Clements Hall
Queen Victoria St  with tram

Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe and South Bank areas of York

Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe and South Bank areas of York

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Clementhorpe, York: Over 200 years of work and industry

Two of our members, John Stevens and Mave Morris, having been researching the industrial history of Clementhorpe for us. The results of their explorations are now all on our website. Click this link to find these.

Clementhorpe - Terry Av Terrys Factory

Terry’s Confectionery Works around 1894 (Hugh Murray)

John writes:

If you look at maps of the Clementhorpe area at around the end of the nineteenth century, you will see a number of large buildings variously labelled ‘chemical manure works’, ‘confectionery works’, ‘thread mill’, ‘glassworks’, ‘shipyard’ and so forth. Where they once lay is now a quiet residential suburb, but we can still see hints of the area’s industrial past in the street pattern, names and signs, the street furniture, as well as a couple of surviving industrial buildings that have been converted for residential use. These are Clementhorpe Maltings – now The Maltings – on Lower Ebor Street and the Co-operative Society Works – now Waterfront House – on Terry Avenue.

We set out to trace this history of industrial development, and to look at the way in which employment had changed through the centuries. We wanted to find out why all these trades and industries had grown up and apparently flourished in Clementhorpe, and what had happened to them since. We wanted to find out about some of the enterprising people responsible for their growth. But, we really wanted to know what a ‘chemical manure works’ was!

The industrial development of Clementhorpe was minimal until the mid nineteenth century, apart from a long-established tradition of shipbuilding along the banks of the River Ouse.  Throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, and into the first half of the twentieth century, many different industries were established. Some grew into substantial enterprises, while others fell by the wayside fairly quickly.

In its industrial heyday Clementhorpe must have been a hive of activity. Raw materials arrived by boat, together with the coal to heat and power the manufacturing processes. Horse-drawn vehicles were everywhere. Many of the activities were highly polluting and, together with all the smoke, must have made a very unpleasant environment. We get hints of this from contemporary news items about the disgusting state of Clementhorpe Beck, the widespread keeping of farm animals, the outbreaks of disease and the arrest of a number of businessmen for antisocial and illegal activities.

P1040299

The picture shows one of the Air Company carts, from Cherry St in Clementhorpe, delivering coal in Kyme Street (Photo by John Stevens, courtesy of David Smith, March 2019)

By the late twentieth century, almost all of this industrial activity had ceased. The former manufacturing premises were used for storage, or were demolished to make space for car parking. Some sites were immediately used for new housing, while others lay derelict.

Through a wide variety of written sources and photographic evidence, we have been able to build up a picture of the area. We were also able to interview a number of people having relevant connections with Clementhorpe. Some of this story is already fairly well known, for example, the decision of the Terry family to move their main centre of confectionery manufacture from St. Helen’s Square to a site on the waterfront in Clementhorpe. Other activities such as the manufacture of nails, wooden printing blocks, shoe thread and medicinal bottles, is perhaps less well known.

Arguably, the history of industry and employment in Clementhorpe is a microcosm of the national picture, mirroring the growth and then decline of manufacturing. It is really quite a shock to stand on Skeldergate Bridge and to look south along the modern Clementhorpe river frontage, and to compare this view with the photos taken in the 1970s and earlier. It is almost completely unrecognisable.

Today the changes continue. More people are running small businesses and/or working from home. The retail sector is undergoing a period of rapid change. New commercial buildings are being erected, for example the ‘apart-hotel’ being constructed for Roomzzz on a site where there was once a dye works, a ropery and more recently a set of workshops known as Parkside Commercial Centre.