fonds R - Rowntree & Co Archive

Identity area

Reference code



Rowntree & Co Archive


  • November 1776-1993 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

21.05 cubic metres

Approximately 1060 boxes, 67 volumes, 15 rolls and assorted oversize material

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

The limited company of Rowntree and Co. was incorporated in March 1897. The assets of H.I. Rowntree and Co. (of which Joseph Rowntree was at that time the sole owner) were transferred to the new company. Papers concerning the valuation of the assets of H.I. Rowntree and Co and the formation of the limited company are listed under Rowntree/R/DH/SR/1-5.

To Joseph Rowntree, at the head of the company, personal contact with each of his employees and close supervision of every aspect of the business was a primary concern. However with the growth of the business a more formal structure became necessary. From the 1880s onwards the activities of the company became divided into several departments, connected with production or technical and administrative services. Following the creation of the limited company in 1897 the directors developed their own areas of responsibility; and T.H. Appleton, as Works Manger and later director, held a central role.

In 1923, when B.S. Rowntree took over as Chairman, Rowntree employees numbered nearly 7,000, including medical, welfare and pension staff and a large sales and distribution network. The company, increasing in size and complexity was outgrowing the existing management structure. Change had begun to take place, on an 'ad hoc' basis; a series of meetings to consider questions of labour supply in 1917 developed into the Directors' and Managers' Conference and Board committees had been set up to discuss wages and advertising and sales. A formal board committee system was established in 1920 [see Rowntree/R/B6], and several departments with strategic roles, such as Costing and Planning, were formed. Gradually, responsibility for accounting, administration of the workforce and planning etc, was transferred away from small units within production departments and concentrated in these strategic departments.

The growth of the business and Seebohm's interest in management pointed to the need for a formal structure for delegating, reporting, advising and communicating across the company. An Organisation Committee was formed, in 1922 reporting directly to the Chairman, to devise a new framework and oversee its implementation. The result was a 'divisional' structure developed by Oliver Sheldon (Organising Secretary) and the committee, within which the company operated until the 1960s.

In the new structure, departments were grouped into Functions which in turn formed Divisions, each one controlled by a Director. The five main divisions were Finance, Technical, Production, Labour and Distribution. (The Production and Labour Divisions did not have a 'Functional' level.) The Company Secretary, Solicitor, Registrar and Clerical, Business Research and Organisation Offices were later joined together within a Headquarters Division.

In 1931 the Board of Directors was turned into a General Board to perform the functions of a holding Board. A the same time the Articles of Association were altered so as to give power to create a York Board with responsibility for the York business. Members of the York board had the full powers of directors within the sphere of the York business. Most were Directors of the company and also served on the General Board, until the 1950s when membership of the York Board was extended to include managers. Non-executive responsibility for most subsidiary companies rested with the General Board, which was served by the York Headquarters staff. In theory the position of the York Board in relation to the General Board was therefore the same as the boards of associated companies, however in practice the York business was always dominant.

During the early late 1950s and 1960s more companies were acquired by Rowntree and production for the grocery market increased. Company growth and diversification again led to organisational change. In 1962 a 'divisional' structure was introduced above that of the parent and subsidiary companies bringing them under central management control. The new Divisions underwent several revisions during the succeeding two decades, but were based essentially on 'operating' or 'service' functions; each headed by a Divisional Board.

In 1969 Rowntree & Co merged with John Mackintosh & Sons to become Rowntree Mackintosh PLC.

Name of creator


Administrative history

In 1969 Rowntree & Co merged with John Mackintosh & Sons to become Rowntree Mackintosh PLC.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was deposited at the Borthwick Institute by Nestlé UK in 1992. Further additions were made to the archive in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Corporate records comprising memoranda and articles of association, 1897-1971; registers of directors and secretaries, c.1922; annual reports and accounts, 1929-1968, and papers concerning annual and extraordinary general meetings, 1918-1962.

Records of the Board of Directors, comprising Board minutes, 1897-1944, and reports to the Board and papers issued, 1902-1969; records of the Chairman of the Board, 1917-1969; records of individual Chairmen of the Board, including Joseph Rowntree, 1899-1917, Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, 1926-1951, George Harris, 1938-1942, William Wallace, 1931-1966; Lloyd Owen, 1939-1966, and Donald Barron, 1965-1969; papers of company Directors, 1899-1941; records of individual Directors, including Theodore Rowntree, 1929, Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, 1897, John Bowes Morrell, 1892-1963, Oscar Frederick Rowntree, 1906-1909, T. H. Appleton, c.1869-1947, George Harris, 1940, F. Spink, 1941-1945, and William Wallace, 1925-1952; records of the Board Committees, including the Finance Committee, 1920-1926, Wage Committee, 1913-1920, Wages and Employment Committee, 1920-1923, Management Committee, 1920-1921, Engineering, Building and Estates Committee, 1920-1921, Advertising and Sales Committee, 1911-1921, and Economy Committee, 1930-1931; papers concerning the Pension Fund, 1904-1968; papers concerning the Widows’ Benefit Fund, 1917-1962; papers concerning the Invalidity Fund, 1921-1979; and papers of the York Board, York Committee, 1957-1970.

Records of Headquarters Division, comprising records of the Company Registrar, 1849-1976; records of the Company Secretary, 1897-1976; records of the Company Solicitor, 1896-1946; records of the Organisation Office, 1898-1965; records of the Business and Economic Research Office, 1829-1956; records of the Computer Department, 1966; records of the Technical Library, 1916-1968; records of the Office Co-ordination Committee, 1922-1930; records of the Clerical Manager, c.1935-1958; Staff Office records, 1910-1967; records of Office Planning Department, 1919-1967; internal telephone directory, 1969.

Records of Finance Division, comprising records of the Finance Director, 1898-1904; records of the Chief Accountant, 1896-1968; records of Accounts Department, [1890]-1978; records of Associated Companies Accountant, 1932-1967; cashiers and wage paying records, 1897-1952; records of Costing Department, 1897-1964; records of Wage Statistics Department, 1913-1951; records of Sales Statistics Department, 1870-1980; and records of Purchasing Division, including annual reports, papers of Purchasing Director, papers concerning costs of ingredients and equipment, and papers concerning management of estates in the West Indies, 1776-1968.

Records of Technical Division, comprising papers of the Technical Director, 1964-1969; records of Estate Department, including maps, 1889-1970; records of Building Department, 1826-1970; papers concerning the Fire Brigade, c.1912-1949; records of Engineering Department, 1897-1960; records of Engineering Research Department, c.1911-1958; Engineering Maintenance records, 1957-1958; records of Drawing Office, 1896-1981; records of Engineering Department Sick Club, 1927-1981; records of Chemical Department, 1904-1959; records of Research Groups, 1919-1940.

Records of Production Division, comprising records of Factory Manager, c.1893-1950; records of Production Director, 1898-1956; records of Production Group Managers, 1961; records of Factory Planning Department, 1920-1970; records of Fruit Department, 1899-1914; records of Cake Department, 1898-1961; records of Almond Department, c.1909-1923; records of Cream Department, 1918-1985; records of Gum Department, 1899-1975; records of Time Study Department, 1925-1960; records of Box Mills and Saw Mill, 1899-1962; records of Design Department, c.1900-1927.

Records of Labour Division, comprising records of Labour Director, 1902-1911; records of Labour Manager, c.1905-1961; records of Employment Department, 1901-1964; records of Women’s Employment, 1912-1955; records of Wages Section, 1912-1959; records of Psychological Department, 1930; selection and training records, 1957-1967; records of Education Department, 1905-1994; school records, 1911-1969; Medical and Dental Clinics records, 1914-1966; records of Pensions Section, 1906-1972; records of Time Office, c.1918-1983; records relating to Dunollie rest house, c.1930-1990; Cocoa Works magazines, 1906-1969; records of Central Works Council and Departmental Work Councils, 1918-1993; records of Cocoa Works Staff Association, c.1930; Cocoa Works Staff Journal, 1920-1923; records of Cocoa Works Overlookers’ Association, 1920-1978; records of York Cocoa Works Friendly Society, 1957-1966.

Records of Distribution Division, comprising records of Marketing Manager, 1929-1939; records of Cheltenham Conferences and multi-firm agreements, 1923-1960; records of Marketing Manager for Chocolate and Confectionary, 1946-1969; records of Marketing Manager for Chocolate Assortments, 1957-1970; records of Marketing Manager for Grocery, 1954-1966; records of Marketing Manager for Gums and Pastilles, 1925-1961; records of Consumer Testing Department, 1936-1946; records of Sales Planning Department, 1925-1961; records of Home Sales Manager, 1899-1968; records of Sales Office, 1923; Sales Promotion records, 1904-1988; papers of travellers and representatives, 1877-1992; records of Export Manager, c.1930-1965; records of Advertising Manager, 1895-1980; records of Transport Manager, 1916-1944; records of Transport Office, including staff records, 1902-1945; records of Despatch Department, 1911-1966; records of Railway Department, 1891-1922.

Records of Associated Companies Organisation, comprising records of Associated Companies Office, 1937-1945; records of Home Associated Companies Office, 1932-1962; records of Overseas Associated Companies Office, 1926-1962.

Advertising guard books, c.1910-1980.

Catalogues and price lists, 1897-1989.

Records of Rowntree’s Moor and Fell Club, 1932-1977.

Unlisted material.


Further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Some parts of the archive are closed at the request of Nestl‚. Remaining records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including the 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.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A typescript finding aid, to file level, is available for consultation in the searchroom of the Borthwick Institute. The advertising guard books and price lists are listed separately in the finding aid 'Rowntree Advertising Material and Price Lists.' The catalogue has also been published as 'A Guide to the Rowntree and Mackintosh Company Archives' by Judith Burg (University of York, 1997).

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related records deposited at the Borthwick Institute include the records of H. I. Rowntree & Co (the predecessor to Rowntree & Co) and John Mackintosh & Sons Ltd, as well as the papers of the Rowntree family, the research papers of Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, and the papers of prominent Rowntree employees such as William Wallace and John Bowes Morrell. The Borthwick Institute also holds the records of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Trusts.

Publication note

Robert Fitzgerald, 'Rowntree and the Marketing Revolution, 1862-1969' (Cambridge, 1995).

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

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).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Collection level description created by S. A. Shearn, 27.04.17. Retroconverted, edited and imported to Borthcat by K. Mannion, August 2017.


  • English



Accession area