The Haxby Road Factory

In 1890 Joseph Rowntree bought 29 acres of land off Haxby Road and began to build a new modern industrial complex. This complex was to house the manufacture of gum products and was sited with a main entrance onto Wigginton Road and a smaller pedestrian footpath access from Haxby Road.In 1899 an additional 31 acres had been purchased in order to expand the fruit growing capacity of the Haxby Road site. In addition, the factory was connected to the NER branch line via a private railway link.

Building the factory

General Office block (1896)

Elect Block (1904)

One of the most prominent features of the Haxby Road factory was the Elect Block. Designed by London Architect Fred Rowntree in 1904 and built by the Rowntree Building Department, it was considered very advanced to use a prototype steel-frame designed by a Middlesbrough architect company Doorman Long. The roof construction was also innovative and used a combination of steel trusses and slates wired to the beams. The foreman in charge of the construction process was Mr. Webb. The photograph below shows the Elect Block in 1966 and shows the detailed ornate brickwork which reads “ELECT COCOA” and ROWNTREE’S COCOA”. The CWM magazine Summer 1966 edition notes that this writing was 9 feet high and made from blue engineering bricks on a glazed cream brick background. During the war the letters were painted out in order to prevent identification. The large corner tower stands 113 feet high with water tank above and acted as a gravity-aided fire prevention water sprinkler system to various parts of the factory. 

The Melangeur Block (1906)

The Almond Block (1907) and extension (1911)

This, and the the Melangeur Block, were designed by Rowntree’s factory architects, W.H. Brown and W.J. Swain. and built by the Rowntree’s building department using a innovative form of reinforced concrete to create the structure.

Dining Block (1913)

Constructed on the opposite side of Haxby Road and accessed from the factory via a subway. Again, this was designed by W.J. Swain and constructed using an innovative concrete compound (Pevsner 1972, 246). The design is understood to have incorporated some of the longest concrete beams in the county. The Dining Block included a gymnasium, school room (former continuation school) and lecture hall.

From the York Press, 4 June 1913:

“Today was an important one for Messrs Rowntree and Co Ltd. New school buildings and dining rooms of fine dimensions were opened at the works of the firm in Haxby Road, and the function was attended by many distinguished people.

The new block, devoted to social and educational purposes, was reached from the factory exits by covered corridors which terminated in a subway leading under Haxby Road to the entrance hall. The construction, in the form of a letter “H”, was of reinforced concrete. The ground floor was to be mainly devoted to scholastic work.

On the north side were the woodwork, science, and other rooms planned as the boys’ classes, the lecture and concert room, and two girls’ dressmaking classrooms. The central portion comprised two cookery classrooms, and club rooms for men and boys. The south side would be devoted to the gymnasia and baths.

Adjoining the boys’ gymnasium, were six sets of shower and foot baths, and a dressingroom. The girls’ gymnasium had a large dressing room with twenty porcelain slipper baths. The whole of the first floor was to be devoted to a dining room for girls. The men’s dining room was on the north side of the second floor.”

Oral History Memories…Many of our interviewees as part of the oral history project “York Remembers Rowntree” have spoken about having their meals in the Dining Block. Three common themes have emerged from this work.

  1. Workers ate quickly so that the could catch the lunchtime movie.
  2. That the food was good value.
  3. That the dining rooms were hierarchically segregated.

The Dining Block was renovated and modified during 1965 to provide a “streamlined service area, modern kitchen, still-rooms and stores… with up-to-date equipment”. We are lucky to have some of these photographs of the work here. 


Cream Block (1936) and extension (1938)

Constructed using a steel-frame and brick cladding. The roof line has a ornate band of white sculpted render.

1955 Alterations

Rowntree & Co. Ltd. went through a series of alterations and expansions throughout the twentieth-century. The below photographs chart some of those changes.

Office block extension, Wigginton Road c.1955Office Block extension, Wigginton Road c.1955

Men's Showers, Elect Department c.1955Men’s Showers, Elect Department c.1955

Finished Goods Store, West By c.1955Finished Goods Store, West Bay c.1955

Gum Department extension c.1955Gum Department extension c.1955