of some of the rooms means it’s not dissimilar to people’s own homes.”

This month there is another reason to visit because there is a double celebration going on: 250 years of Terry’s as a company and 90 years since Goddards was built.

As you might expect, a new display celebrates the two milestones. Among the highlights are rare photos of the family inspecting the foundations and one of a man who worked at Terry’s for 55 years man and boy, not to mention more boxes of chocolates than you could shake a stick at – sadly all are way past their sell by date.

There’s a clock for every year the house and gardens have been open to visitors, Peter Terry’s gramophone player to inspect and even the original estimate from the builders, which at £25,980 included everything from the chauffeur’s cottage to the drains and gates.

You will also be able to read many newly unearthed stories from families of people who worked on the house 90 years ago.

“One of them concerns a painter who came up from London and it gives you a sense of just how long some of the projects took,” says Clare. “His work ran on so long that in the time he was in York he found a house, he met a woman and married her, yet all the while he was still painting and decorating at Goddards.”

There’s also some interesting correspondence between Noel, William Anelay the builder and Walter Brierley the architect, but perhaps the most fascinating elements on show are the most mundane, because some of the happenings at Goddards were timeless snapshots of the effects caused by national events.

Take one most apologetic letter explaining that another consignment of bricks had been delayed. The letter is dated 1926 and coincides with the General Strike at its height.

Then there is another apology, this time for the windows being late due to the whole workforce being laid low with flu thanks to the national influenza epidemic.

Such things might explain why the house was still very much work in progress when the family moved in on 25 August 1927 - 90 years ago tomorrow.

“I don’t know whether it was stubbornness on the part of Mr Terry but it really wasn’t ready for the family to live in,” says Clare. “We know this because there is a letter that expressly says they had to take out their own insurance for occupation because the house was a building site.”

Even letters pleading for the house to be ready by Christmas fell on deaf ears. Living in Goddards in 1927 must have been like the will it, won’t it moments on Grand Designs just before the ad breaks.

“It would have been very tricky because they had three young children,” says Clare. “However for the kids it must have been a lot of fun. In fact some of the pictures on display show how much they were enjoying it all.

There’s a nice image of one of the boys beside the newly excavated pond. No water, no surrounding trees, no croquet lawn. It’s all very different now.

The exhibition also shows how other national events played out at Goddards over the decades. Pictures show the garden turned into vegetable plots during the wartime dig for victory campaign. Then there is the air raid shelter and accounts of how the house was managed when the servants left to do their bit for King and country.

But once Noel began to take a back seat in the business the house stopped mirroring the times. There may have been a cultural revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, but it certainly didn’t trouble Goddards.

“You get a sense that Noel retreated back into the house,” says Clare. “The Terry’s luxury market wasn’t there any more, there was a series of takeovers and this house began to stand still.”

Perhaps that was the point all along. Goddards was deliberately old fashioned; hand built in the Arts and Crafts style and filled with quality Georgian furniture. This was the family’s little oasis, almost stopped in time and well away from everything else in the world.

The remarkably well documented story throughout its 90 year history makes this new exhibition a fascinating one to delve into. But there is one memory that it can’t retell.

Noel’s daughter Betty said on a return visit to Goddards that her abiding memory was of breakfast and in particular ‘the glorious smell of bacon wafting around’ in the dining room.

Visit before noon, when the butties are on sale and you just might understand what she meant.

Goddards House and Garden opens Wednesday – Sunday (plus August bank holiday) until 5 November 2017. For further details call 01904 771930 or visit

Stand-alone quote

“One painter’s work ran on so long that in the time he was in York he found a house, he met a woman and married her, yet still he was painting and decorating at Goddards.”- Clare Alton Fletcher

About Goddards House and Garden:

Goddards is the former family home of Noel Terry, of the famous Terry’s of York chocolate firm. Built in 1927, the house was home to Noel, Kathleen, Peter, Betty and Richard Terry until in the 1980s it was bought as the National Trust regional office. In 2012, part of the house and the garden was opened with a tearoom to visitors who can now enjoy a mix of period rooms, beautiful gardens and exhibitions.



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