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Our History

The organisation that would become Chopsticks started at Ashland's Training Centre in Northallerton in 1995, where one of our founding committee members had worked.  There was a growing need, spurred on by increased societal awareness, for work experience and skills development activities to support people with learning disabilities. The foundations for Chopsticks were formed by a small group of people who later moved to the Mencap Centre in Northallerton.

It was while based at the Mencap Centre that Graham Cook, who would go on to become the first Manager of Chopsticks, set up a shed to cut, package and then sell kindling to the public. A bank account was opened at Yorkshire Bank to receive the proceeds of  kindling sales so that the work team members could earn a daily subsistence payment. This little community group did not have a name at the time. However, it would soon establish one for itself.


Chopsticks, as it became known, was formed when the group subsequently moved to Archer’s Yard in Northallerton. Graham Cook and Nancy Wheatley had worked with other key figures in the local community to find a dedicated place for woodworking.

19. August 1995


A management committee was formed and Chopsticks gained its first chairman, John Coulson. John was a local businessman who  also served on the town council. His aim was to expand the wood fuels operation and develop an outreach service for the wider community.

12. August 2000


It soon became clear that Chopsticks had outgrown its shed at Archer’s Yard. Additional workshop space was needed as well as office space for the next stage of the organisation’s development. The search for a new, bigger site for the team to use quickly began and the perfect spot was found in Thurston Road, Northallerton. Planning permission was obtained and a business plan put together  to make this ambitious development a reality. A combination of venture capital, loans, fundraising events and local authority grants were secured and as a result construction commenced on Thurston Road in late 2006, with work completed in autumn 2007. 

19. August 2007


Our new building was officially opened in January 2008 by our patrons The Rt Hon. William Hague MP and Baroness Masham of Ilton. However, there was still plenty of work to be done. We had to secure a continuous supply of timber together with funding for new saws, tools and equipment.


11. January 2008

An industrial crosscutting saw was donated and a set of benches suitable for packing kindling was acquired from the local BT depot. As a result, we were able to greatly expand the scale of wood fuel production, as well as introducing other services including garden maintenance for local residents.

08. February 2008


Today Chopsticks is as strong as ever, enabling a greater number of vulnerable people to experience the benefits of working in a team in a manufacturing production environment. 2022 – Celebrating 25 years of Chopsticks! 

19. September 2022