Who we are

Who we are

We have seven trustees, one full-time member of staff, and a small team of volunteers.


Executive Director:  Catherine Oakley

Catherine grew up in Leeds. She studied at the University of Oxford and worked initially in academic publishing, before moving to York in 2010. In 2012, she worked as Research Associate and volunteer project manager at the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past at the University of York. She obtained an MA and PhD in English and Related Literature at the university, where her research focused on cultural histories of work, health and the body in Britain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Between 2017 and 2019 she was Postdoctoral Research and Engagement Fellow in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Leeds and then Lead Researcher for the York Castle Museum Capital Project at York Museums Trust. Over the last ten years, she has worked collaboratively with partners in the arts, museums, heritage and education sectors in York to develop innovative, research-driven public engagement projects locally, regionally and nationally. Catherine succeeded Bridget Morris as Executive Director in January 2020.


Email: catherine.oakley@rowntreesociety.org.uk


Elizabeth Grierson, Chair

Liz came to York after studying History at University to work in the Marketing department of Rowntree Mackintosh where she was the brand manager of several brands including KitKat. After the takeover by Nestlé she ran the PR and Site Services departments which at the time included archives and the writing of the Rowntree History by LSE’s Business History Department. With this connection in mind she became the Nestlé representative on The Rowntree Society Board in 2005 after the departure of John Sunley, one of the founding members. She has remained on the board and on leaving Nestlé formed an Imagination Agency. She was appointed Chair in 2013.

Tina Walker, Treasurer

Most of Tina’s life since coming to York in 1982 has been spent in institutions and organisations associated with Joseph Rowntree. She studied history at the University of York, the establishment of which owed much to the money and people provided by or associated with JR organisations. After qualifying as a chartered accountant, she went on to work for those organisations in the following order – Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd.

Richard Jagger

Richard studied Economics at the University of Hull and has an MBA from the University of Leeds. He has significant experience in senior commercial, sales, marketing and management positions in the UK and internationally. He was a Trustee of the Bowes Museum between 2000 and 2011, and is currently a trustee of York Museums Trust and York Theatre Royal.

Stephen Pittam

Stephen retired as Trust Secretary of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in August 2012, a post he had held for 11 years, with responsibility for the Power and Responsibility programme, among others. He has been involved in European Foundations networks, and has contributed towards promoting community development by liaising with civil society organistions. He has been a trustee since the establishment of The Rowntree Society.

Janette Ray

Janette is a bookseller who has an antiquarian bookshop on Bootham, with a focus on architecture, design, photography and landscape. She is a member of the Antiquarian Book Sellers Association and other national organisations, and she is involved in several heritage and arts projects based in York.

Alison Sayers

Alison grew up in North Yorkshire and then went to university and lived and worked in Norwich for several years, that other English city with strong chocolate and Quaker associations. After studying for an MBA, she followed a London-based career firstly in management consulting and then in organisation and leadership development with a global sustainability consulting firm. She recently moved back to Yorkshire and is keen to explore the Rowntree legacy in the field of well-being, management and leadership.

Christopher Webb

Chris came to live in York in 1980 and has recently retired as Keeper of Archives at the Borthwick Institute for Archives, where he worked in various capacities. The Borthwick has the largest accumulation of Rowntree archives in the world, and they form a key part of the Borthwick’s work. Recent projects include funding from Wellcome to create an online catalogue of the Rowntree Trusts and Family archives at the Borthwick, which can be followed at the Borthwick’s blog https://www.york.ac.uk/borthwick/

Company Secretary: Sarah Proctor, Lupton Fawcett Denison Till.

Get Fundraising

We are a small charity and rely on the generosity of our friends and supporters to run projects. Please join us in expanding this work by making a financial donation. It is easy to pay online (with or without Gift Aid) by clicking the link below, or you can get in touch with us about other ways of giving via  info@rowntreesociety.org.uk

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