A BOOK has revealed the lost world of York's 'caring' old Rowntree factory, when it was still run by the Quaker Rowntree family after the war - and how it dealt with employee misdemeanours including a 'knicker chocolate nicker.'

The sons of factory worker Edith Jacques wrote 'Edith's Story,' a biography of their mother, who died in 2012, aged 102, after being inspired by a report in The Press about her 100th birthday under the headline: "Edith's life story could be a novel."

Terence and Ernest Jacques said numerous friends and family had encouraged them to record Edith's fascinating life story, background, character, hard times, accomplishments and legacy.

Their book gives an insight into life for the 14,000 workers at Rowntrees, where Edith began work as a cleaner in 1947 and stayed until 1974.

It says she was more secure there than at any other time in her life, with a living wage and additional services and perks from an 'enlightened employer', including waste coupons allowing her to buy misshaped confectionery at heavily discounted prices.

"It was a workplace with a real sense of community, warmth and camaraderie, which most thought unique," the brothers write.

York Press: Workers at the old Rowntree factoryWorkers at the old Rowntree factory (Image: The Press)

"They recognised they were working for a company whose driving ethos and raison d'etre went far beyond chocolate making and the bottom line.

"It was a family-run, Quaker business that cared for its workforce in unique and special ways, ploughing significant resources into profit-sharing, staff training, employee welfare, entertainment, and sport and community services."

They write that despite strict company rules and protocols, it was a 'caring community of workers, managers and directors, whose legacy, 60 years on, remains imprinted on the memories or thousands throughout and beyond the city of York.'

The brothers say the philanthropic business model began to end with Rowntree's merger with John Mackintosh and Sons in 1968 and continued with Nestlé's acquisition of Rowntree Mackintosh in 1988.

They tell how, in the 1950s, Edith became a union shop steward and was appointed to the Central Works Council, and became involved in the Theft Committee as a staff representative.

They say one theft case became 'the talk of the factory,' involving a teenage girl detained by a company patrol officer who had become a little suspicious of her awkward gait and bulky, ill-fitting clothes.

York Press: Workers at the old Rowntree factoryWorkers at the old Rowntree factory (Image: The Press)

"After a bit of bluster, the teenager, aware that the game was up, confessed to the theft of chocolates which she had secreted in her underclothes, including her knickers," they write.

"And though she contended that they were for personal and home consumption only, security were stunned at the amount and array of chocolates hidden in her unmentionables. The long-suffering patrol thought he had seen it all and found it hard to keep a straight face."

The worker, who became known throughout the factory as the 'knicker chocolate nicker,' feigned ill health and never returned to Rowntree's, they add.

*Edith's story is available for £12.99 from York Publishing Services via: YPDBooks.com or from Waterstones or Amazon Prime.