Rank was born in March 1854 at his father's flour mill
on the Holderness Road in Hull. He was the eldest surviving
of four brothers, the eldest having died in infancy. His
mother died in March 1858, having never fully recovered
from the birth of her fourth son in 1857.
James, Joseph Rank's father, was by all accounts a hard taskmaster and Joseph
was expected to work his way up through the business. James, who was a devout
Methodist, re-married and the marriage produced four more sons and a daughter.
James Rank died in 1874 leaving an estate of some £30,000 of which £500
was left to Joseph and the following year he started business on his own account
by renting a windmill on the Holderness Road.
In 1880 Joseph married Emily Voase. During his time in business on his own account
he had lost £200 so only £300 of his inheritance remained. He determined
that he must re-double his efforts to provide for his wife and hoped for family.
Joseph saw his first roller mill and immediately saw the
great advantage to be gained by grinding with steel rollers
in preference to millstones. He also saw that if the process
could be automated the possibilities were enormous.
same year Joseph experienced his religious conversion at
an evangelistic mission in a Methodist Chapel in Hull. He
afterwards declared that he said to himself "I can
have it if I believe. Why shouldn't I believe now?"
The business prospered and Joseph Rank was generous in his support of various
aspects of the work of the Methodist Church, initially from his own pocket and
then from the various charitable trusts that he established.
He was a great believer in self-help and in the principle of "matched funding" that
is now a common way of funding but which was innovative in the late 19th century.
Emily died in 1915 and Joseph twenty eight years later in 1943. Throughout his
life Joseph shunned any form of public recognition of his work. The business
that he and his wife had built up, which was latterly known as Ranks Hovis McDougall
plc (click here for
history of Rank Hovis)
more about Joseph
|One of his sons, J. Arthur
(Lord) Rank, went on to make his own mark as a "movie
mogul" of the 1940's and 1950's and through his company,
The Rank Organisation plc (now The Rank Group plc) saw and
developed the potential of xerography (photocopying) which
revolutionised the mass production of printed documents.
He was also a devout Methodist and established his own charities, The
Rank Foundation, which is today amongst the largest of
the country's grant making trusts, The
Rank Prize Funds, which operates in two specific fields
of scientific endeavour, and The
Arthur Rank Centre which serves the rural community and its Churches.
about Joseph Rank