Primary Sources

In this section you will find a collection of primary sources relating to Joseph Rowntree.

You can read direct quotations from Joseph Rowntree on our quotations page.

The Cocoa Works in 1925

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Illuminated 80th Birthday Address

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Condolence Letters

A small sample of the range of letters of condolence sent to the family when Rowntree died in 1925, transcribed from letters held in the Borthwick Institute for Historical Research, University of York. There are over 200 such letters in their files.


Think! Which of his achievements do these letters focus upon? What do they all have in common?


Handwritten (Headed Letter Paper)

64 Wheeleys Road,
Feb 24 1925

Dear Seebohm Rowntree
We have just seen in tonight’s paper the announcement of your father’s death, after his long and wonderful life of service. He will be greatly missed by those whom he has inspired by his wise councel (sic) and helped in so many ways. I have been continually conscious of this in the adult school movement which he has helped so efficiently and yet so quietly.

To those of you to whom the loss must be so great and personal my wife and I send our loving sympathy

Yours sincerely(?)

Barrow Cadbury




Primrose Hill,
Selly Oak,
25th February 1925.

Dear Seebohm,
I was very sorry to see yesterday that your father had passed away.

He was of those of the past generation who did so much to bring a revivifying influence into the Councils of the Society of Friends. We always felt he was a warm friend of Woodbrooke and was always willing to back up any forward work in the Society, on both the religious and social sides. I valued is keen appreciation of the work we are trying to do at Fircroft and we owe a great deal to him and to your family for the way you have helped us there.

Your father and ours were associated very closely in many ways and I hope that there may be the same friendly feeling between us of the next generation. I am glad to think that we have the same ideals in view, not only in our religious and social work but also in our conduct of business and treatment of workers.

Yours sincerely,

George Cadbury Jnr. (signed by hand)



Handwritten (Headed letter paper)

Secretary: W.Fox
The Cocoa Works,

Dear S.(?).R

Please allow me to thank you and the family for the signal honour you conferred on me in asking me to take some real part in Saturday’s great ceremony.

Whatever the future holds in store for me, whatever disappointments and failures sadden my soul and whatever regrets I experience at failing some service to my fellows I should always be able to find some comfort in the thought that for many years I was a member of the large team so ably led by J.R and at the end I was counted worthy to carry to its ‘last resting’ place the mortal remains of my beloved Captain.

In sincere friendship to you and yours I am yours ever

Will Fox




8 Markham Crescent
Febry (sic) 24/25

Dear Mr. Seebohm

As a citizen of York and as an Englishman rather than as an employee of Rowntree & Co. Ltd., I feel that I should like to express to you and your brothers my sincere appreciation of the noble life lived by your distinguished father.

It has been a life of wonderful unselfishness, and a great example.

Constant thought for others was in evidence in all his actions and his incessant work for the general good of humanity is something that we all should appreciate, and be proud of. I shall always remember him as ‘a true gentleman’.

May I offer my sincere sympathy to you all in your time of trouble.

Believe me

Yours sincerely

C (?) Fanthorpe



Handwritten (Headed letter paper)

Mansion House,
28th Feb. 1925.

My dear Mr Rowntree

The Lady Mayoress and myself would like to express our sympathy with all the members of the family of your late father in the irreparable loss which you have sustained by his death. We realise that we cannot appreciate how great is the loss to the family circle but we do know that our city has lost its most influential Honorary Freeman whose works will live long to remind us and all the generations who follow that he was a pioneer in thought and practice for the well being of the toiling workers of our City and Country who I am sure will long hold his name in grateful remembrance –

With kind regards

Yours sincerely,

R Newbald Kay (Lord Mayor of York, Robert Newbald Kay)




3rd March 1925

Dear Mr Rowntree,
At its meeting yesterday evening the City Council passed the following resolution:-

“That the Council offers to the members of his family its sincere sympathy on the death of the late Mr Joseph Rowntree, Honorary Freeman of the City, and places on record its high appreciation of the great services rendered by Mr Rowntree to the City and his fellow citizens, recalling his noble character and high ideals and his sustained and unselfish efforts for the good of all in matters of education, health, recreation and social well-being.”

Yours faithfully,

Percy Spalding (signed by hand)
Town Clerk



Handwritten (Headed Letter Paper)

Bishophill Adult School

22 Prices Lane
Nunnery Lane


Mr B.S.Rowntree

Dear Sir

At our morning class of the above school it was the wish of the members that a vote of condolence be sent to the family of the late Joseph Rowntree whose friendship and ( faith ?) in the Adult School movement which he in the past was very active worker in the educational progress of the workers. We deeply regret the loss and wish to express our deepest sympathy with the family in their bereavement on behalf of the school

I remain

Yours sincerely

Thomas Frace? Trace?

Honorary Secretary




The Garden Cities & Town Planning Association

3 Gray’s Inn Place,
Gray’s Inn,

9th April, 1925.

Dear Mr. Rowntree,

At the Annual Meeting of the Association reference was made to the sad death of Mr. Joseph Rowntree, which news was received by the members with the deepest regret. A resolution was carried unanimously placing on record the great appreciation of Mr. Rowntree’s valuable services to the cause of housing and town planning in general, and his assistance to the Association’s efforts in particular, and conveying to Mr. Rowntree’s family the deepest sympathy with them in their great loss.
I was instructed to convey the terms of the resolution to you.

Believe me,

Yours faithfully,

Pike (almost illegibly signed – can’t read initials)


Letters reproduced in the Special Memorial Number of the ‘Cocoa Works Magazine’, 1925, from the archives of Bootham School