1822. Joseph Rowntree Sr buys premises on Pavement

Pavement, York
Joseph Rowntree (Senior) comes to York from Scarborough, aged 21, to buy a grocery shop at 28 Pavement. The auctioneer is drunk, and Joseph has to dip his head in a bucket to sober him up.
Pavement, York

1823. Bootham School

Joseph Rowntree (Senior) and Samuel Tuke found the first private Quaker boys school in York (later known as Bootham School).


Building on his 10 years of experience, working for his grocer father in Scarborough, Joseph Rowntree (Senior)'s new business begins to flourish.


Expansion of the Quaker colony of Friedensthal, Germany, where the Seebohm family originates.


Joseph Rowntree (Senior) lives above the shop with his sister Elizabeth.

1827. Apprentices at Pavement

Long working hours for the apprentices at the Rowntree Grocery business on Pavement, 6 days a week, from 6.00 am to 8.00 pm.


Strict economy, fastidiousness, small expenditure on self, mark the first years of Joseph Rowntree (Senior’s) life as a master grocer.

1829. John Ford

John Ford becomes Superintendent of the ‘Yorkshire Quarterly Meeting Boys’ School’ (Bootham School).


York’s population expands rapidly, due to immigration from Ireland and the growth of the railway industry.

1831. The Mount School

The ‘York Friends’ Girls’ School’ - is founded in Castlegate. It relocates to its current location in Dalton Terrace in 1856 and is renamed "The Mount School".

1832. Life at the Pavement shop

Joseph marries Sarah Stephenson, and many of their five children are born in the family home above the Pavement shop. Life there is very busy and full of interest.
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Thomas Craven arrives in York as a 16 year old apprentice to work with his brother-in-law Thomas Hide at his confectionery business.

1834. John Stephenson Rowntree is born.

John Stephenson Rowntree is born, eldest son to Joseph and Sarah.


Elizabeth Hotham is born. She later marries John Stephenson Rowntree, and becomes the mother of Arnold Rowntree.

1836. Joseph Rowntree is born

Joseph Rowntree is born at Pavement in York 24 May: he is the second of Joseph Rowntree Senior’s three sons.


George Hudson ‘The Railway King’ becomes Mayor of York.

1838. Henry Isaac Rowntree is born

Henry Isaac Rowntree is born – the youngest of Joseph Rowntree Senior’s sons, and founder of the confectionery company.


George Cadbury is born.


Charles Booth is born. Philanthropist and social researcher, he will advise Seebohm Rowntree on his study of Poverty in York.

1841. Julia Rowntree

Julia Seebohm is born. She will become Joseph Rowntree’s first wife.

1844. Joshua Rowntree

Joshua Rowntree is born, later to become mayor and Liberal MP for Scarborough.

1845. Hunger in York

Joseph Rowntree (Senior) takes the lead in establishing York’s soup kitchen, which opened every winter in premises near Black Horse Passage.

1846. Antoinette Rowntree

Antoinette (Tonie) Seebohm is born in Hamburg. She will become Joseph Rowntree's second wife.

1847. Banking crisis

The end of the 1840s railway boom leads to a banking crisis, known as the '1847 Panic'.

1848. First Day School founded

A 'First Day’ or Sunday morning school for boys aged between 8 and 15 is started in Hope Street.

1849. Famine in Ireland

The potato crop in Ireland fails again and compounds the problems of previous years of blight. There are serious outbreaks of typhus and other famine related diseases.

1850. Joseph witnesses the Irish Famine

The young Joseph Rowntree visits Ireland with his father, brother and John Ford. They see the starvation and destitution caused by the Famine. This trip made a lasting impression on Joseph.

1851. The Great Exhibition

The Great Exhibition held in London. New rail links enable York citizens for the first time to travel with comparative ease.

1852. Clifton Lodge House

Clifton Lodge is built. This is the house where Joseph Rowntree lives towards the end of his life.

1853. Tries hard but could do better…..

Henry Isaac Rowntree comes bottom of his class at Bootham School.


Henry Isaac is sent for a year to Grove House School, Tottenham (a school for ‘the sons of the Society of Friends’.)

1856. Apprentice at the Pavement Shop

Henry Isaac becomes an apprentice at his father’s Pavement shop.

1857. Love is in the air

Joseph meets Julia Seebohm at her family home in Hitchin.


John Stephenson Rowntree marries Elizabeth Hotham

1859. Joseph Rowntree Senior dies

Joseph Rowntree Senior dies at Top (Penn) House.

1860. Public bathing encouraged in York

The ‘Old Yearsley Bathing Place’ is constructed in 1860 on the River Foss, a short distance below Yearsley Bridge. The bed of the river is cemented for a space of 100 yards, and Dressing Sheds erected. The total cost is about £300 and admission is free. In due course, this will be redesigned by Fred Rowntree to become the Yearsley Swimming Pool still much-used in York.

1861. Fred Rowntree is born

Fred Rowntree, who will become a prolific architect in the Arts & Crafts School, is born in Scarborough.

1862. The Rowntrees get involved in cocoa

Henry Isaac Rowntree acquires a cocoa business from the Quaker Tuke family.

1863. Tragedy for young Joseph

Julia Elizabeth Rowntree dies – probably of meningitis - a few months after the birth of her first child, 'Lilley'. Lilley doesn't thrive and dies soon after her mother, leaving Joseph a grieving widower and father.

1864. H. I. Rowntree moves to a larger site

Henry Isaac moves the firm of ‘H. I. Rowntree’ to Tanner’s Moat. The site Henry Isacc buys is next to York's River Ouse. It consists of an old iron foundry, with several cottages and a tavern. The site provides much-needed additional space but is far from customised to the production of confectionery. Over time, the cramped conditions will seriously limit productivity.

1879. The secret of gum manufacture is cracked

A Frenchman, Claude Gaget, introduces Henry Isaac and his brother Joseph, who has now joined the business, to the technique of manufacturing Crystalized Gum Pastilles (later to become Fruit Pastilles and Fruit Gums). Gum manufacture leads to a big increase in the company’s prosperity.

1883. Henry Isaac dies young

Henry Isaac Rowntree
Henry Isaac dies of peritonitis, aged 45, leaving his elder brother Joseph to develop the firm and ensure its fortunes.
Henry Isaac Rowntree

1887. Elect cocoa turns into a big success

Needing to keep up with his Birmingham rival, George Cadbury, Joseph acquires the technology for pressing the fat out of the cocoa bean. This leads to the creation of Rowntree’s Elect Cocoa. The number of employees between 1883 and 1894 rises from 200 to 894.

1891. Arnold Rowntree and his big ideas

Other family members join the growing business, including Arnold Rowntree, nicknamed ‘Chocolate Jumbo’. His bold imaginative flair leads to startling experiments, such as the boat race day when a huge mechanical swan draws a barge up the Thames with an outsize tin promoting Rowntree's Elect Cocoa. He becomes Liberal MP for York during the WW1, and is known for his anti-war stance.

1901. Seebohm Rowntree’s book on poverty makes an impression

Seebohm Rowntree, Joseph’s son, follows his father’s footsteps with his interest in poverty, public health and social questions. This is at a time well before the modern welfare state had been created. His book ‘Poverty: a Study of Town Life’, is a milestone in early sociology and statistical analysis. He calculates a standard minimum income for people to be able to live a decent comfortable life, and shows that many people who live in poverty can’t easily help their situation.

1902. New Earswick model village is built

Building begins on New Earswick model village to improve worker’s living conditions. A whole village is created on the outskirts of York, not far from the new factory complex.

1904. Joseph Rowntree sets up three trusts

Joseph Rowntree puts much of his entire wealth into three trusts, intended to enhance different aspects of his thinking - and capacity to act - on social problems, such as the alleviation of poverty, changes in housing conditions, education and political reform. These trusts still exist today, and they still apply the ideas of their founder to problems of society today.

1906. A new factory is built

A state-of-the-art factory is completed at Haxby Road to accommodate 4000 employees. It has Fruit and Gum blocks, a Cake Moulding block, and Store and Packing rooms, and it was served by a special railway line. There was also a gymnasium and dining and welfare facilities.
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1921. Rowntree park & memorial library are opened

Rowntree Park is presented to the people of York by the Rowntree company, and shortly afterwards the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Library is opened on Haxby Road, with c. 10,000 books.
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1925. Joseph Rowntree dies

Death of Joseph Rowntree. 2,000 people line the streets of York and fill the Cocoa Works on the day of his funeral.
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1930. George Harris introduces the famous brands

A range of famous brands is introduced, under the direction of George Harris, including Black Magic, KitKat, Aero, Dairy Box, Smarties, and Polo Mints. They show how well brand marketing can contribute towards the growth of an enterprise.
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1941. Winston Churchill disapproves of sweet rationing

During the war years, the company had to accept rationing of supplies imposed by the Ministry of Food. But the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, wanted to avoid the rationing of sweets to children, so they were limited to a weekly ration and they didn’t need to register at a particular sweet shop.
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1954. Seebohm Rowntree dies

Death of Seebohm Rowntree at his home in Hughenden Manor, Bucks, formerly the home of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli.
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1960. Rivalry between the Quaker confectioners

The company sees rapid growth and the development of new markets across the globe. At the same time there is close trade cooperation between the old Quaker rivals Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry.
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1962. After Eight is introduced

After Eight is introduced.
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1969. A merger and the FTSE 100

The company merges with John Mackintosh & Sons (makers of Rolo, Munchies, Toffee Crips, Quality Street) to form Rowntree Mackintosh Ltd. For a period it became a constituent of the FTSE 100 index.
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1988. Company sold to Nestle

Nestlé SA acquires Rowntree plc, and the company is renamed Nestlé Rowntree, to become a division of Nestlé UK Ltd. It continues to produce many of the original brand products.
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2000. Joseph Rowntree man of the millennium

Joseph Rowntree is voted ‘Man of the Millennium’ by the citizens of York.
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2012. Joseph Rowntree is still loved in York

Joseph Rowntree is the winner of the special ‘Community Pride’ awards, as the man who has done most for pride in York during the city’s 800th celebration since the granting of a royal charter in 1212.
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2018. KitKat goes from strength to strength

Six million KitKats a day are produced at the York Nestlé factory. More than 1 billion KitKats are consumed in the UK each year. A year’s production would stretch around the London Underground 350 times.
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