Joseph Terry and the Terry Chocolate Works

Location of plaques: inside Carluccio's Restaurant on St Helen's Square, and at the Chocolate Works on Campleshon Road

THERE'S a great ghost story told about the old Terry's shop and restaurant on St Helen's Square.

In 1942, a young woman named Elsie used to work in the restaurant above the shop.

During the war, staff took it in turns to sleep in the restaurant, a few of them at a time, just to keep an eye on things.

Elsie had been asked to 'sleep in' on the night of April 28/ 29, 1942 - but declined. She had a funny feeling: and not just because there were rumours of a ghost, a 'Grey Lady' who was reputed to walk from St Helen's Square to the Theatre Royal.

Elsie's ghost story, based on a recording a much older Elsie Hall made many years later, is told in York oral historian Van Wilson's brilliant The Story of Terry's, an updated version of which was published in 2017.

"I'd had a funny night (the night before, April 27/28)," Elsie explains. "The others were all fast asleep. It would be about midnight. I heard footsteps in the room, and knowing that there was supposed to be a ghost, I daren’t do anything.

"We had four basket chairs where we used to sit. Then I heard a chair creak, and I was scared stiff. "Then I felt the footsteps, they'd gone back to this chair. I never heard them actually go out."

She managed, somehow, to fall asleep, and at 6am the next morning asked the nightwatchman if he'd been in. He hadn't.

So when Elsie was asked to sleep in the restaurant the next night, April 28, she declined.

That was, of course, the night of the great York blitz, when bombs rained down on the city. "I thought afterwards it (her ghostly experience) was a sort of warning," Elsie says.

So a kindly ghost then - but still a story to send a shiver down the spine.

St Helen's Square is where the first factory to bear the Terry's name was located. A shop and factory belonging to confectioners Bayldon & Berry (after partners William Bayldon and Robert Berry) opened there in 1818.

William retired in 1821 and on the death of Robert Berry in 1825, Joseph Terry (who had had an apothecary's, or chemist's, shop in Walmgate) formed a new partnership with George Berry. The pair renamed the St Helen's Square business Terry & Berry. Joseph used his skills as a chemist to develop new sweets and confectioneries.

When George left the business in 1828, Joseph took sole charge, renaming it Joseph Terry & Co. There was 'The Front Shop' facing onto St Helen's Square, with a small factory behind making cakes, comfits, sugar sweets, marmalade, candied peel, mushroom ketchup and medicated lozenges.

Joseph died in 1850, but the business passed down to his sons. Terry's began to make chocolate products in the 1860s, and built a new chocolate factory at Clementhorpe in 1886.

In 1923, Francis and Noel Terry bought a site on Bishopthorpe Road and built the Terry's Confectionary Works there. The beautiful art deco building, complete with iconic clock tower, opened in 1926.

Generations of York families worked at the Clementhorpe and then Bishopthorpe factories, or else in the shop and restaurant in St Helen's Square. But in 1963, the company was taken over by Forte: and then in 1993 it was bought out by Kraft.

Despite huge local opposition, Kraft closed the Terry's factory in 2005. The factory and the land around it is now being converted into housing.

The Terry's name lives on, however, in products like the chocolate orange, in plaques inside Carluccios on St Helen's Square and at the chocolate works at Campleshon Road - and above all in the hearts and minds of the people of York.

Stephen Lewis

For the stories behind more York Civic Trust plaques, visit