21st July 2022
A facelift for Capaldi's
We were delighted to see that a famous building in Fetter Lane has had a bit of a facelift. It used to house Capaldi's ice cream factory but is now a residential block, although the name has remained as an iconic symbol of Bishophill in bygone days.
Jamie Walker, who is a member of the family, was able to tell us quite a lot about this famous business in York.
Joe Capaldi came over from Picinisco in Italy, where all the Capaldi's come from, originally Greek settlers to Italy. He arrived when he was only 12 years old, to work for a man in Manchester who owned a barrel organ and a dancing monkey. Joe's role was to collect the money from the audience, but the man promised Joe’s parents that he would ensure that he would get him a job once he was too old to work for him. Keeping this promise he got him a job as a kitchen porter in the Midland Hotel in Manchester, where he trained to be a chef, later moving to the Station Hotel in York, along with his friend Maurice Board, who had already transferred there.
Joe met Margaret there, as she was working as a chambermaid, and they married and had three sons in quick succession, Antonio, Vincenzo, Ramon. (Ramon was named after Ramon Navarro, a famous film star of the time).
The Capaldi family (Giuseppe 'Joe' and Margaret nee Geraghty) then started making ice cream in the kitchen of their then home in Layerthorpe in the early 1930s, selling it from pony and carts around the streets of York. Ramon was born in 1924 and could remember getting the pony and cart ready for his mum before going to school.
They then moved to 252 Bishopthorpe Road and made ice cream in the cellar. The lane at the back of the house was known as Capaldi’s lane by the locals, as they used to come and buy at the door. Maybe the house should have a blue plaque? Later they moved to Bewley Street.
Eventually they had the factory built in Fetter Lane, ready for when their three sons (Antonio 'Tony', Vincenzo 'Vinny', Ramon 'Ray') returned from serving in WWII. Margaret started the business, as Joe was still working as a chef in the Station Hotel, and two other younger sons joined the business later (Carlo and Nino). That factory opened in 1946/47 and remained in use until 2003. when it was sold. The business then moved to a brand new site at Birch Park Huntington, until the family retired in 2010.
Joe never actually worked in the ice cream factory, he had a restaurant in Micklegate (the factory was built on the back of this) and then Tower Street. Margaret died in 1943.
Ray’s daughter (also Margaret) spent most of her childhood around Bishopthorpe and Skeldergate, as both her parents were working in the family business. Her son Jamie told us "There was a beach under Ouse Bridge where we spent a lot of time paddling and swimming – it was wonderful and unbelievable to think about it now, given how things have changed so much in that area. Her friend from school, Lynn Hardgrave, lived in Skeldergate, her family had a roofing business there and we played around their yard which backed onto the river."
And yes actor Peter Capaldi is a very distant cousin. Many members of the Capaldi family settled in Scotland, and there is a Capaldi’s ice cream in Brora, in north east Scotland.
Many thanks to Jamie for the old pictures and to Lisa of York Stories for putting me in touch with Jamie.