Joseph Rowntree (philanthropist)

Joseph Rowntree (philanthropist)

Infobox Person
name = Joseph Rowntree

image_size = 150px
caption = Rowntree around the age of 26.
birth_date = 24 May 1836
birth_place = York, Yorkshire
death_date = 24 February 1925
death_place =
occupation = philanthropist, chocolatier
salary =
networth =
spouse = Julia Seebohm (1862–1863)
Emma Seebohm (1867–onward)
children = 6
website = []
footnotes =
Joseph Rowntree (24 May 183624 February 1925) was a Quaker philanthropist and businessman from York, England. Rowntree is perhaps best known for being a champion of social reform and his time as a chocolatier at family business "Rowntree's", one of the most important in Britain. Even as a powerful businessman, he was deeply interested in improving the quality of life of his employees; this led to him becoming a philanthropist, pursuing many charitable causes. While he was still alive, he gave half of his money to the four Rowntree trusts which are dedicated to social reform and continue on today.


Rowntree was born in York, the son of Sarah and Joseph Rowntree. He attended Bootham School. At fourteen he accompanied his father on a visit to Ireland, and witnessed the effects of the potato famine. [ Joseph Rowntree Biography] - "The Joseph Rowntree Foundation" 2004] . This experience was to provide the grounding for his political views and buisness ideas later in life.

He started working in his father's grocery business as an apprentice the following year, and after his father's death in 1859 he took over the running, jointly managing the business with his brother John Stephenson Rowntree.

In 1869 he joined his brother, Henry Rowntree, who owned a chocolate factory in York. When Henry died in 1883, Joseph became the owner of the company. Joseph persued his progressive ideas within the running of Rowntree's, in the design the new factory opened in 1881, and in the business practices followed therin, including the founding of one of the first Occupational Pension Schemes.

The company, Rowntree's, grew from 30 to over 4,000 employees by the end of the 19th century making it Britain's eightieth largest manufacturing employer. It merged with John Mackintosh and Co. in 1969 and was taken over by Nestlé in 1988.

He had two marriages to Julia Eliza Seebohm in 1862 who died in 1863 and then to her cousin Emma Antoinette Seebohm in 1867 with whom he had six children [ Joseph Rowntree Biography] - "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography"] . The social investigator Seebohm Rowntree was one of their children.

According to a plaque on the outside of the south wall of the grounds of The Retreat, Joseph Rowntree is buried in the Quaker cemetery within.

Philosophical and political views

Joseph Rowntree was a supporter of liberal values, and was anxious to improve the quality of life of his employees. He provided them with a library, free education, a social welfare officer, a doctor, a dentist and a pension fund.


In 1902 he bought 150 acres (607,000 m²) at New Earswick, to the north of York, to build houses for low-income families.

In 1904 he gave half of his wealth to the charitable trusts he created:

The four Rowntree trusts bear Joseph Rowntree's name and continue his philanthropic work:

* The Joseph Rowntree Foundation funds research that seeks to understand the causes of social problems, such as poverty, poor housing, and other forms of social exclusion.

* The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust manages a stock of affordable housing as well as care homes for the elderly and disabled.

* The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust works for Quaker ideals including international peace and justice.

* The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd is active in UK progressive politics and is a significant financial donor to the UK Liberal Democrats.

In 1921 he opened Rowntree Park as a memorial to those from his company who died in the First World War.

He lived at 47 Bootham, now part of Bootham School, but the name of Joseph Rowntree is commemorated in the Joseph Rowntree School, the comprehensive school (secondary school: ages 11 to 18) in New Earswick.


External links

* [ The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust]
* [ The Joseph Rowntree Foundation]
* [ The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust]
* [ The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust]
* [ Joseph Rowntree School]

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