Richard Oastler


The social reformer Richard Oastler was born in Leeds of staunch Methodist parents who were friends of John Wesley. He attended the Moravian school at Fulneck.

He started working articled to an architect, then as a general merchant, and then in the Leeds cloth trade.

In 1816, he married Mary Tatham.

Children: 2 both of whom died in 1819.

Around 1800, Richard's father, Robert, became a land agent and Steward of the Thornhill family's Fixby estates and he lived at Fixby Hall. When Robert died in 1820, Richard took over the position for £300 per year. In 18??, the cloth business went bankrupt.

When they lived at Fixby, he and his wife attended Elland Parish Church. He walked and she rode on a donkey.

In 1827, he published Vicarial Tithes, Halifax in which he attacked Rev Charles Musgrave, the Vicar of Halifax, on the matter of tithes.

On 16th October 1830, he sent a letter to The Leeds Mercury in which he wrote

The very streets of our town are every morning met with the tears of innocent victims at the accursed shrine of avarice, who are compelled not by the cart whip of the negro slave driver, but by the dread of the equally appalling thong or strap of the overlooker, to hasten half-dressed, but not-half fed, to those magazines of British infantile slavery, the worsted mills of the town of Bradford

Another letter from Richard Webster of Halifax described

the mills of Halifax as even more miserable

Oastler advocated the abolition of slavery, opposed child labour and the Poor Law of 1834, and was largely responsible for securing the Factory Act of 1833 and the Ten Hours Act of 1847. He started a Short Hours Committee in Huddersfield.

He was immensely popular, and he was given the nickname of the Factory King for his efforts on behalf of the workers. His motto was Altar, throne and cottage.

He challenged the governors of the Fixby estates – who were disturbed by his popularity – and he was dismissed and subsequently held in the Fleet prison for debt during the period 1840-4.

His works include: Halifax Tithes, Fleet Papers which he wrote whilst in prison.

Kirkstall was buried at Halifax Parish Church

See Jonathan Schofield

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 15:04 / 12th May 2021 / 4959

Page Ref: MMO3

search tips advanced search
site search by freefind