Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Joseph Rank (1854-1943)

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Joseph was a third generation flour miller, and became a and philanthropist

1854 Born at Holderness Road in Hull, son of James Rank (1829–1874), miller, and his first wife, Mary Ann Parrott.

c.1868 Joined the family mill but his father was not impressed by his abilities

1874 On James Rank's death, the executors gave Joseph £500 and told him to look elsewhere.

Set up his own mill.

1880 married Emily Voase. They had three sons and three daughters.

He was quick to exploit new technology, he was also a first-rate dealer in commodities.

1880s Underwent a religious conversion to strict Methodism which guided him in his later life.

1885 Built the Alexandra mill at Hull, incorporating the latest technology of roller-milling

1891 Built the Clarence mills, among the most modern in Britain.

He increased his profits by importing wheat direct rather than through dealers.

Subsequently erected other mills close to English and Welsh ports which had deep water access and could receive shipments of foreign grain.

1899 the company became Joseph Rank Ltd, with a capital of £700,000.

1904 Rank moved the head office to London.

Rank gave away most of his wealth, supporting the Hull Royal Infirmary and the Joseph Rank Benevolent Fund set up to relieve poverty in Hull.

1918 After the death of his first wife, he married her widowed sister, Annie Maria Witty.

After 1918 his sons James Voase Rank and Joseph Arthur Rank were in day-to-day charge of the business. Ranks, the largest milling combine in Britain and one of the largest in the world, continued to expand. His second son, Rowland Rank, also worked in the flour trade but not for Ranks.

1943 Died at Reigate Heath

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Obituary of Joseph Rank, ODNB