Miller’s Yard and Gillygate Wholefood Bakery

GWB - A Workers' Co-operative - 1982 -

I often walk through Miller’s Yard, Gillygate, taking a short cut from that street into Bootham Row car park and then to Sainsbury’s on Bootham. I rarely go the other way, and when I do I’m usually in a hurry. Wandering through there recently, when I wasn’t in such a hurry, I stopped to read the posters in a window and then noticed Tom Mason’s bench.

And then remembered sitting here with my sister, decades back, sitting at tables outside — wooden benches like the type in pub beer gardens, as in the Exhibition pub, just across the yard — having lunch, and drinking tea. And sparrows, I remember sparrows on the ground around the tables, looking for crumbs. Funny the details you remember.

Miller's Yard, 2015

Further thought reminded me that this would have been when Gillygate Wholefood Bakery occupied this corner of Miller’s Yard, and that it would have been the late 1980s into the mid 1990s. (I know that the Gillygate Wholefood Bakery was here until the mid 1990s because it used to sell Subtext magazine in 1995-6.)

When did it close? I can’t remember. But when I went back to take the photos for this page I discovered that the year of its opening is there, carved in stone. I don’t recall noticing this before either. Proudly proclaiming the establishment of this Workers’ Co-operative, in 1982.

GWB - A Workers' Co-operative - 1982


Nicely carved lettering. I wonder who did it. Once you start looking properly there are so many questions.

I took one photo of Miller’s Yard one bright morning in 2004 when on my first ‘York Walks’ for this website:

Miller's Yard, in 2004

But since then I’ve been dashing through it with no thoughts surfacing.

Until the plaque on the bench made me stop awhile, pause, pay attention.

Miller's Yard, 2015, view towards back of Exhibition pub

Somewhere in my vast piles of York-related papers and cuttings I’ve got an old article about the Gillygate Wholefood Bakery, dating from the late 1980s, I must try to find it.

Meanwhile, do other readers remember it? I’m also wondering if someone can clarify whether the wholefood bakery and cafe occupied two of these units together, here in the corner? I remember it that way, but may be wrong. So many years ago …

Miller's Yard, 2015, from Gillygate entrance

I Googled for more information, but didn’t find much. This Workers’ Co-operative may have a stone in place in Miller’s Yard but doesn’t seem to have much of a record here in the online world, so please add a comment if you have further information, thoughts, or memories.

. . . . .

If you’ve found this website interesting and useful and would like to support it virtual coffees are always welcome. Thanks.


  By Lisa @YorkStories 27 May 2015 , To link to this page's proper location please use the > permalink

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  1. karl badger

    hi, gillygate began baking 40 yrs ago. i baked there 85-92.they stopped baking in 96, the equipment and recipes moved accross the pennines to saker wholefoods,where they continue to bake organic bread!

  2. Jo Driver

    I Worked at GWB in approx 1986, it was a lovely place to work. There always some really awesome food, really thick vegetarian soups and “Ron Tofu” used to make the most gorgeous tofu burgers which went beautifully in one of the gorgeous wholemeal rolls. Nearest to the exhibition pub was Well workshops which was a craft studio for adults with learning disabilities to make and sell gifts, next door to that was the cafe and adjoining with a door inside and accessed from outside was the bakery. Beyond that the kitchen and grain store/mill

    I Returned to Millers yard a few years ago with my to see what the situation was and was delighted to find that the old grain store was in fact a cafe. To my delight it belonged to Dylan who I worked with in the 1980’s

  3. Just was going through some things from my past and found a cookbook from York Wholefood Restaurant. I was in York during 1984-5 and remember the Gillygate Loaf. Anyone have a recipe they could share?

    • I hope the recipe for the Gillygate Loaf is out there somewhere and finds its way to this page. Someone I know has very fond memories of the tofu burgers at the Gillygate Bakery cafe – don’t suppose that’s one of the recipes in the book?

  4. I lived and worked in York between 1978 and 1982, and used to go to the Gillygate Wholefood Bakery for lunch every day. I can still remember some of the wonderful sandwiches, pasties and cakes (think the bean pasties and falafels stand out as the tastiest.)

  5. Andrew Russell

    I worked at Gillygate between 82 and 88 as a baker alongside some remarkable people. I happened across GWB one day soon after moving to York from Sheffield (as a baker) and as soon as they’d have me I began work there. I have wonderful memories of that very significant period in my life; The likes of Toosh, Mike Brid, Blaise, Gill Carrigan and Jill Cadman…a time not equaled for its creativity since.

    • Jo Driver nee Clarkson.

      Ahh Andrew it was great indeed. I was weekend/holiday staff at that time and worked with Becky,Tina & Blaise and lovely Karen too Some of my happiest memories of my teenage years.

    • hows Mr sax,stll behind the desk ,forgot the e dress 4 you but alice will be quite a age now,s channelly livin in your neck of the woods,and how are the rest of you rcp decliners,oap s with little pension on the cards for the travels,see Dylan puts it to country….love 2 hear from you keep smiling sir……..

  6. Hello, I came across this post and comments after reading about Gillygate in the ICOM publication ‘Co-ops with a difference’. I’m currently the project archivist for the HLF project ‘Working Together:recording and preserving the heritage of the workers’ co-operative movement’, based at the National Co-operative Archive in Manchester. The aim of this project is to locate where records of worker co-ops of the 1970s-1990s exist, and ensure that these are preserved for the future. I’ve attached a link below with a bit more detail about this project. I was wondering if anyone in the comments who used to work at Gillygate is aware of any records relating to the Gillygate worker co-op, either held by yourselves or others? If so, or if you have any questions about the project please feel free to contact me at Thank you, and thanks Lisa for a really interesting and useful post :)

    • Hi Philippa, am pleased this was of interest in your research, sounds interesting. I have the email addresses provided when the comments were left on this page, I can contact the contributors and perhaps they can help, I hope so. Will add it to my list. Have quite a big list so hope it’s not urgent :)

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