Sir James Reckitt Charity Logo



Sir James Reckitt

In the beginning

Sir James Reckitt was born in Nottingham in November 1833, the youngest son of Isaac and Ann Reckitt. The Reckitt family had been members of the Society of Friends since the 17th century and James remained true to his Quaker beliefs throughout his life.

In 1840 Isaac Reckitt moved to Hull and rented a small starch factory in Dansom Lane in the city. In 1845 James was sent to Ackworth, the Quaker school near Pontefract. He left Ackworth in 1848, aged 15, and began work in the family starch business as a junior clerk.

The businessman

In 1864 James and his brother Francis became sole partners of the Reckitt company and the business grew steadily under their leadership.

Reckitts’ began developing a wider range of products and by 1870 was employing around 300 people. It was becoming a major employer within the city with a reputation for looking after its employees.

Its success was built around delivering quality products which were distinctively branded and well advertised. By 1920 the company had an international presence with branches in many countries.

The philanthropist

James’s Quaker upbringing meant that the Reckitt company was run in an ethical and paternalistic way, with a high priority given to the care of the workforce. It also led him to the view that company profits ought to be used for the public benefit.

For example, he gave his support to the Newland Homes for the orphans of men lost at sea, and paid for the building of one of the children’s homes on the site. He led a campaign for a public library in Hull and, when the city authorities declined to build one, he built one at his own cost. He was chairman of the board of management of Hull Royal Infirmary for over 20 years and helped buy a derelict hotel in Withernsea and had it converted into a convalescent home for the hospital.

The Garden Village

Perhaps Sir James Reckitt is best remembered for the building of the Garden Village in East Hull which opened in 1908. The village was built on 140 acres of land by the Hull Garden Village Company, a company with £200,000 of capital - of which James contributed two-thirds.

The Village consisted of 600 houses, mostly occupied by employees of the Company. The houses were built to a good standard and provided with gardens. Facilities included a shopping centre, a club house and a hostel for female workers.

James also helped pay for the construction in 1924 of twelve almshouses within the Garden Village to provide rent-free accommodation for elderly Quakers and ex-employees of the Reckitt company. In 1970 the Garden Village was designated a conservation area.

At rest amongst Friends

Sir James Reckitt was awarded a baronetcy in recognition of his public and political service in July 1894 and in 1908 was honoured with the freedom of the city of Hull. He died at Swanland in East Yorkshire on March 18th 1924, aged 90. His cremated ashes were placed next to the grave of his father Isaac Reckitt in the Friend’s Burial Ground in Hull.

How to apply

We welcome applications from charities and organizations associated with Hull and East
Yorkshire or with the Society of Friends (Quakers).
You can apply online in just 30 minutes.