Arial view of Toffee Factory at night

Early Years

Toffee Factory occupies the south western corner of Lower Steenbergs Yard (LSY). As with many other sites and buildings in the Valley, it has a long history of different uses that reflect the changing fortunes and roles of the area itself.

In 1870, Newcastle Corporation opted to develop a foreign cattle yard at the north end of LSY, purchasing the land in 1872. A two-storey sanatorium that could hold 635 cattle and 3,000 sheep was built in 1877 by Henry Hudspeth.

The U-shaped building that is now, Toffee Factory, was built after the completion of Glasshouse Bridge in 1878, the purpose of the build is not clear. The most likely explanation is that it was commissioned to provide greater storage capacity as imports of livestock increased. Anticipated growth in imports did not materialise. Consequently, the Ouseburn buildings stood empty and alternative uses were sought. From as early as 1900 part of the site appears to have been used as a timber yard and saw-mill business. Around 1903, R Steenberg & Son occupied the north of the site and utilised the buildings as warehousing. The company focused on storage and transport. The tunnel building linking into the plot still displays the Steenberg name in recognition of that firm’s occupancy.


Around 1888, confectioner, John Vose arrived in Newcastle from Liverpool choosing this base due to advantages such as a port for the sugar. His business did phenomenally well and by the mid-1890s he was running several retail premises across the City.

At the same time, Charles Riley and Tom Maynard, two brothers from London saw their confectionery business flourish. In 1896, Maynards was formed and as it grew to other locations, John Vose’s factory and shops are noted in the list of prospective new premises. John Vose sold his successful business to Maynards and returned to his hometown, Liverpool in 1898. He lived very comfortably off the profits. His great granddaughter, Mary Hitt says, “I think he always retained an affection for Newcastle – he named his home in St Helens, Tyne Villa! It is actually quite appropriate that the factory is to be home for creative businesses as he was a real entrepreneur.”

Maynards continued as a key business in the area for decades but the golden days for the company in Newcastle ended in the late 1950s when the factory ceased production. The retail shops were sold off in 1985.

Collage of images of Maynards
Toffee Factory on fire and derelict

Fire and Funding

In 1993 the former factory was severely damaged by fire. The fight to retain it as part of the original fabric of Ouseburn was one of the prompts for the formation of Ouseburn Trust. The shell of the building stood derelict until it was transformed into Toffee Factory in late 2011.

Several attempts to regenerate the plot were progressed through the intervening period but proved unworkable. In 2010, with the formation of 1NG by Newcastle City and Gateshead Councils and ONE (the regional development agency for the North East) rapid progress was made and capital funding secured through the European Regional Development Fund, ONE and Newcastle City Council.


xsite architecture, a practice based in Ouseburn, designed the conversion of the building from a derelict shell to high quality workspace for companies working within the creative industries which opened in December 2011.

The project gained recognition for architectural excellence as it opened and in 2012 collected RICS Awards for North East Project of the Year and Regeneration. The project was also awarded RIBA North East Sustainable Building of the Year and RIBA North East Building of the Year putting it in the running for the architecture’s prestigious Stirling Prize.

Toffee Factory is now home to over 20 creative and digital businesses and is a hive of activity, offering cultural public programme alongside its day-to-day use.

Edited from ‘Toffee Factory – A Little History’ by Sylvie Fisch.

Aerial photo of Toffee Factory during the day

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