Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury was born in 1801. Neglected and abused by his father, the Sixth Earl, and somewhat ignored by his society loving mother, Shaftesbury was devoted to his nurse Maria Milles, who taught him friendship, compassion and instilled in him a strong religious fervour (when she died she left him a gold watch, which, he would frequently consult and say that it was given to him by the only friend he ever had).
Shaftesbury, who entered Parliament in 1826, was much loved by the nation however, and it has been said that his many and varied social reforms may even have helped the country avoid a revolution. He is particularly remembered for his factory acts, for the statutory reduction of working hours, the ending of underground – mining – employment of women and children under 13, and his provision of lodging houses for poor – Shaftesbury homes.
He worked closely with Florence Nightingale in her Army welfare work and he was chairman of the RaggedSchools Union for forty years. The latter organisation, incidentally, was founded by a young, crippled solicitor’s clerk, William Williams, after he had witnessed a group of young lads on a train, handcuffed and manacled together, and bound for Plymouth where they were to be shipped to Australia for minor misdemeanours.