Thursday, November 09, 2006

Richard Oastler

One of those beautiful clear winter days when the light penetrates the very stone walls of West Yorkshire and the grass becomes almost unnaturally green. Thus Amy, the dog, got an extra-long walk. Our walk took us past Fixby Hall which is now the Club House of Huddersfield Golf Club, but 190 years ago was the residence of Richard Oastler. Oastler is famed for his fight for the introduction of the first factory laws in Britain and his campaigns to limit the working hours of children to just 10 hours a day. But Oastler was a complicated character : a lifelong Tory who also opposed trade unions and universal suffrage. Whilst he lived at Fixby Hall, Oastler was steward and estate manager for Thomas Thornhill, the absentee landlord of Fixby. Later he was to quarrel with Thornhill and he lost his job at Fixby and was sent to the Fleet Prison in London for unpaid debts. And now people no longer work 14 hour days. They play golf on what used to be his front lawn. Now there's progress for you.

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