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Lord Shaftsbury built on John Pounds Ragged School idea…campaigned to improve the lot of working children

“The future hopes of a country must, under God, be laid in the character and condition of its children; however right it may be to attempt, it is almost fruitless to expect, the reformation of its adults; as the sapling has been bent, so will it grow. The first step towards a cure is factory legislation. My grand object is to bring these children within the reach of education.” Lord Shaftsbury Aug 1840 House of Commons

Lord Shaftesbury was one of the founders of the Ragged Schools Union and was its president for 40 years. He was inspired by the work of John Pounds in Portsmouth. Anthony Ashley Cooper, the eldest son of the 6th Earl of Shaftsbury (1768–1851) and his mother Lady Anne Spencer-Churchill (1773–1865), he was born on 28th April, 1801. He also campaigned for improvement in the working conditions of children, including reducing their maximum working hours to ’10 hours a day.’ If that was an improvement, you can only imagine how bad it was before…

  • Eventually the  Factory Act 1833 was passed. Children under 9 could no longer work, hours were reduced but there was little resource for policing the provisions of the act and abuse of children’s rights continued un challenged in many instances, but the principles had been established at least in law.
  • children over 13 continued to be subject to atrocious conditions workign 12 hours a day… 
  • In 1863 he published a report that revealed that children as young as four and five were still working from six in the morning to ten at night in some British factories. 
  • The establishment of children’s rights was as difficult to establish as the abolition of slavery, difficult to believe with our mind-set but in context both took enlightened minds and often philanthropic benefactors like Lord Shaftsbury, the 7th earl, to stand up and be counted campaigning for social change and reform for those who could not do so themselves.
  • Shaftesbury Avenue was named after the 7th Earl, now a key road in London’s theatre land…
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