- 1790-1995 (Creation)
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2.25 cubic metres
99 boxes and 3 shelves of outsize material.
Name of creator
The Rowntree family’s association with York began in 1822 when Joseph Rowntree (1801-1859) moved to the city from Scarborough to establish a grocery shop at 28 Pavement. In 1832 he married Sarah Stephenson (1807-1888) and the couple had five children together. Both the Rowntree and Stephenson family were members of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, and the Rowntrees went on to become one of the most prominent Quaker families in York.
It was Joseph and Sarah’s younger son, Henry Isaac (1838-1883), who in 1862 purchased the cocoa business of the Tuke family, founding what would eventually become the Rowntree confectionery company and brand. Joined by his brother Joseph (1836-1925) in 1869, the business was incorporated as Rowntree & Co in 1897 and moved to the Cocoa Works, a purpose built factory on Haxby Road, where it remains to this day.
The company became the second biggest employer in York under the leadership of Joseph Rowntree and his son Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree (1871-1954), and successive generations of the Rowntree family worked there as managers and company directors. The company’s more famous products include the Kit Kat and Aero chocolate bars.
The Rowntree family were heavily involved in the civic, political and social life of York, not merely as a major employer but also as Members of Parliament, city councillors, committee members, newspaper proprietors and philanthropists. Motivated in part by their religious faith, they were politically liberal and interested in questions of economic, educational and social reform. The factory at Haxby Road became well known for its innovative schemes to improve the welfare of the workforce, including paid leave, pensions, on site healthcare, a profit sharing scheme and model housing.
The family also invested in educational and leisure facilities for the city, including the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, Rowntree Park, York city library, and local schools for children and adults. A significant source of funding came from the four Joseph Rowntree Trusts established by Joseph Rowntree in 1904 to continue his social and charitable work.
His son Benjamin Seebohm in turn conducted pioneering research into poverty in York at the turn of the twentieth century, publishing his conclusions in ‘Poverty: a Study of Town Life’ in 1901. He later advised David Lloyd George and William Beveridge on areas of public policy relating to unemployment and living conditions.
The Rowntree company was sold to Swiss company Nestlé in 1988. Today, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust are still based in York and continue the family’s support for social reform.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Victorian correspondence and commonplace books (VC), 19th century; Rowntree family letters, 1840s-1907.
Records of Joseph Rowntree senior (ROWN FAM A/93, ARCH 02/5), including journals, 1812-1813, correspondence, 1831-1832, a privately printed memoir, 1868, handbills, c.1880s, articles, 1924, 1927, and photographs.
Records of Sarah Stephenson, wife of Joseph Rowntree (ROWN FAM K/93), including notebook, n.d. and memoir, 1888.
Records of John Stephenson Rowntree (ROWN FAM B/93, ARCH 02/5), including family memorabilia, letters, and genealogical papers, 1790-1898, journals, 1845-1846, correspondence, 1839-1904, memoranda concerning the death of his wife, c.1875, notes on his life and career, n.d., press cuttings, 1907, and photographs.
Records of Joseph Rowntree junior (JR93, ARCH 02/4, Papers of B. S. Rowntree), including personal and family papers, 1847-1977, general correspondence, 1843-1922, correspondence with his sister Hannah Gillett, 1906-c.1925, financial papers, 1857-1932, handbill and memoranda from Rowntree grocery business, 1834, 1852, papers relating to the Rowntree Company, 1870-1920, papers relating to agreements and properties, 1851-1939, papers relating to temperance, education and other concerns, 1875-1924, minute books of York Friends Literary and Debating Society, 1882-1889, letters, cards and telegrams of condolence on his death, c.1925, probate papers, 1860-1952, papers relating to Joseph Rowntree biography, 1918-1986, and two VHS video tapes concerning his life, 1982, 1993.
Records of Henry Isaac Rowntree and family (ROWN FAM C/93, ARCH 02/1-2), including personal accounts, 1869-1883, probate papers, c.1883, and papers relating to the Osborn Trust and Scholarship, 1880-1917.
Records of Francis Henry Rowntree, son of Henry Isaac Rowntree (ROWN FAM C/93, Acc 2012/43), including scrapbooks, 1903-1913, letter, n.d., and obituary, 1918.
Journal of Sarah Elizabeth Rowntree, eldest daughter of John Stephenson Rowntree (ARCH 02/5), 1877-1879.
Records of Arnold Stephenson Rowntree, son of John Stephenson Rowntree (ROWN FAM L/93, ARCH 02/6, Acc 2013/83, Acc 2013/72), including family papers, 1830s-1860s, correspondence, 1906-1951, typescript copies of letters to his wife Mary Katherine Rowntree, 1906-1918, financial papers, 1909-1937, papers concerning education in York, 1903-1941, typescript ‘ASR: nine years in Parliament,’ 1946, press cuttings and articles, 1905-1951, and photographs, c.1911-1930s.
Records of John Wilhelm Rowntree, son of Joseph Rowntree junior (ROWN FAM D/93), including lectures, 1886-c.1904, journals and sketches relating to his travels in the Middle East, 1895, and in the West Indies, Mexico and North America, 1898, and articles, 1904-1980.
Records of Joseph Stephenson Rowntree, son of Joseph Rowntree junior (ROWN FAM G/93), including pamphlets, 1944, and death certificate and probate documents, c.1951.
Financial papers of Agnes Macdonald, daughter of Joseph Rowntree junior (ROWN FAM E/93), 1905-1953.
Records of Oscar Frederic Rowntree, son of Joseph Rowntree junior (ROWN FAM F/93, Acc 5/2012) including birth, marriage and death certificates, financial papers, 1906-1938, documents relating to Sheffield Creameries, 1922-1924, and plan of Ouse Lea, n.d.
Records of Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, son of Joseph Rowntree junior (BSR93, Papers of B. S. Rowntree), including birth, marriage and death certificates, press cuttings and other personal memorabilia, 1871-1954, biographical papers, 1903-1989, genealogical notes on Seebohm family, 20th century, financial papers and accounts, 1845-1954, legal papers, 1905-1954, family and general correspondence, 1879-1954, including correspondence with David Lloyd George, 1919-1934, Ernest Bevin, 1937-1943, William Beveridge, 1941-1944, Waldorf Astor, 1943-1946, Henry S. Dennison, 1922-1953, Leland Rex Robinson, 1926-1954, and Christian Gierloff, 1922-1954, lectures and addresses, 1893-1951, articles, 1916-1938, papers relating to management of labour, 1917-1952, and the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, 1936-1949, papers relating to gambling, c.1903-1954, temperance, 1948-1953, poverty, 1914-1968, unemployment, 1929-1930, trade unions, 1930-1949, leisure, 1930s, education, 1912-1946, theatre, 1930-1954, Homestead and other York projects, 1932-1948, and the Joseph Rowntree Trusts, 1904-1972, papers relating to the First and Second World Wars, 1915-1949, papers relating to industrial disputes, 1915-1951, journals, correspondence, press cuttings and photographs concerning trips to Scandinavia, Germany, Australia, India, America, South America, Japan, and Africa, 1926-1954, books, 1902-1960, vinyl disc of BBC programme on BSR, 1995, compact cassette copy of programme, 1992, and photographs.
Records of Michael Rowntree, son of Arnold Stephenson Rowntree (Acc 2013/83, Acc 2013/10), including letters from his mother Mary Katherine Rowntree, 1940-1941, and papers relating to birdwatching/ringing, 1930s-1990s.
Records of Richard Rowntree, son of Arnold Stephenson Rowntree.
Records of Peter Rowntree, son of Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree (ROWN FAM H/93, Papers of B. S. Rowntree), including letters, 1942-1965, article, 1954, photographs and press cuttings, 1931, 1952-1960.
Promotional pamphlet and postcards for John Rowntree & Sons of Scarborough (ROWN FAM I/93), 1929, 1948-1951; records of Frederick Rowntree, son of John Rowntree of Scarborough (ROWN FAM J/93), including photocopies of drawings/plans of houses designed by him, n.d., and biographical notes, 1989.
Miscellaneous biographical and genealogical material (ARCH 02/7), including videos of BBC programmes on Rowntree family, c.1981-1982, video copies of cinefilms made by A. D. Naish with notes, 1928-1942, and genealogical notes and papers on Rowntree and Seebohm families, c.1990s; books owned by family members (ROWN FAM M/93), 1851-1903.
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Related units of description
Asa Briggs, 'Social thought and social action: a study of the work of Seebohm Rowntree, 1871-1954' (London, 1961)
Elizabeth Jackson, 'Joseph Rowntree (1801-1859): Citizen of York,' in York Historian, volume 23 (2006)
Elizabeth Jackson, 'Henry Isaac Rowntree: his Life and Legacy,' in York Historian, volume 28 (2011)
Ian Packer, ed. 'The letters of Arnold Stephenson Rowntree to Mary Katherine Rowntree: 1910-1918' (Cambridge, 2002)
Chris Titley, 'Joseph Rowntree' (Oxford, 2013)
Subject access points
- Organisations » Associations » Societies » Debating societies
- Religion » Religions » Quakerism
- Politics and government » Political movements » Temperance movements
- Educational institutions » Schools
- Information sources » Documents » Personal papers » Family records
- Information sources » Documents » Commonplace books
- Manufacturers » Confectioners
Name access points
- Rowntree, Joseph, 1801-1859, grocer (Subject)
- Rowntree, Sarah, 1807-1888, wife of Joseph Rowntree (Subject)
- Rowntree, John Stephenson, 1834-1907, Quaker minister (Subject)
- Rowntree, Joseph, 1836-1925, manufacturer and philanthropist (Subject)
- Rowntree, Henry Isaac, 1838-1883, manufacturer (Subject)
- Rowntree, Francis Henry, 1868-1918 (Subject)
- Rowntree, Arnold Stephenson, 1872-1951, Quaker MP (Subject)
- Rowntree, John Wilhelm, 1868-1905, chocolate manufacturer and religious activist (Subject)
- Rowntree, Joseph Stephenson, 1875-1951 (Subject)
- Macdonald, Agnes Julia, 1870-1960, née Rowntree (Subject)
- Rowntree, Oscar Frederic, 1879-1947 (Subject)
- Rowntree, Benjamin Seebohm, 1871-1954, sociologist and manufacturer (Subject)
- Rowntree, Michael, 1919-2007, bird watcher (Subject)
- Rowntree, Peter, 1904-1985 (Subject)
- Rowntree, Frederick, 1860-1927, architect (Subject)
- Rowntree & Co Ltd, cocoa and chocolate manufacturers (Subject)
- John Rowntree & Sons, tea and coffee merchants and cafe owners, Scarborough (Subject)
- Rowntree, Mary Katherine, 1876-1962, wife of Arnold Stephenson Rowntree, MP (Subject)
- British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (Subject)
- Rowntree, Richard, 1921-1997, Director of Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (Subject)