The Joseph Rowntree Theatre

York’s Art Deco Theatre is located across the road from the Rowntree Chocolate Works (now Nestlé) that it originated from.

Theatre Frontage

Theatre Frontage

Photo provided by Anna Mitchelson

Theatre Frontage

Theatre Frontage

Photo provided by Anna Mitchelson


The Joseph Rowntree Theatre was built by the Joseph Rowntree Village Trustees and opened on 18 November 1935, with the aim of providing a hall that may be a fitting centre for those recreational and educational activities that make for a full and happy life.


The original purpose of the building is still relevant today. Under the direction of the Charity Commission’s guidelines and its own Constitution, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Limited board continues to provide a facility for the benefit of local operatic and drama groups, schools and other youth organisations.

Current Organisation

In 2001 the theatre began to run independently and a Charitable Company was established to oversee the day-to-day operations of the theatre.

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre Limited was incorporated in March 2003 and gained registered charity status. Since then, with support from Nestlé UK Ltd and its employees, the board has instigated a number of improvements to enable the continued operation of the theatre and to ensure its on-going presence in the community.

In 2012 York St John University purchased the freehold of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre from Nestlé UK Ltd. Under the terms of the lease, the board continued to manage the day-to-day operations of the theatre.

In August 2017 the board bought the premises of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre from York St John University - see Press Release

Charitable Objectives

The Charitable Company has three objectives it seeks to achieve in operating the Joseph Rowntree Theatre:

  • The provision of an affordable facility for the use of the community of the City of York and its surrounds for the presentation of the dramatic arts both as performers and as an audience.
  • To provide an important meeting and social venue for the community
  • The advancement of education in the performing arts in the City of York