Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rowntree, Joseph

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ROWNTREE, JOSEPH (1801–1859), quaker, youngest son of John Rowntree of Scarborough, by his wife, Elizabeth Lotherington, daughter of a quaker shipowner and captain, was born at Scarborough on 10 June 1801. He left school at thirteen, but continued to study, with the aid of his brother and sisters. At twenty-one he started in business as a grocer in York, and was admitted a member of the Merchants' Company. Education especially in the Society of Friends was his lifelong interest, and he was prominent in establishing, in 1828 and 1830, the York Quarterly Meeting Boys' and Girls' Schools, now occupying extensive premises at Bootham and The Mount, York. In 1832 he assisted in the establishment of the Friends' school at Rawdon, near Leeds, for children of a different class, and was one of the original trustees of the Flounders' Institute, Ackworth, for training teachers.

Rowntree was the friend of James Montgomery [q. v.], of Joseph John Gurney [q. v.], of Hannah Kilham [q. v.], and of Samuel Tuke [q. v.] With the latter he helped to establish the Friends' Educational Society in 1837, and served on the committee of the Friends' Retreat for the insane at York [see under Tuke, William]. He inaugurated several schemes of municipal reform in York, of which city he was alderman from 1853 and mayor in 1858. Although he was elected, he declined to serve from conscientious scruples. An able pamphlet by him helped to reform the marriage regulations of the Society of Friends (1860 and 1872), by which marriage with a person not in membership ceased to be visited with disownment. Other pamphlets were issued by Rowntree on ‘Colonial Slavery’ and on ‘Education.’

Rowntree died at York on 4 Nov. 1859. By his wife, Sarah Stephenson of Manchester (m. 1832), he had three sons.

[Family Memoir, printed for private circulation, and kindly lent by the editor, John Stephenson Rowntree; Annual Monitor, 1859, p. 211; York Herald, 12 Nov. 1859; Smith's Cat. ii. 514; Reports of the Friends' Educational Society; The Friend, xvii. 214; Biogr. Cat. of Portraits at the Friends' Institute.]

C. F. S.