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Lord Shaftsbury

Lord Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftsbury was born on 28th April 1801 and he became the Earl of Shaftsbury in 1851. He was a politician and a reformer who wanted to make lives better for Victorian children.

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl, Lock & Whitfield woodburytype, 1876-84

Following the death of 26 children in a coal mine accident in 1838, the public became concerned about child labour in coal mines and so Queen Victoria ordered an inquiry. It was headed by Lord Shaftsbury.

Teams of inspectors, called commissioners, visited collieries and mining communities to gather information about how they were being treated, sometimes against the owner's wishes. The published report in 1842 used engraved illustrations to show the conditions children faced and Victorian society was shocked.


Later that year, Lord Shaftsbury passed the 1842 Mines and Collieries Act through the House of Commons which prohibited all underground work for women and girls, and for boys under 10.

Next, Lord Shaftsbury led a campaign for a reduction in the hours that children worked in textile factories, which led to the 1847 Factories Act being introduced. It was also known as the 'Ten Hour Act' as it set the limit that women and children could not work for more than ten hours per day.


Lord Shaftsbury was also interested in education for working children. In 1844 he became chair of the Ragged Schools Union - an organisation that set up free schools for poor children run with charity money, and helped to pass the 1878 Factory and Workshop Act. This introduced new laws for every trade and business in the country:
  • No child anywhere under the age of 10 was to be employed.
  • Education was to be compulsory for children up to 10 years old.
  • 10-14 year olds could only be employed for half days.
Lord Shaftsbury died on 1st October 1885.