100+ years of a vision fulfilled
The history of Cober Hill
Cober Hill was built in 1890 by Sir Frank Lockwood, who was a barrister by profession and from 1885 Member of Parliament for York. The property was purchased by Arnold Rowntree, former Liberal Member of Parliament for York, and nephew of the chocolate manufacturer Joseph Rowntree, in March 1920.
Arnold Rowntree prepared a Memorandum at the time setting out his hopes for Cober Hill. He wrote:
“I believe that if a new recreative, educational and Conference Centre at Cober Hill which I have helped to start can be made thoroughly successful it is one of those experiments which will be copied in other parts of the country to the great advantage of all those concerned….I want it to be a place of joy and beauty, …a centre of refreshment and inspiration for many of those engaged in difficult public services… I hope experiments in Weekend Schools, Winter and Summer Schools of various kinds and of longer or shorter duration may also be tried there…”
This vision has guided Cober Hill throughout its history and remains relevant today.
Cober Hill is independent of any other organisation. Over the years it has close associations with the Rowntree Trusts of York, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Adult Schools Union.
The Joseph Rowntree Centre was built from 1990-92 with funds from the two Rowntree Trusts.
Long established groups such as Yorkshire Adult and Quaker Easter Settlement have visited Cober throughout its history and continue to do so today. The nature of other visitors has regularly changed over the years. An increased emphasis on attracting school groups was successfully launched in the early 1990s and continues to this day.
Cober Hill Limited is a private company. Its ordinary share capital was originally owned by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Yorkshire Adult School Union. The Yorkshire Adult School Union transferred its shareholding to the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in 1942. The Charitable Trust in turn gifted 51% of its shareholding to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 1982. There was no further change to the ownership until 2017 when the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation each gifted their shareholdings to the Cober Hill Charitable Trust (registered charity).
Although a private company, Cober Hill operates in a similar way to a charity. No dividend on the ordinary shares has ever been paid; surpluses are used to maintain and improve the facilities. It is governed by a Board of Directors, all of whom serve in a voluntary capacity.
The current Directors are:
- Michael Sturge (chair)
- Wendy Thompson (co-deputy chair)
- Cath Hollingsworth (co-deputy chair)
- Cedric Dennis
- Chris Hailey-Norris
- Colin Straw
- Anne Taylor
- Christine Gow
- Robert Coates