York & North Yorkshire

Bettys ex-chief Jonathan Wild granted freedom of Harrogate

Jonathan Wild
Image caption Mr Wild is also being recognised for his environmental work

The former chairman and chief executive of the famous Bettys tea rooms business is to be granted the freedom of Harrogate by the local council.

Jonathan Wild retired in 2011 from Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate, a tea and coffee merchants with six cafes.

Councillor Anthony Alton, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said: "Bettys is synonymous with Harrogate."

Mr Wild is also recognised for his environmental work as the company has planted three million trees worldwide.

He promised his children in 1990 that he would plant a million trees around the world after they got upset watching a feature on the BBC's TV programme Blue Peter about the destruction of rainforests.

By 2007 the company had planted three million trees and founded the Yorkshire Rainforest Project with a pledge to help protect an area of endangered rainforest the size of Yorkshire.

Mr Alton said: "When Jonathan announced his retirement we felt that his contribution should be marked by this high honour."

Spa town

Mr Wild was the third generation of the family to take control of the firm that has twice received the Queen's Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development.

At a meeting on Thursday Mr Wild will sign the Roll of Honorary Freeman and will receive an illuminated scroll and freeman's badge at a civic reception to be held later this year.

Taylors of Harrogate was founded in 1886 by Charles Taylor, who was a northern agent for a London tea company.

Frederick Belmont, a baker from Switzerland, opened the first Bettys tea room in 1919 in the spa town of Harrogate.

In the 1920s he opened a bakery in the town and was able to open Bettys branches in other Yorkshire towns.

In the 1960s Bettys joined forces with Taylors of Harrogate.

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