Cocoa Works: Rowntree factory development

'Home Sweet Home'

‘Home Sweet Home’

On yesterday’s walk around the local patch I ended up at Haxby Road, at the old Rowntree factory. I hadn’t planned to go that way, but was on my way back home and it occurred to me that I probably should make a slight detour to see if any work had started yet on the redevelopment of the site.

Clearly it had, as the hoardings around the site made clear. Clever advertising slogan there: Home Sweet Home, as this of course was where so much confectionery was made, for so many decades.

The Rowntree name isn’t referenced in the naming of the development. It’s called the Cocoa Works. I guess I’d better start calling it that.

I walked along the factory frontage where the old railings and gates were hidden behind hoardings, with a few gaps.

Rusty gates, old factory building in the background

Rusty Rowntree’s remnant, Cocoa Works site, 23 Jan 2021


Factory building and rubble in front

Cocoa Works, work in progress at the old Rowntree factory, 23 Jan 2021

So many times over so many years I’ve stuck my camera through the main gate to take a photo of this entrance and the state of the land around it. Outbuildings to the left have been demolished since I was last up here. They were pictured on one of my earlier pages, on the factory frontage, in Feb 2013.  Blimey, nearly eight years ago. This building has been empty for so long.

Checking back on my earlier pages about this place I can see that there were many (most should appear in the ‘Related posts’ below), and that it’s almost exactly four years since I published a piece about the planning application for this development.

After taking the photo above I noticed a small section of the old factory railing, with an interesting history/archaeology of paint and rust.

Section of old railing with peeling paint, several colours/layers

Rowntree factory railing remnant, 23 Jan 2021

As I got to the end of the factory site I was quite surprised. Quite a dramatic change here: there’s a new road in.

New road curves round factory building

Cocoa works development: new road, 23 Jan 2021

New road, 23 Jan 2021

New road, 23 Jan 2021

It made me realise I hadn’t been up this way to look at this place for quite some time, and it was quite something to see a road running through it. Not that I could go any further along it, as it’s part of the building site and therefore gated off, but still, always interesting to see the opening up of new ways through old places.

Road has newer (in use) factory building on right, houses visible on horizon

New road, past the ‘home of Kit Kat’, 23 Jan 2021

It curves through past factories old and new. These days the manufacturing of Kit-Kat takes place in the building on the right.

On the horizon, just visible, are houses on Wigginton Road. The road is planned to go through to Wigginton Road, eventually.

I took many more photos, but as you can see, the light was quite low by this time and so it wasn’t that easy to get good images (particularly as I’ve had to go back to using a rather old digital camera after my newer one stopped working some time ago).

I headed back, past the factory and the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Library, and the many adverts for the development all along the site boundary.

Ads on hoardings, factory behind

‘A new community’, 23 Jan 2021

I crossed the bridge over the former railway line (now cycle track). The late sun is pleasing as it lights this end of the building.

Glowing brick factory building behind trees

Lit by late afternoon sun, 23 April 2021

Sadly the rather handsome top bit, a bit castle-like, will be altered by the conversion to residential, as previously discussed.

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  1. This building has been empty asking as I’ve lived in York. It really irritates me why they can’t reference the history in the naming…Rowntree’s built it, it made Rowntree’s chocolate! I am still annoyed by the demolition of Sessions and the bland renaming that I can’t even recall! What is going to happen to the library here? I am hoping that the Bumper Castle can be preserved too.

  2. Deborah Roberts

    So sad to see it so desolate and reduced to a shell of what was there.
    We all worked there , dad , bricky who helped build the block on the front in the photos facing Haxby Road and the terrace, brother, electrician later manager of the Kit Kat plant me in various offices inc the dining dept.
    Plus my grandfather , chargehand .
    Actually it was known as The Cocoa Works so that is pretty much correct. The Elect block was at the back of the site where it was produced .I have nothing but anger for those who sold it down the river to Nestles .It only wanted the brands -b—er the jobs and the whole and wonderful Rowntree family ethos of community . Look what is going to be in its place , just a load of little boxes / flats what a disaster.

  3. Virginia Earnshaw

    I have a framed and signed photograph of Mr Joseph Rowntree. It was given to me many years ago by one of his friends.

  4. Edward Turnbull

    Sad to hear and see destructive behaviour of Rowntree York heritage site. Much to reflect upon as I was assistant to Peter Rowntree in his later years.
    Edward Turnbull (Pastor)

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