Researching Rowntree

Researching Rowntree

Are you looking for information on a family member who worked for the Rowntree company? Are you a local historian in York interested in finding out more about the rich and varied histories relating to the Rowntree family? You could be a writer or producer looking for reliable information on Rowntree histories and legacies, or a student/academic interested in exploring Rowntree connections to business history, Quakerism, philanthropy or colonialism.

Whatever your interests, our research guide below summarises key archives and collections relating to Rowntree in York and beyond.

Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York

The Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York houses several collections of Rowntree Archives in which there is considerable overlap (reflecting the close integration of the Rowntree & Co /Rowntree Macintosh company, the Joseph Rowntree Trusts, and the Rowntree family over the 19th and 20th centuries).

The Rowntree Archives held by the Borthwick incorporate collections relating to Rowntree & Co. (later Rowntree-Mackintosh), donated by  Nestlé plc.

A digital catalogue of the Rowntree Archives at is now available at the Borthwick following a Wellcome Trust-funded cataloguing project which ran between 2017 and 2019.

Brotherton Library, University of Leeds

The Quaker Collections at the University of Leeds hold the Clifford Street (York) collection of Quaker meeting minute books and business records (such as lists of members and marriage certificates), covering mainly York and Thirsk, but Yorkshire Quaker Meetings overall. There are maps showing the extent of the relevant Yorkshire monthly meetings before 1853, 1854-1923 and since 1924. The Rowntree family played a major part in the Clifford Street Meeting and their involvement in its daily business and spiritual development is reflected in these papers.

A research bibliography complied by Helen E. Roberts – ‘Researching Quaker Yorkshire History’ – is available online courtesy of Hull History Centre (updated 2007).

Friends House Library, London

The Friends House Library in London is one of the largest libraries in the world for Quaker collections, including many Quaker journals. It also contains some documents pertaining to the Rowntree family, particularly in relation to their Quaker service nationally.

City of York Archives & Libraries (York Explore)

City of York Council’s holdings at York Explore relate mostly to the civic aspects of the city’s history and the Rowntrees’ part in that history, including pamphlets and historic newspapers, and the ‘Cocoa Letters’ (a collection of letters sent back from the Western front in the First World War to thank the Lord Mayor and sheriff for their generosity in sending consignments of chocolate out to the serving troops).

York Explore also holds records relating to the history of Rowntree Park.

The city archives also host York Images, an online photographic collection of 6000 historic images of York, many of them digitised. The collection includes a number of Rowntree-related photograph and is an excellent integrated resource for finding information about the Victorian and Edwardian city.

York Castle Museum (York Museums Trust)

York Castle Museum has a large collection of objects relating to the social history of York and the surrounding region. They hold a significant collection of items relating to the Rowntree company, including advertising materials, packaging and confectionary items.

The education materials on the York Museums Trust website include some Rowntree-related resources for schools.

Enquiries to the curatorial team can be made here.

Yorkshire Film Archive

The Yorkshire Film Archive, based at York St. John University, holds 128 films of Rowntree materials on deposit. Some materials are digitised and available to view online.

British Newspapers Archive

This online collection of up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library’s collection contains many entries on Rowntree. Free access to the digital archive is usually available in local libraries.

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Bruno Lasker papers

Lasker was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1880 and lived in England between 1901 and 1914. He worked closely with Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree and David Lloyd-George on issues of social reform. The Columbia University Libraries Archival Collections houses the Bruno Lasker papers, 1923-1951.

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Our work is enabled by grant funding from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. If you would like to make a financial donation to further support our work, it is easy to pay online (with or without Gift Aid) by clicking the link below. You can get in touch with us about other ways of giving via