Welcome to The Joseph Rank Trust Web Site

Joseph 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.


In 1883 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.

In the 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 Rank

Joseph Rank
Joseph Rank
Joseph Rank's first mill - Holderness Road, Hull
Joseph's first mill at Hull
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.

more about Joseph Rank

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