IN 1912, Gillygate butcher John Gates had a fine house built in Wigginton. Sunnyside, as he called it, was an imposing building at the top of a slight rise in the village main street. It cost the princely sum of £280 3s and 2d.

“We still have the original invoice,” writes his grandson, the third member of his family in succession to be named John, in a new book of the family’s history.

A Hundred Years At Sunnyside gives some delightful glimpses into the life of a York butcher 100 years ago. Sunnyside was one of the very first houses built at Wigginton, John Gates III writes.

“Initially, there were no neighbours, but Brown’s farm, with adjacent nursery and piggery, was soon born. The families were to be neighbours for 100 years. The Browns lived in a railway carriage until their house was built.”

When Sunnyside was first built, his grandfather used the ten acres of farmland immediately behind the house to raise cattle to slaughter for sale in his Gillygate shop, John writes. He played on his own name and on the common York street name Gate to come up with a great slogan for the shop: “Of all the gates there are in York, there’s only one renowned for pork!”

When the First World War broke out, however, his grandfather found it difficult to get staff. “Consequently, the whole business was relocated to Sunnyside as he became a farmer and a butcher.”

John himself, who moved to Australia with his wife, Amanda, and children, Amy and Jack, in 1995, was born in York in 1955. His grandfather had some great sayings, he recalls: including “We do not advertise to sell, we sell to advertise.”

One of John’s favourites, however, is the remark his grandfather reputedly made when someone complained that there were too many stones in the fields he had bought behind Sunnyside: “When you can buy land without stones you’ll get beats without bones.”

His grandfather was not a man to be trifled with: he had a famous temper, John writes. He also liked a drink. He had a horse-drawn cart with which he used to do his meat round: and a habit of visiting local pubs on his way back.

On one occasion he tied horse and meat cart up outside the Half Moon in Strensall while he went in for a drink.

“Soldiers from the nearby Strensall army barracks thought it would be a great joke to take the horse out of the cart and turn it round so it was facing the wrong way,” John writes. “When a tipsy butcher returned he did not find it quite so funny and the soldiers had to make a run for it.”

John’s father, also John, ran the family business for many years. He has since died. Amanda’s sister, Rachael, also ran the business as a farm shop for a time, but that too has now closed.

“We still have a great deal of affection for York and for Wigginton and often get back for visits to see family and friends,” John says. A Hundred Years Of Sunnyside is an affectionate tribute to the family and the childhood home John left behind in York, as well as to a way of life sadly now long vanished.

• A Hundred Years At Sunnyside, by John Edwin Gates, is available, priced £16.62 plus p&p, from