William Cobbett


William Cobbett was born on 9th March 1763 in Farnham, Surrey.

He became a Radical politician and journalist.

With increasing knowledge of the sufferings of the farm labourers, he became a Radical and leader of the working-class movement. He became a strong advocate of parliamentary reform, and represented Oldham in the Reformed Parliament after 1832.

His crusading essays on the conditions of the rural poor were collected as Rural Rides written from 1821.

During his rural ride, he visited the district and lectured at the Halifax Theatre in 1830.

Of Halifax, he wrote:

A finer audience, more opulent in appearance, I have not met with


I am sitting at a window, and it is Sunday. Hundreds of the working people have passed by this window, this day it is a very long time since I have seen working-people so well-dressed as they are here ... which with their lesser immorality, is attributable probably to their not being crowded together as in large towns; but something must also be owing to the conduct of the employers – to their conduct towards their workpeople, and to their own excellent example

In 1832, he wrote

The valley of Todmorden [is] the most curious and romantic that was ever seen, and where the water and the coal seem to be engaged in a struggle for getting foremost in point of utility to man

Travelling on through Halifax and Bradford to Leeds, he wrote

as to agriculture, [this is] certainly the poorest country that I have ever set my eyes on, except that miserable Nova Scotia

See William Richardson

© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 02:53 / 22nd February 2023 / 3652

Page Ref: MMC256

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