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A letter from Paul Rowntree 27.12.88 regarding the Architects

Frederick Rowntree        Douglas Rowntree       Colin Rowntree        

It was a pleasure to meet you and hear your talk and photos and pictures. But a further pleasant surprise to get your letter (21.12) and the reprint from the Builder on The West China University at Chengtu. Most of the pictures were new to me and also the plans and the short article were new.

I have in tattered photo of "Fred Rowntree on the way to Chengtu -West China 1912" in Colin's writing. He is in a sort of sedan chair with no front or roof being carried by poles on two men's shoulders.

I think my father would have been pleasantly surprised that his name was still being used in architecture. Most of his working one of Fred Rowntree and Sons. Fred died in 1927 and he and my grandmother were living at 11 Hammersmith Terrace by the Thames. I was born at Stand on the Green below Kew Bridge, but when I was 5 ( and my brother was 10) we all moved to Brandsby in 1925 and a few years later lived in York. My father had various offices, Coney Street, Stonegate, Museum Chambers (Museum St) in York. His elder brother Douglas stayed in London ending up with an office in Baker Street area and a house Jarretts at Gerrards Cross. He liked the train journeys with his cronies better than washing up and when he thought he should retire but wanted to "fiddle on" persuaded my father to break their happy if not lucrative partnership. Fred had been in Glasgow (where my father was born) later at Brompton near Scarborough, and then London when Fred had a run of competition wins. Also he must have been one of the first Quaker architects. I rather think he did some work in Glasgow with Rennie Mackintosh.

There was still more work in this area so my father was sent north again ( and indeed had been at Bootham School when my Uncle Arthur was Headmaster )

So my Uncle Douglas had many slack times and amplified his business letters to his brother with uncensored humour and comments not connected with work.

Some were very funny and not always bawdy. They remained very friendly brothers and partners. My father would enjoy Douglas’ ribald humour ( I suppose beachcomber was similar – perhaps also before your time ) but lacked the same inventiveness. Douglas would attack any pomposity especially within the large family. My father said the funniest thing was an essay on "Why fishmongers wear straw hats" but I never did know that. One rhyme was in response to a letter suggesting that he stay the night at the Mount School with the Head Miss Nightingale.