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.

. . . . .

Update (27 Dec 2018): the original Gillygate Wholefood Bakery

Since this page was originally published on 27 May 2015 many interesting comments have been added (see below). Thanks to everyone who has contributed their memories and thoughts on a place I couldn’t find much information on back then.

Earlier this year I was sent a couple of photos of the original Gillygate Wholefood Bakery, and the people who worked there, before it moved to Miller’s Yard (see above). I’ve been meaning to get around to adding them for some time, and the most recent comment below, from Sarah Jo, has prompted me to get around to doing that. Apologies that I didn’t do so sooner. The photos are from the late 1970s. See below for more info.

The original premises on Gillygate, 1977/78

The original premises on Gillygate, 1977/78

The original premises on Gillygate, 1977/78

The original premises on Gillygate, 1977/78

I’m not sure who took the photos, but many thanks to the person who sent them to me, and also added the following information:

“The Bakery started across the road from Miller’s Yard (before it existed), at no 12 Gillyate I think … started by the man with the white cap and glasses, Mike Sheppard; who came from Botton Village Camphill, in Danby Dale, Yorks, in order to set up a working/living city centre environment. So began the bakery.
The photos from date from 1977 or ’78.
Man in sleeveless jumper is Andrew. Man in white overalls and blue shirt is Mike (Brid) Jackson (a baker). Man in blue checked shirt is ‘Toosh’ (master baker). Man in overalls and green top is Barry (miller). Man in overalls and white shirt is Geordie Dave. Woman in blue jeans is Alex. Woman kneeling is Val (Toosh’s wife). Other woman with glasses may be Marian?
A key missing person is Anne (Maggie) Sikking … who was a major working partner with Mike Sheppard and Toosh in running the bakery. She later wrote about help with founding other cooperative businesses, and is now a writer in York and has a restaurant, El Piano.”

. . . . .

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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!

    • Thanks Karl, good to know that the equipment and recipes live on, in a different place. I think this must be the one?: Saker Wholefoods

    • Mark Goodall

      Hi Karl- does Saker publish a recipe book for breads like the old Gillygate ones?

      • Karl Badger

        Alas , documents and recipes were lost when the bakery bought a historic former printworks in todmorden .a few bits of equipment are still here. Our bread baking techniques haven’t changed since gillygate, nor will they!!!

  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?

    • Karl Badger

      The gillygate loaf was made using the no-time-dough process. The freshly milled flour was not of bread making strength, ‘vital’ wheat gluten was added, as well as sunflower oil, yeast and salt. It’s nutty flavour could be attributed to using freshly milled flour, as well as its dense consistency.

  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.

  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 :)

  7. Hi, I was involved with GWB from the earliest days when it was at 12 Gillygate. It was set up by Mike with some folks from Botton village. Barry Dent and Will Farley worked there for a lot of years. Other workers we Toosh and Val, Maggi, Mike Brid, Andrew, Jane Ros, Betsy and many many others. I remember when Suma deliveries arrived in a little mini van with a giant ‘Atomic Power No Thanks’ stick on the bonnet! We acquired the yard over the road and converted the old buildings into mill, bakery and shop, with the help of fabulous builders Geoff the roofer, Mark, Steve – the stone mason who did the plaque when he wasn’t working on the minster, and loads of volunteers. This became Miller’s Yard. There were always people with different needs working at Gillygate, milling, baking, bagging whole foods, serving in the shop etc, and this eventually developed to setting up the Well Workshops (named for the well found in the courtyard) where we did machine knitting and we also made beautiful salt dough Christmas decorations, initially in the bakery and later in the workshops. Over the years I worked as a baker, miller, bagger, shop help and with setting up the workshops. There were never ending co-op meetings, often held at the Royal Oak on Goodramgate, and, I would say, a real committed community with all it’s ups and downs. I was very sad to learn that GWB closed, but glad it’s equipment continues to make good bread, and that Steve’s plaque still catches the eye…

  8. Ann Davidson

    I worked at Gillygate Wholefood Bakery back in the 1978/1980 and met my husband Charlie there. I was the flour bagger and he was the maintenance man! We live up in Scotland now but remember you Sarah and all the folk you mention. It was great to be part of the co-op movement. Charlie and I helped move the ovens over the road overnight to the new premises – rockwool and oil everywhere. Charlie made the windows for the miller’s yard premises and I painted the original signs – all gone now, but luckily Steve’s stone plaque survived which set this whole train of memories going. Amazing to see Marion there in the original photo and everyone looking so young!

    • Hello Ann and Charlie !
      How you doing …it’s been along time :)
      I worked for short while in old GWB bakery/shop then moved over to new site did bits of work ..and it was great to meet all involved
      Some good memories and lovely folk:)

      • Ann Davidson

        Hey Jackie! how are you doing? Would love to catch up – email us on I’m hoping to find our pics of Miller’s Yard refurbishment to put on the site soon. Meantime, wonder if folks remember the lovely bread and slices we used to sell in the original shop? Wholemeal bread, large, small and rolls, cheese and thyme and cheese and garlic loaves. Apricot and coconut slices, date slices and date crunch, savoury slice, bean pasties, plus lots of filled rolls and pizza at lunchtimes. Delicious, and difficult to find proper wholemeal stuff like it now, let alone back then. When we moved to the newer, larger premises there was more room, and new recipes. All made from wholemeal flour milled on site from local wheat – wow!

  9. Anya (Liz) Kukureka

    What lovely memories of this community! I lived in York from the mid-70s to ’96, & used to buy breads & food from the wonderful Gillygate shop weekly. The garlic & cheese / thyme loaves were the best I’ve ever eaten! I made friends there too (Barry was fab in his ‘jolly miller’ overall). Later, I enjoyed going to Millers’ Yard too.
    I have been trying to find Mike Sheppard & his wife Susan, their daughter Marion & son for years. They stayed with us in the late 80s or early 90s from America, but I’ve lost touch.
    I’d be most grateful for any news about Mike’s family! :)

  10. Hi, just come across this. I used to work in the shop -1994/5 with Julie (she left to teach) and then Katy. Fond memories of the place – people and the food!

  11. What brought me here was our 1986 BBC Food Aid Cookery Book edited by Delia Smith with input from Terry Wogan. The treasured book (now falling apart at the seams!) contains a well loved Gillygate Bean Casserole recipe, submitted by GWB. Still a family favourite after all these years as evidenced by the splodges and handwritten notes on its page in the book.

    Thanks to all the commenters for your information on the GWB backstory, very interesting.

  12. Mark Goodall

    An interesting project would be to piece together the old Gillygate recipes into a new publication. Someone out there must have a stained and crumpled note book with them all in!

  13. Marje Stephenson

    Last week on 15th of November 2021 Dave Stoddart one of the bakers at Gillygate Wholefood Bakery passed away after a long illness.
    Love you and miss you.
    Marje, the boys and grandchildren

    • Karl Badger

      Cheerful memories of him. Could we get Dylan to arrange a reunion, he’s at the heart of the old place

  14. I worked across the road from the yard in the mud 1980’s and have fond memories of the bakery. My absolute favourite were the potato pies with delicious creamy onion and potato filling. My boss used to go buy them for us when they were hot straight out of the oven. I have been trying to find a recipe to make these for years. If anybody on here worked in the bakery and remembers the recipe I would love to know.

  15. Karl Badger

    Think the potato pies were called homity pies. Potatoes, garlic onion, spice, topped with cheese and paprika, I think

  16. Jonathan S

    Great to come across this. I was a regular at GWB from the mid to the late 80s. The cheese, garlic & thyme loaf was a regular purchase as were the homity pies. Lovely soups, salads and a sense of solidarity too. If memory serves me well one iteration was called “The Bees Knees”.

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