Richard Oastler - Encyclopedia

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RICHARD OASTLER (1789-1861), English reformer, was born at Leeds - n the 20th of December 1789, and in 1820 succeeded his fathe._ as steward of the Thornhills' extensive Fixby estates at Huddersfield, Yorkshire. In 1830 John Wood, a Bradford manufacturer, called Oastler's attention to the evils of child employment in the factories of the district. Oastler at once started a campaign against the existing labour conditions by a vigorous letter, under the title "Yorkshire Slavery," to the Leeds Mercury, Public opinion was eventually aroused, and, after many years of agitation, in which Oastler played a leading part, the Ten Hours Bill and other Factory Acts were passed, Oastler's energetic advocacy of the factory-workers' cause procuring him the title of "The Factory King." In 1838, however, owing to his opposition to the new poor law and his resistance of the commissioners, he had been dismissed from his stewardship at Fixby; and, in 1840, being unable to repay £ 2000 which he owed his late employer, Thomas Thornhill, he was sent to the Fleet prison, where he remained for over three years. From prison he published the Fleet Papers, a weekly paper devoted to the discussion of factory and poor-law questions. In 1844 his friends raised a fund to pay his debt, and on his release he made a triumphant entry into Huddersfield. Oastler died at Harrogate on the 22nd of August 1861. A statue to his memory was erected at Bradford in 1869.

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