Rowntree A-Z

Joseph Stephenson Rowntree (1875-1951)

Third son of Joseph Rowntree, known as ‘Stephen’. His working life was spent at the cocoa works, and his spare time was devoted to Quaker committees and local Liberal politics. On Stephen’s birth certificate his father declared himself as a ‘Cocoa Manufacturer’, whilst on those of his older brothers he still described himself as a ‘Master Grocer’.

After Bootham School, he was the first in the family to go to Cambridge – a conventional step for a member of the upper middle classes in the Edwardian period, but a departure for Quakers who had until recently been debarred from entering the old universities, mainly on the grounds of their non-conformism.

From Cambridge, Stephen went to work at the Cocoa works; and in 1905 he joined the board, remaining a director until around 1936. He was involved with the Joseph Rowntree Village Trust, as a board member and, later chairman, from 1904 until his death in 1951.

Stephen was known as a good committee man. He was on Finance Committee, Literature and Book Committee, The Northern Friends Peace Board and the Yorkshire Friends’ Service Committee – to name a few. His work on the last of these was particularly important since it was set up to pursue the ideas of his brother, John Wilhelm who died in 1905. Stephen also wrote and published Quaker pamphlets such as What the Quakers Stand For and Silence as a basis for Worship.

His other sphere of interest was local politics; he was mayor of Harrogate from 1911-13. The notice of his death in the Harrogate Advertiser plays curious tribute to his part in the introduction of cocked hats as ceremonial attire. Perhaps more interesting was his role in the acquisition of the Harlow Carr Estate which is now the northern home to the Royal Horticultural Society.

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