Go back to the list Aug 1, 2014

Help Us Find Our Yorkshire Rose

Painted for Rowntree’s by Walter West in 1891, Ye White Rose of York symbolises the city and its greatest industry.

A serving girl, all dressed in white (the colour of the York rose), wearing the crossed keys of St. Peter tied from her waist (St. Peter’s is the real name of York Minster) and a Quaker-like cap on her head (the Rowntree family were Quakers) carries a serving tray on which rests a steaming pot of cocoa and a posy of more white roses. The wallpaper in the background is dotted with more crossed keys and more roses. The painting sends a clear message: the Quakers of York serve the British their chocolate.

Sadly the painting has been missing for some time and the last verified sighting was in 1951. One photograph exists in the archive which shows the painting, without a frame, leaning against some floral wallpaper, looking very sorry for itself. Either someone has attempted some poor restoration and disfigured the painting’s face, or our White Rose is real, and somewhere her painting is aging as Oscar Wilde predicted it could.