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The Rowntree Family

Aunt Em

Emily Rowntree, sister of Frederick Rowntree

Aunt Em was the youngest child of John and Ann (Webster) Rowntree, born 28 April 1863 in Scarborough.

In 1886 she was a bridesmaid at Fred Rowntree and  Mary Anna Gray’s wedding, with  Flossie and Louie Gray and Kate Anderson (later Gray).  ER remained friendly with these sisters-in-law and there are photos of them together in Glasgow.  I have 2 photographer’s photos of a group consisting of the 4 bridesmaids plus Willie Gray (Kate’s husband) and George and Fred Rowntree on holiday together in Normandy in the summer of 1891.

I was told that ER had worked as a “welfare officer” at the Rowntree works and that she was given a set of Jane Austen novels as a leaving present.  These books were at Jarretts and were inherited by Susan and will be with Dean or one of the family there.  In the 1901 census she was living in York and is described as “superintendant confectionary works”.  The head of the household was Hannah Hollis, boarding house keeper and there were 3 servants.

In the 1911 census both ER and HH were boarding house keepers in another house in York with 18 rooms, 2 boarders and 4 servants.  The 1940 edition of the Rowntrees of Riseborough gives ER as boarding house proprietor, York.  This must be out of date information as by 1926 she was in Wadhurst, Sussex, where HH died, aged 64 (probate granted to ER alone).  ER lived at Sparrow’s Green Wadhurst at least until 1938 (last telephone book entry I’ve found).  I’ve no idea when the 2 of them moved from York or whether they lived elsewhere en route. 

When I remember her she was living in Tunbridge Wells with Mrs Carol Whitten.  I had thought they had a guest house there, but now wonder if that is right.  Mrs Whitten (nee Caroline Lowry, born in China) was the widow of the manager of a tea estate in Assam who was murdered around a year after they were married.  She returned from India to Tunbridge Wells (where she had been with her maternal grandmother in 1911 after the early deaths of her parents) in 1925.  I don’t know when they met or started to live together.  1946 is the earliest phone book entry for CW at 26 Park Street, Southborough, T Wells, which Arthur  Rowntree (ER’s brother, headmaster of Bootham)’s biographer says belonged to Mrs Whitten and was shared by ER.  But I have a postcard Aunt Em wrote to me when we were still living at Jarretts in March 1945 from Grange-over-Sands saying “Mrs Whitten found this card in a shop here”.

Arthur R (who had retired near Farnham) spent his last years with them at Southborough, after his wife had gone into a nursing home in T Wells, and died there in 1949.  ER died there on 6 September 1951 aged 88.  CW was still there in 1952 but by 1956 had moved to Lansdowne Road, T Wells, where she died in 1968 aged 72.

When I was born Aunt Em gave me and my mother a child’s rocking chair which I still have.  She also from time to time gave me books she’d had as a child, beginning, when I was a month old, with a Natural History book (1897) which had been a Christmas present that year from her about-to-be stepmother.  I remember her visiting us in Hampstead and how short she was!  She took a lot of interest in us, must have been very fond of my mother I think, and was amazingly active.  I have another postcard from Exmouth in April 1949, very lively and engaged, “love from Aunt Em & C W”.

Richenda George