fonds JRF - Joseph Rowntree Foundation Archive

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Joseph Rowntree Foundation Archive


  • c 1888 - 2006 (Creation)

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1.6 cubic metres

80 boxes plus oversize items

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Name of creator


Administrative history

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) was founded in 1904 as the Joseph Rowntree Village Trust (JRVT), before changing its name to the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust (JRMT) in 1959 and finally to its present form in 1990. It was one of three Trusts established by the York Quaker philanthropist and businessman Joseph Rowntree to continue his family’s pioneering work in the field of social reform; the others being the Joseph Rowntree Social Service Trust (now the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust) and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

The JRF is also the owner of a subsidiary private limited company, Clifton Estate Ltd, which was created in 1926 to manage land and properties in Clifton. Since 1968 the Trust’s housing operations have been managed through the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Housing Trust, later renamed the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, as well as through the Joseph Rowntree Housing Society Ltd (between 1980 and 1996).

As of 2018 the JRF describes itself as an independent social change organisation working to solve UK poverty through research, policy, collaboration, and practical solutions.


From its foundation the JRVT was closely tied to the Rowntree family and the family owned confectionery company Rowntree & Co Ltd. Joseph Rowntree endowed all three Trusts with shares in the company and the six founding Trustees (shared by all the Trusts) were members of his family and company directors. However each Trust had its own distinct character and mission, albeit all in service of Joseph Rowntree’s overriding commitment, set out in his 1904 Trust deed, to seeking out the ‘underlying causes of weakness or evil in a community’ rather than merely ‘remedying their more superficial manifestations.’

The JRVT was envisioned as a Housing Trust that would provide attractive, sanitary and well built homes for rent in village communities with good quality recreational and communal facilities. Its tenants were to be drawn from all levels of society, with a mix of houses and rents so that village life would be within the reach of the average working man. In setting out his plans for such communities, Joseph Rowntree drew on the experience of fellow Quakers such as the Cadburys who had created a model village at Bournville in the 1890s although Rowntree did not intend to create ‘company villages’ but rather communities open to all.

To this end the JRVT was endowed with a significant amount of property as well as company shares, making it the wealthiest of the Trusts and the only one intended from the very beginning to be permanent. This property included the West Huntington estate, on which Joseph Rowntree had already begun work on his own model village of New Earswick. He had purchased the 163 acre estate in 1901 and the first twenty-eight cottages, designed by innovative architects Raymond Unwin and Barry Parker, were built in 1902-1903. The JRVT took over responsibility for the development of New Earswick in 1904 and this remained its primary function until the 1950s.

The first phase of building under the JRVT took place between 1904 and 1918 when work on the estate was funded entirely by the Trust to a plan prepared by Unwin and Parker. Bricks and tiles were provided by the Trust’s own works and the Trust was also responsible for all road repairs, sewage disposal, street lighting and landscaping. The plan included wide tree-lined avenues and around twelve acres of land to be reserved for recreational use and provided sites for key amenities such as the central Folk Hall, completed in 1906, which provided space for meetings, concerts, the village library and other functions, and the New Earswick Elementary School (renamed New Earswick Primary School in 1942) completed in 1911. The Trust also operated a model dairy at White Rose Farm, using Carl Sorensen’s pioneering methods of milk production to provide a high quality supply for the village.

In 1919 Raymond Unwin was appointed Chief Architect to the Ministry of Health and Barry Parker took over his work for the Trust, beginning the second phase of development at New Earswick which lasted until 1936. In the post war period rising costs and a shortage of materials meant the Trust could no longer support the full cost of development and were obliged to make use of government subsidies and to simplify their designs. The resulting drive for economy in all aspects of building had a significant effect on the original plan for the village. The building programme was continued on a year by year basis, Parker introducing a series of cul-de-sacs so that each expansion could be completed within a year and shorter roads were needed to supply each new development.

Approximately 259 new houses were completed in New Earswick between 1919 and 1936 and the Folk Hall was considerably enlarged in 1935. At the same time the Trust was developing the Clifton estate left to the Rowntree Trusts at Joseph Rowntree’s death and fully controlled by the JRVT from 1928. Unlike New Earswick the estate at Clifton was developed for sale, although by 1941 a minority of the houses there still remained unsold and were let as rentals.

However the building programme began to slow in the economic depression of the 1930s, with the closure of the Trust’s own brick and tile works in 1934 followed by a complete cessation of house building in 1936. Work did not cease entirely however, with work beginning on the new Joseph Rowntree Senior School in 1939, a joint venture between the Trust and Local Authority. The school was opened in 1942 and in the same year the Trust appointed Louis de Soissons as their new consultant architect. The Trust also acquired Homestead House at Clifton from Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree in 1936, on the condition that the grounds were maintained by the Trust as a public park. The House was subsequently let to Seebohm’s son Peter Rowntree who oversaw the park and also ran a market garden on the site known as the Clifton Fruit Company.

The development of New Earswick entered its third phase with the close of the Second World War. The Trust purchased adjacent land at Kettlestring Farms in 1945 and began a substantial expansion of the village in 1949 into the area previously occupied by White Rose Farm. The work continued throughout the 1950s and included a mixture of houses, bungalows and flats as the Trust began to focus their efforts on creating a better balance of accommodation in the village. At the same time the Trust continued to improve their existing housing stock with the use of government Improvement Grants, in particular through the installation of central heating and indoor bathrooms.

The new balance of accommodation included housing for the elderly and for single professional people. The Trust entered into discussions with the Local Authority concerning the provision of accommodation for the elderly within the confines of the National Assistance Act of 1948 which had extended the role of voluntary organisations in this area. In this the Trust was influenced by Seebohm Rowntree’s 1947 report on the welfare of the elderly which had recommended small, well designed homes and group homes for those no longer able to fully care for themselves. Consequently the Trust built twelve cottages for the elderly and converted Westbrook House on Western Terrace into a small group home with a resident warden. The home proved so popular that it was transferred to a larger house, The Garth, in 1949 and extended in 1958-1960 to provide interconnected bungalows for the elderly known as Garth Court.

The Trust also commissioned a block of twenty flats for single business and professional people between 1957 and 1960. Recognising that this kind of accommodation was more common in continental Europe, they commissioned two Swedish architects to design and equip the flats. The completed flats boasted the first use of underfloor heating in New Earswick and Swedish standards of insulation with extensive use of double glazing.


The administration of the JRVT was overseen by its Trustees, in whom was vested all of the property and income belonging to the Trust. Initially limited to eight in number, the Trustees were required to meet quarterly, but usually met more often in the early decades when New Earswick was still under development. New Trustee appointments could be made by Joseph Rowntree or, after his death, by the original Trustees, and thereafter alternatively by continuing Trustees and the Religious Society of Friends. The first Trustee from outside the family was Thomas Henry Appleton who was appointed in 1906 following the death of Joseph’s son, John Wilhelm Rowntree. The Trustees appointed a Chairman from among their number and the Chair was re-elected on a yearly basis.

The Trustees took all major decisions relating to the work and policies of the JRVT but the day to day administration was increasingly carried out by a range of sub-committees and a growing number of office staff. In the first three decades there was a great deal of overlap between Trust and Rowntree Company administration. All three Rowntree Trusts initially shared an office at the Cocoa Works, the company headquarters in York, and in many cases also shared staff with each other and with Rowntrees. The Trust’s first permanent secretary, Percy Jackson Pfluger, joined Rowntree & Co in 1913 and was assigned to the Trusts’ office but remained, like many early ‘Trust staff’ on the company payroll. He was appointed as JRVT secretary in 1933, whilst also serving as temporary secretary to the Joseph Rowntree Social Service Trust. In addition to acting as secretary for the JRVT, he prepared the Trust’s annual reports and accounts. He remained in post for the next fifty years, retiring in 1963. The Rowntree Company’s legal and building departments also regularly advised the JRVT and carried out work on its behalf.

It was not until the 1940s that the administration of company and Trusts began to diverge, although the company’s solicitor continued to act for the Trust. In 1942 it was noted in the Trust minutes that its staff were now no longer part of the Rowntree company or of their pension scheme. In 1948 the JRVT finally moved from the shared Trust office in the Cocoa Works to the ground floor of Beverley House, Clifton, which had been acquired by the Trust during the war. Beverley House was the headquarters of the JRVT, JRCT and later also the JRSST until 1990 and underwent a number of alterations and extensions during that time as the Trusts’ activities grew.

In 1946 the first full time officer, Lewis E. Waddilove, joined the Trust as ‘social investigator’ and assistant to the Trustees. In 1947 he was added to the newly created Executive Committee consisting of York-based Trustees John Stephenson Rowntree and Peter Rowntree and secretary Pfluger, which was set up to deal with the routine work of the Trust, leaving more important matters and policy decisions to the quarterly meetings. By 1954 Waddilove was described as the Trust’s Executive Officer.

The Executive Committee was supported by a number of other sub-committees of varied duration. One of the most important of these was the Earswick Committee which was created at the inaugural Trust meeting in 1904 ‘to exercise the powers of the Trustees in respect of the Earswick estate’. The committee comprised non-Trustees and included the New Earswick Housing Manager (originally called the Estate Agent) who was responsible for the welfare of tenants, allocation of houses and collection of rents. The post, which was held by a succession of women, was originally a part time one, but was made full time in 1918 and continued until 1967. The Earswick Committee reported directly to the Trustees at their quarterly meetings.

Other sub-committees were appointed as and when needed and their minutes and reports were shared with Trustees. An Education Committee was appointed in 1909 for example to report on the type of school most suitable for the village and the resulting Primary School and Senior School was managed by a Foundation Managers Committee and a Modern School Committee. In the late 1940s The Garth Committee was formed to manage the home for the elderly founded first at Westbrook House in New Earswick, before being transferred to The Garth in 1951. There was additionally a Pension Fund Committee from 1950, a Plans Committee of villagers to give feedback on proposed building developments, and a House Selection Committee to assist the Housing Manager with the selection of tenants.

The Trustees and its Earswick Sub-Committee also worked in conjunction with a representative council of villagers who met first as the Earswick Council in November 1904 and then as the New Earswick Village Council from October 1907. Consisting of eleven members, one of whom was appointed by the Trustees, the Village Council managed the Folk Hall, arranged lectures and classes, and represented the village in all matters concerning housing and village life. From 1935 they also administered an Amenities Grant in the village on behalf of the Trust, contributing to the funding of the village’s many social clubs and services, as well as issuing a regular New Earswick Bulletin of news and community information.


Though its primary concern before the 1950s was the development and management of New Earswick, the JRVT had also made a number of important contributions to housing policy and planning on a national and international level. New Earswick itself was a living and working example of the kind of housing standards the JRVT hoped to promote elsewhere and the Trust frequently welcomed visitors to the village, including over 200 members of the German Garden Cities Association in 1909.

They also made grants to organisations working to improve housing standards. In 1910 they made a grant to the National Housing Reform Council and in 1912 they began a long association with the National Housing and Town Planning Council. From 1919 the Trust also gave support to the Garden Cities and Town Planning Association which became the Town and Country Planning Association in 1940, as well as the London Housing Committee. In York the Trust funded an architect and planning consultant to prepare a master plan of improvement works in the city which became the 1948 exhibition ‘A Plan for the City of York.’

The wider part that the Trust could play in questions of housing policy and social life came increasingly to the fore in the 1940s and 50s. In the early 1940s Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree wrote to his fellow Trustees to remind them that the 1904 Trust Deed allowed them to use their resources for any object that was of benefit to the working classes. As work on New Earswick inevitably slowed, the Trust would have more income at its disposal to devote to other projects and should think seriously about what its future role should be.

The resulting discussion continued, on and off, for the next fifteen years and involved not just the JRVT but also their sister Trusts. Meetings held in 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957 between the JRVT, their sister Trusts, the Charity Commission and consultants drawn from the world of academia and social policy considered at length the powers afforded to the Trust by its founding Deed and the future direction of its work, taking into consideration potential overlap with the work of the JRCT and JRSST. It was decided that the JRVT should broaden their work to include that of social research and enquiry, seeking out the ‘underlying causes’ of social ills stressed by Joseph Rowntree in 1904. These new far-reaching powers were enshrined in a private Act of Parliament brought by the JRVT in 1959 which allowed the Trust to support research into housing and social questions and to work overseas.

To match this wider scope of activity the Trust’s name was formally changed to the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust (JRMT) and from 1960 the Trust began to publish triennial reports detailing its work. Its administrative structure was also revised to reflect its increase in activity. In 1961 the positions of Trust Director and Assistant Director were created with responsibility for the day to day management of the Trust. Lewis Waddilove became the first Director, a post he held until 1979, and James Edward Ford Longman the first Assistant Director. The Director liaised directly with the Trust Chairman and reported to the quarterly meeting of Trustees which continued to take all strategic and policy decisions and approve the allocation of funds. Every project supported by the Trust was in addition to have its own Advisory Committee to act as an intermediary between Trust and grant recipient. These committees usually included a Trustee and the Trust Director.

From 1959 onwards there was therefore a significant expansion of the Trust’s activities into the fields of housing policy and research, community and family life, the training of social workers, and social services in the UK and abroad, as well as support for Yorkshire based projects. Many projects were initiated by the Trust itself, in keeping with Joseph Rowntree’s instruction to his Trusts to ‘seek out’ and address the underlying causes of social ills. In 1958 the Trust had launched a group of influential studies on national housing policy and rents under the direction of David Donnison known collectively as the Rowntree Trust Housing Study. Over the next twenty years other JRMT funded studies followed, investigating the effects of the 1957 Rent Act, the Voluntary Housing Movement, housing and the mobility of labour, and the development of Housing Associations amongst other subjects. The Trust also offered financial aid to a number of housing organisations, including the National Federation of Housing Societies, the Shelter Housing Advice Centre (part of the charity Shelter) and the National Association of Almshouses. In 1971 the JRMT supported the creation of the Tuke Housing Association which provided social housing in and around York, taking responsibility for its administration (which it later transferred to the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust).

In the field of community and family life the Trust turned its attention to the rapid changes in urban life, funding a 1961 study of ‘high rise’ living that led to further guidance, again funded by the Trust, on the design and care of playgrounds for children in urban areas. Other early projects supported by the Trust included a study of services for the elderly in Tyneside, York Family Service Units, and the National Birthday Trust Fund’s research into perinatal mortality, as well as work on such wide ranging subjects as the sociology of law, race relations, drugs, and teenage delinquency. In 1959 the Trust also made a five year grant to the Institute of Community Studies to support a broad range of social research with a Trustee and Executive Officer Lewis Waddilove joining the Institute’s Advisory Committee.

The Trust also gave key support to the Social Work Staff College (later the National Institute for Social Work Training) which was founded in 1961 with the joint funding of the JRMT and the Nuffield Foundation. The need for an Institute to coordinate professional social work training and support had been recognised in the 1959 report of the Younghusband Working Party which examined the role and training of social workers in health and welfare services. Together the JRMT and Nuffield Foundation purchased and adapted Mary Ward House as a site for the Institute and provided further funding over the next ten years. In 1972 the Institute’s first Director, Robin Huws Jones, was invited to join the JRMT as Associate Director and he remained with the Trust as a consultant following his retirement, helping to shape its work in this area. In addition to this institutional support the Trust also contributed funding to a number of regional social work training courses at Liverpool, Tyneside and York.

At York the JRMT played a key role in the foundation of the university in 1963, making a contribution of £100,000 to be spread over ten years. In addition to financial support the Trust also stated its intention to co-operate with any university departments that shared its research interests, particular in the social sciences. In 1962 the Trust was approached by the university regarding a proposed Institute of Social and Economic Research that would further the kind of social research pursued by the Rowntree family and Trusts and employ research students from the social science departments. The Trust agreed to make a grant of £23,500 over five years towards the general expenses of the institute and to fund two research projects. The Institute was launched the following year under the management of an Advisory Committee which included a representative of the Trust.

Whilst the Trust’s initial funding to the Institute ended after five years, it continued to provide grants for individual projects such as Tony Atkinson and A. K. Maynard’s re-analysis of Seebohm Rowntree’s 1950 poverty survey, the report for which was published in 1981. Between 1981 and 1983 the Trust provided further funding for the creation of a broader social science research organisation, the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, which would include the Institute for Social and Economic Research as well as staff and research units from other disciplines. In 1989 the Trust founded a Chair of Housing Policy at the university as part of the new Centre for Housing Policy (CHP).

The effect of this wide-ranging work on the effects of housing policy, investigations into family and community life and social services and social science research was to focus the Trust more clearly on the need to influence the implementation of social policy at national level. In January 1971 the Trust made the decision to establish a national Centre for Studies in Social Policy, funded by the Trust but independent from it. The Centre launched in 1972 with the mission to advise government and local authorities in taking social policy decisions. In 1977 it merged with Political and Economic Planning to form the Policy Studies Institute which continued to enjoy the support of the Trust. In the 1980s the JRMT found, bought and converted a new headquarters for the Institute in Park Village East, London.

In the same year that the Centre for Studies in Social Policy was launched the Trust took responsibility for a government initiative that would lead to the formation of the influential Social Policy Research Unit at the University of York. In December 1972, in the wake of the Thalidomide scandal, the Trust agreed to administer the Family Fund set up by the government to allocate money to families who had a child suffering from congenital disability. The Trust allocated the funds within guidelines agreed with the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS), the first time that an independent trust had thus administered public funds to deliver a service akin to that directed locally by statutory authorities.

In order to monitor the progress of the Fund, to collate the necessary data reports to administer it and explore the broader research opportunities in social policy it presented, the Trust established an independent research project in the Department of Social Administration and Social Work at the University of York, led by Jonathan Bradshaw. The project was launched in August 1973, with the costs shared between the DHSS and the Trust. It was originally intended that the research project would run for three years but in 1975 the research team were asked by the DHSS to become one of their standing research units, developing a broader research programme on children with disabilities. The DHSS subsequently took over the funding of the unit and it was renamed the Social Policy Research Unit, although the unit continued to maintain close links with the Family Fund and would later undertake other large scale projects for the JRF. These included the Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey in Britain in 1999 and the Minimum Income Standards project in 2006-2008.


The Trust’s work in this area was not confined to the UK. The 1959 parliamentary Act established the Trust’s authority to provide houses and community services anywhere in the Commonwealth and to pursue research anywhere in the world. The initiative for this work came from the Trust’s involvement with the National Citizens Advice Bureaux, run by the National Council of Social Service in the UK, and the suggestion that a similar service, adapted to local needs, could be of use in those Commonwealth countries adapting to the pressures of rapid industrial and urban change. The Trust secured the services of an experienced officer from the National Citizens Advice Bureaux Committee who visited Northern and Southern Rhodesia (later Zambia) in late 1959 to meet people engaged in voluntary social work there. Her report claimed that a Council of Social Service would be of more use to coordinate the various voluntary services before Citizens Advice Bureaux could be established.

The Trust subsequently arranged for other experienced officer to travel to Rhodesia for six months in 1960 to coordinate services, leading to the creation of Citizens Advice Bureaux in Salisbury, Bulawayo and two additional African townships in Southern Rhodesia. In order to establish the permanent body needed to manage these new bureaux the Trust engaged H. R. Poole of the Liverpool Council of Social Service who set up a base in Salisbury for a year and helped establish a Northern Rhodesian Council of Social Service with subsidiary local councils and a series of related committees and conferences, as well as responding to enquiries from Uganda and Nyasaland (later Malawi). The Trust subsequently helped to set up Councils of Social Service in Southern Rhodesia, Uganda and Kenya.

The considerations that governed these initial forays into overseas aid also shaped their support of other projects in Africa. The Trust’s annual reports made it clear that they were all too aware of the pitfalls of a British charity influencing social and political developments in societies they had little direct knowledge of. Thus they sought to use their funds to support projects they could maintain a personal relationship with, that furthered their key commitment to improved social and community services and housing, and to allow these projects to be shaped by their own evolving societies, funding trained staff and necessary equipment for existing projects rather than establishing wholly new projects of their own.

Between 1960 and 1963 the Trust provided funding for the Uganda Youth Council’s youth leader training courses in Kampala. They also made a grant to the Outward Bound Association of Rhodesia to fund a Training Officer from 1965 and paid for a full time warden at the Waddington Community Centre at Lusaka which was open to both Africans and Europeans. They also made a contribution towards fellowships for three African graduate students to come to Britain to study social administration and supported the secretarial training of twenty girls in Zambia. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s they also made several grants to the pioneering Jairos Jiri Association for Rehabilitation of the Disabled and Blind in Bulawayo to pay for trained staff.

In housing too the Trust worked with existing organisations, advancing a loan for the purchase of land and the building of co-operative housing and shops in Bulawayo in 1962-1963, managed by the Mhlahlandhlela Housing Co-operative in collaboration with the Bulawayo Municipality. In the 1970s the Trust also made a financial contribution towards staff costs at a self-help housing scheme in Kafue, near Lusaka, which had been set up by the American Friends Service Committee and the Zambian government, as well as to a group of housing co-operatives in Lesotho.

The Trust took the decision to discontinue its work in Africa in 1988.


The broader powers exercised by the Trust in the fields of social and housing policy and research did not undermine its core commitment to New Earswick and the practical provision of affordable and good quality housing and amenities in the UK. However its new dual role as a charitable body administering an endowment for the purposes of social research and experiment and as a housing association developing a housing programme with the aid of government subsidies gave rise to a number of legal difficulties. In 1967 the Trust took the decision to separate its role as a housing association from its other activities in order to divide and safeguard its status as a housing trust and an endowed charity, and to ensure its housing work could continue to qualify for statutory grants and loans. The Joseph Rowntree Memorial Housing Trust (later the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust) was launched on 1 January 1968 and was vested with all of the land and property of the JRMT, including the New Earswick estate and adjacent Kettlestring Farms. In addition it received an annual grant from the JRMT to carry out its work.

The legal distinction between the two Trusts was not, at least in its early decades, always reflected in its operations and administration. The JRMT and JRMHT shared Trustees, staff and offices, although the administration of the JRMHT was delegated to a New Earswick Management Committee and the finances of the two were kept separate. The housing programme followed by the JRMHT was to continue on from that of the JRMT and included the extensive New Earswick modernisation programme begun in 1966 and continued throughout the 1970s which saw the interiors of the oldest houses in the village extensively remodelled.

The two Trusts have continued to work closely together and this is reflected in their archives which show a significant degree of overlap. The JRMT had the power to contribute to any part of the work of the Housing Trust that was legally defined as charitable and the work of both Trusts was included in the published Triennial Reports from 1968 to 1991 and then in the Annual Reports from 1991 to 2003. It was only in 2004 that the two Trusts began to publish separate Annual Reports, although the first two Housing Trust reports describe it as the ‘operational arm’ of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and thereafter they are described as working in partnership.


The late 1980s were a time of significant change for the Trust. In 1988 Rowntree Mackintosh was taken over by the Swiss company Nestlé. Although the JRMT, like the JRCT, had divested itself of some of its Rowntree shares and diversified its investments following the Cocoa Losses of 1973, company shares still accounted for 60 per cent of the JRMT’s income in 1988, and made up 3.8 per cent of the company’s ordinary share capital. The takeover was opposed by both the JRMT and JRCT (the JRSST had disposed of its Rowntree shares in the 1970s) and its success obliged both to sell their remaining company shares, severing the direct link between the Trusts and the company but almost doubling the value of the JRMT’s assets to £110 million.

As a result of the takeover the JRMT was able to take back ownership of The Homestead, previously the home of Seebohm Rowntree and then leased to Rowntree Mackintosh as their international headquarters. In 1990 the Trust moved their offices from Beverley House to The Homestead and as of 2018 it remains their York headquarters.

It was also able to devote more money to its research and development programme, which came under review in the same year as the takeover. In its 1988-1991 Triennial Report the Director was keen to stress the active role of the Trust in research and development, stating that it did not make grants ‘in the traditional sense’ of contributing to charitable appeals or giving to good causes, but rather supported specific programmes of original work decided, and often initiated, by the Trustees, and subject to regular review. This was described in later reports as a mandate to search, demonstrate and influence. The boost to Trust income meant that the Trust now had considerably more resources to develop its programmes, in 1987 the JRMT gave £2.8 million in new grant commitments, by 1991 this had risen to £6.1 million.

In their 1988 review Trustees agreed that housing would continue to be a major activity of the Trust, as would social care, which would be expanded to include community care and the delivery of services to support families and carers. Its work for those with learning difficulties would also be broadened to include all aspects of disability. Social policy, which had been a major area of Trust work since the 1960s, was in turn to be confined in the future to social security issues and income support, with the Trust’s work on employment (and Africa) discontinued. The Trust also established Local and Central Government Relations as a distinct area of activity, a field of work that had begun in the mid 1980s under the direction of Deputy Trust Chairman, Sir Charles Carter.

These areas of work were to be supported by committees of Trustees and outside experts. In 1991 these were the Housing Research Committee, the Social Policy Research Committee, the Community Care and Disability Committee, and the Local and Central Government Relations Research Committee. Most grant funded projects also had an individual Advisory Committee to offer support and enable the Trust to review its progress, and all were from 1990 subject to new Project Agreements which set out the expectations of both the Trust and the researchers and committed them to contributing a clear summary of their work for the ‘Findings’ series of four page summaries of Trust funded research projects.

At the same time there were changes to the Trust’s staff as Director Robin Guthrie left to take up the role of Chief Charity Commissioner and was replaced by Richard Best, previously the Director of the National Federation of Housing Associations. Under his directorship the Trust changed its name to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to better differentiate it from its sister Trusts, and set about raising its public profile.

Best saw an immediate need to make the results of the JRF’s broad range of research more readily available to policy makers, the press and the public, and in 1989 Roland Hurst, the Trust’s first Director of Information Services, was appointed to manage the dissemination of the Trust’s research output through new publications, specialist briefings and a closer relationship with the media. As part of his work he launched the ‘Findings’, as well as ‘Search’, a more detailed quarterly magazine.

By the end of 1991 the Directorate and staff of the JRF and JRHT combined numbered some 250 people. This included five Directors: the Director of the Foundation and the Directors of the Family Fund, of Housing and Property Services, Research, Finance, and of Information Services, and, where relevant, their reporting committees. Reporting to the Director of Research were the Social Policy Research, Housing Research, Local and Central Government Relations Research, and the Community Care and Disability Committees.

Meanwhile the housing operations undertaken by the JRF and its associated bodies (the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Society Ltd) were administered by the Housing Committee and New Earswick Management Committee, both reporting to the Director of Housing and Property Services. In 1993 the JRF added the new post of Housing Research Development Officer to bridge the gap between housing research and housing operations and to ensure the research directly influenced the work of the JRHT. In 1995 a new Development Overview Committee was added to support research and development projects involving the JRHT.

Although the work of the Trust focused in the early 1990s on the five main areas set out in 1988, projects within these programmes were often grouped together around a particular theme, with their results analysed in a final overarching report commissioned by the JRF. The Trust’s ‘Action on Estates’ programme in 1993-1994 for example brought together eight research projects in the housing field, as well as practical work at the Bell Farm housing estate in York, to make detailed recommendations on ways to empower residents of estates across the whole of the UK, including the influential report ‘Unleashing the Potential’ by Marilyn Taylor.

From the mid 1990s the JRF adopted the overarching theme of ‘strengthening communities and combating exclusion’, and this began to shape much of their programme of research and development. In 1995 it brought together 30 research projects under a Trust commissioned Income and Wealth Inquiry, chaired by JRF Chairman Sir Peter Barclay, the final report of which received a great deal of publicity. In the same year the Trust’s Family and Parenthood programme brought together 22 research projects in the report ‘Family and Parenthood: Supporting Families, Preventing Breakdown’ by David Utting. In 1996 Lynn Watson brought together findings from 20 Trust funded projects in the field of housing and community care to analyse the housing needs of care users and the effects of the 1993 Community Care Act. Where relevant, this research could directly influence the practical work of the Housing Trust, such as with the ‘Lifetime Homes’ scheme that saw the design criteria of the JRF’s Lifetime Homes Group applied to the JRHT’s ‘Woodlands’ housing development in York.

A major area of work during this period was the establishment by the JRF of Communities that Care UK, a company that received its core funding from the Trust between 1997 and 2001, when it became financially independent. Based on an American scheme, CTC UK focused on early intervention and prevention services for children and their families at risk of developing social problems. The scheme was trialled in three areas and, following an evaluation commissioned by the JRF, was extended to more than twenty communities by the end of 2001.

Trust committees changed to reflect these new and emerging priorities. Community Care and Disability became the Social Care and Disability Committee in the mid 1990s. In 1997 the Social Policy Research Committee became the Work, Income and Social Policy Committee, and in 1998 the Housing Committee became the Housing and Neighbourhoods Committee. In 1997 the Trust also added a Young People and Families Committee to direct its expanding youth intervention work.

So that it could continue to respond to wider change and ensure its work remained relevant, in 1998 the Trust created a new Policy and Practice Development Department, led by a new Director, to engage with external developments and agendas and liaise directly with the JRHT and Care Services department when needed. In 2002, as it approached its centenary year, the Trust conducted a further strategic review of its programmes in order to identify new areas of work and adjust its committee structure where necessary. The review identified the Trust’s core areas of work as housing and deprivation, the twin issues of ‘poverty’ and ‘place’ which lay at the heart of the work undertaken by Joseph and Seebohm Rowntree and in the foundation of the JRVT itself in 1904.

Research and development programmes in these two areas were to be overseen by two existing committees, the Housing and Neighbourhoods Committee, and the Work, Income and Social Policy Committee which was renamed the Poverty and Disadvantage Committee.
Beyond these core areas the review recommended the replacement of standing research and development committees with a series of more flexible time-limited committees, responsible for individual programmes of work. Thus the Social Care and Disability Committee and the Children, Young People and Families Committee closed in 2003. They were replaced by a number of single programme committees, including a Drug and Alcohol Research Committee, an Immigration and Inclusion Committee and a Parenting Research and Development Committee.

Between 2002 and 2005 the JRF carried out a wide range of work through these standing and single programme committees. In the field of housing the Trust advocated for more affordable housing, as exemplified by its CASPAR (City Centre Apartments for Single People at Affordable Rents) scheme in Leeds and Birmingham, and its administrative support for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on homelessness and housing need. In the field of ‘deprivation’ the Trust produced its annual Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion survey, which it extended to Northern Ireland in 2006, as well as launching the Public Interest in Poverty initiative which surveyed public attitudes towards poverty, and advocating for access to affordable credit. In response to wider changes the JRF also commissioned research into the experiences and perceptions of migrants working in low waged jobs in the UK and carried out a comprehensive review of modern slavery.

Its work with families and young people included research into anti-social behaviour and funding a 2005 independent Commission on Families and Wellbeing of Children which was set up to look at the relationship between the state and the family. This work intersected with research on educational and employment opportunities available to disabled young people. The Foundation also continued to advocate for sustainable funding for long term care for the elderly, producing a series of costed policy options and working in partnership with the King’s Fund, Age Concern, and Help the Aged to discuss these policy concerns with older people.

To aid the dissemination of this work, Trustees also approved a number of new programmes for the Policy and Practice Development Department which would build on the findings of JRF research and development activity with the aim of influencing policy makers on key issues such as neighbourhood regeneration, affordable homes for single people, the value of mixed income communities, and meeting the challenge of long term care for the elderly.

The long-serving Director of both the JRF and JRHT, Richard Best, retired in 2006 and was replaced in 2007 by Julia Unwin. A further review of the strategic direction of the JRF took place in 2007 which expanded the Foundation’s core interests to poverty, place and empowerment. As a result of the review the Foundation established three new strategy groups to advice Trustees on its search, demonstration and influencing work under these three themes. Key research in these areas included routes out of poverty, barriers to reducing inequality, the regeneration of places, and meeting housing needs in times of change. The Foundation also sought to return to its founding principles by commissioning a public consultation on the nature of ‘social evils’ in the twenty-first century and how these had changed over the previous century, followed by analysis of the issues identified and exploration of possible solutions. This work was published in 2009 as ‘Contemporary Social Evils’, incorporating new research by the National Centre for Social Research.

A number of new programmes were introduced in 2009 under these three key themes. These included an examination of how climate change would affect the people and places facing poverty and disadvantage in the UK, how to offer a ‘better life’ to older people in residential care, and an exploration of the impact of globalisation on UK poverty. The Foundation also launched the JRF Housing Market Taskforce to work towards the establishment of a more stable housing market, particularly for vulnerable households.

In 2012 the JRF agreed a new Strategic Plan for 2012-2014 following consultations with staff, Trustees, and external stakeholders across the UK. The plan organised the Foundation’s work around the themes of poverty, place, and ageing society and introduced a number of new programmes. These included a three year programme to contribute to evidence and debate on the wider implications of an ageing society, care for people with dementia, and care homes as places to live and work, as well as initiatives encouraging businesses to become ‘anti poverty employers’ and a partnership with the charity Crisis to monitor UK homelessness. The Foundation also made substantial grants to a programme exploring the relationship between housing and poverty, and to a major new four year programme to develop an anti-poverty strategy for the UK. The latter culminated in the launch of the country’s first comprehensive plan to solve UK poverty, ‘We Can Solve UK Poverty’, in September 2016.

The 2015-2017 Strategic Plan adopted the three core themes of individuals and relationships, the places where people live, and work and worth. New programmes of work included the promotion of inclusive growth in cities, the ‘reframing’ of poverty to improve public and political debate on the subject, research into minimum income standards across the UK, and the relationship between poverty and ethnicity. The Foundation’s current strategic plan sets out its priorities for 2018-2021, based upon the two overarching outcomes that everyone should have a decent home in a good place, and that everyone should have decent living standards and prospects.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was deposited at the Borthwick Institute in 2006 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Further additions were made to the archive in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Records of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (formerly the Joseph Rowntree Village Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust), comprising records relating to the foundation of the Trust in 1904 and the 1959 Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust Act, 1903-1959; administrative records, 1904 - c 2001; financial records, 1904-1988; records of the JRF's grants and projects in the fields of property development, housing law and policy, social policy and social care, York civic improvement, and Africa, 1898-2001; and records concerning relations between the three Rowntree Trusts and the Rowntree company, 1955-1986.


Further accruals are expected.

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Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

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  • English

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GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

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