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Oastler, Richard

Oastler, Richard (1789–1861). Factory reformer and anti-Poor Law agitator. Born in Leeds, the son of a leading Wesleyan, Oastler was educated by the Moravians at Fulneck, but became Church of England when he succeeded his father in 1820 as steward for Thomas Thornhill, the absentee landlord of Fixby Hall near Halifax. He was a romantic Tory, defending old values against utilitarian radicalism and political economy, attacking the vicar of Halifax over tithes in 1827, criticizing the employment of children in Bradford worsted mills in 1830, leading the Ten Hours campaign for factory reform, and denouncing the New poor law of 1834. His extreme language and immense popularity alienated his employer who had him imprisoned for debt (1840–4). As a staunch protestant, he opposed catholic emancipation but supported the movement to restore convocation for the government of the Church of England. His motto was ‘Altar, Throne and Cottage’.

Edward Royle

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