The Rowntree family

Written By PhilG

York is a great place for a day trip or short stay. With lots of museums, restaurants, and pubs to explore.  

Home » Blog » People » The Rowntree family

Did you ever wonder where your KitKat comes from?

It’s made by Rountree’s of York.

A caring Quaker.

The problems of deprivation and hopelessness are not new. Over one hundred years ago Joseph Seebohm Rowntree was hardworking and successful; his success in business helped him to make life better for his community and the wider world.

You’ve probably herd of Rowntree’s chocolate, what you may not know is that the Rowntree family were Quakers and well respected in their community for their compassion towards their fellow man.

The Rowntree family were hands on people not content with just providing money, Joseph Seebohm Rowntree, the man I want to tell you about, used his spare time to teach in an adult school. He was concerned with people’s social, moral and physical welfare.

If you walk along Bootham out of the city, past Marygate Tower (the one that was blown up in the civil war, but that’s another story) you come to No 49 Bootham. This is quite an ordinary looking house but one of the people who lived here is anything but ordinary his name was Joseph Sebohn Rowntree and he lived from 1836 to 1925.

If I had to pick one man as a local hero this would be the one.

Over one million people died in the Irish potato famine and many left the country to try to start a better life in England or America. Some of these people came to settle in York. Many ended up in Walmgate, historically one of York’s poorest areas. The young Joseph and his father would have been very aware of these poor migrants living in the centre of York.

When Joseph was just 14 years old his father took him to see how the famine was affecting the people in Ireland and he never forgot what he saw. Joseph spent a lifetime caring about and for people, both in his
community and further afield.

The Rowntree family built a housing estate in York called New Earswick to help reduce one of society’s biggest problems then and now, bad housing.

York even has a Rowntree park on the banks of the river Ouse that was designed by Fred Rowntree. It’s a great place for any York Explorer to visit.

The Rowntree Foundation is still working today to help make the world a better place for all. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had more people like that in the world?

I hope that has whetted your appetite and left you wanting to find out more about York. If it has, a good way to start exploring is to try and find some of the places kings and queens stayed when they were in York.