Video and pix: the Banana Warehouse as you’ve never seen it before… empty and deserted

The greenery is forcing its way through the walls
26 May 2016 @ 7.21 pm
| News, Shopping
Doors closed for good on the famous Banana Warehouse. Photographs: Richard McDougall
Doors closed for good on the famous Banana Warehouse. Photographs: Richard McDougall

For 22 years it was filled to the rafters with furniture, bric-a-brac and the occasional priceless antique.

But now, as York’s world-famous Banana Warehouse prepares to close its doors for the final time on Friday (May 27), it is empty, save for the memories.

Dave Dee Hughes, who ran the warehouse for all those years, used to say they sold everything from a plastic mouse to a grand piano.

Now he’s taken his last van load of stock from the Piccadilly shop.

The owners of the building are the receivers PWC, who have been running the Coppergate Centre since it went into administration.

Planning permission exists to develop the site into apartments and shop and café units. Although the distinctive facade is likely to remain, the rear of the building is most likely to be demolished and rebuilt.

Dave began life with his own removal van, the same as his father, later buying and selling second-hand goods from the Apollo Warehouse in Heslington.

Dave Dee Hughes in reflective mood at the back of the Banana Warehouse overlooking the River Foss
Dave Dee Hughes in reflective mood at the back of the Banana Warehouse overlooking the River Foss
The last few pieces of furniture. Photograph: Nigel Holland
The last few pieces of furniture. Photograph: Nigel Holland

But it was the Aladdin’s Cave of the Banana Warehouse that he was most famous for.

With its suit of armour guarding the entrance, it was a bargain-hunter’s dream shop.

The warehouse became a tourist attraction in its own right, even being listed at number seven in one article of ‘Ten things you must see in York’ – ahead of the Jorvik Viking Centre.

Empty and almost deserted
Empty and almost deserted
View to Piccadilly
View to Piccadilly
Mirroring the times
Mirroring the times

Dave said he would miss the camaraderie from the customers. But he was not sorry to go. “I feel a sigh of relief.

“I won’t be crying. I’ll go to bed and sleep good and proper!”

Dave and friends. Photograph: Nigel Holland
Dave and friends. Photograph: Nigel Holland
The last picture show
The last picture show
Nowhere to go
Nowhere to go
The greenery is forcing its way through the walls
The greenery is forcing its way through the walls

He also laments the changing retail face of York – what he calls the ‘Polo effect’, with all the shoppers drawn to out-of-town retailing and nothing left in the city centre.

My York, that I’ve loved for years – I was born and bred here – has just not got the same buzz.

I walked down Parliament Street yesterday. And I remember as a kid you could look down and there’d be a sea of heads of people going into shops.

Yesterday you could have driven a truck down there and not asked anyone to get out of the way.


“York has lost it,” Dave said. “When I finish up here and lock up, I’ll never come through the Bar Walls again.”

A grey day outside
A grey day outside
The last van load
The last van load

Once filled with bananas

Now part of the landscape
Now part of the landscape

The Banana Warehouse once did exactly what is says on the tin.

It was built for FT Burley, wholesale fruit merchants, in 1925 – a time when the banana would have been considered almost impossibly exotic by York locals.

Barges delivered green bananas along the River Foss to the back of the building. Transferred to special warm ripening rooms, they were soon ready to eat and kept in refrigerated storage until sold.