Timeline

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.
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Pavement, York

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.

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. The children swung off the banisters and created chemical explosions in the attic, but philosophy, parliamentary debates, Quaker thought, and sugar, coffee and tea prices were discussed over dinner.
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1850. Joseph witnesses the Irish potato famine

The young Joseph Rowntree visits Ireland with his father, brother and John Ford, Headmaster of Bootham School. There he sees the starvation and destitution caused by the terrible Potato Famine. This trip made a lasting impression on him.
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1862. Early oily chocolate drinks

Henry Isaac Rowntree acquires a cocoa business from the Quaker Tuke family and moves to Tanner’s Moat in 1864. His first products were bars of ground cocoa mixed with cocoa nibs, flour or sago. When mixed with water they produced an oily cocoa drink, due to the high amount of butter in the cocoa bean. Another product was ‘Homeopathic Cocoa’, which contained arrowroot, known for its medicinal properties.
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1879. The secret of gum manufacture is cracked

A Frenchman, Claude Gaget, introduces the Henry Isaac and his brother Joseph, who had 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.
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1883. Henry Isaac died at a young age

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

1887. Elect chocolate bar 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.
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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.
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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 people’s living conditions. A whole village is created on the outskirts of York, not far from the new factory complex.
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1904. Joseph Rowntree sets up three trusts

Joseph Rowntree puts much of his entire wealth into three trusts, intended to influence different aspects of his thinking 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.
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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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