Freedom of Borough honour for former head of Bettys

THE retired head of iconic Yorkshire firm Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate is to be granted the Freedom of the Borough, one of just 29 people to receive the accolade in the past 128 years.

Jonathan Wild stepped down in 2011 after more than 35 years working for the company which was founded in 1919 by his great uncle, Swiss confectioner Frederick Belmont.

Now Harrogate Borough Council has announced that it will bestow the Freedom of the Borough on Mr Wild tomorrow.

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The honour of becoming a Freeman is the highest accolade a local authority can give, and Mr Wild will join an eminent list which includes The Rt Hon Earl Jellicoe, Admiral of the Fleet, the former Prime Minister and first lord of the treasury Stanley Baldwin, and Baroness Masham of Ilton.

Council leader, Coun Anthony Alton, said: “Bettys is synonymous with Harrogate.

“You can be anywhere in the world and say you come from Harrogate and most people will have heard of Bettys or even visited one of the company’s establishments.

“When Jonathan announced his retirement we felt that his contribution should be marked by this high honour.

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“Under Jonathan’s tenure, as the third generation to take the helm, Bettys and Taylors has flourished.”

As chairman and chief executive, Mr Wild helped grow the company to a £103m business with 1,246 members of staff and producing about 10 per cent of the UK’s tea.

An estimated 30,000 tea bags are made every minute over a 16-hour day from its factory at the firm’s Plumpton Park headquarters, in Harrogate.

Mr Wild has also been recognised for his commitment to the environment.

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In 1990, he promised his two young children that he would plant one million trees around the world after they had been upset by watching a television programme about the destruction of rainforests.

Less than 20 year later, the company had planted three million trees and went on to launch the Yorkshire Rainforest Project with a pledge to help protect an area of endangered rainforest the size of Yorkshire.

Mr Wild will sign the Roll of Honorary Freeman tomorrow.