Our founder, Joseph Rowntree was a visionary Quaker businessman and social reformer. He built New Earswick, a village in York, for people on low incomes, including staff who worked in his factory, giving them access to decent homes at affordable rents. He was committed to understanding the causes of poverty and disadvantage in order to create a better society. His son, Seebohm Rowntree, was a pioneering social researcher who undertook one of the country’s first investigations into poverty.
Our work and that of the foundation continues to be driven by Joseph Rowntree’s vision.
The origins of the JRF-JRHT group's financial resources lie in a major donation of shares in the original Rowntree Company gifted to us by Joseph Rowntree in 1904. A review in 2020 of publicly available sources regarding the company’s historic global supply chains revealed deeply disturbing practices and evidence that the firm benefited from slavery and forced labour. As former shareholders in the firm we have issued an apology for the deep and enduring harms caused by these shameful practices and are supporting further research into this part of our history.