York’s premier chocolate factory has been providing employment to the city’s workers for more than a century and a half – ever since it was founded (in Castlegate) by Quaker Henry Isaac Rowntree in 1862, when he bought the Tuke family.
It has relocated its base of operations several times – first to Tanner’s Ditch in 1864, then to its current site, following the purchase of 20 acres of land on Haxby Road in the 1890s.
It has gone through several names and owners – Joseph Rowntree & Company; Rowntree Macintosh; and, most recently, Nestle.
And it has produced some iconic chocolate brands: Smarties, Rollo’s, Quality Street and, perhaps most famously, Kit Kats.
Undated aerial view of the ‘new’ rowtree factory from Haxby Road
At times the company had its own railway station; own fleet of delivery trucks; And it has its own R&D center.
And, in the early days, in particular, under the influence of Joseph Rowntree and his son Seebohm, it pioneered workers’ rights, organized sports days, and inaugurated a Theater and memorial library for its workers.
The rowtree bosses were among the city’s leading figures – and the annual visit to the chocolate factory to meet with employees and managers was the highlight of every Lord Mayor’s year.
Throughout the years, photographers from the Yorkshire Evening Press were regular visitors to the factory – taking photographs of civilian visits, factory floor workers, maintenance workers, managers and employees taking off after a busy shift.
Rowtree workers leaving factory after shift: date unknown
He photographed the Roundtree delivery lorry; Inside the Memorial Library; and the unveiling of the ‘facelift’ Kit Kat in 1993.
We’ve been digging around in our electronic collection mainly to find a selection of photos from the past 50 years.
They give a wonderful glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ of a chocolate factory that means a lot to York.