Oldham Historical Research Group

William Rowbottom's Diary as published in the Oldham Standard


The Duke of Wellington

William Cobbett (1763-1835)
Journalist, agriculturalist and politician; MP for Oldham.

From: The Memoirs of William Cobbett Esquire, M.P. for Oldham Pub. 1835

"William Cobbett, the illustrious subject of this brief memoir, was born on the 9th of March, in the year 1792 at Farnham, in Surrey. He could not boast that he was descended from an illustrious family. All that he could boast of in his birth, is that he was born in Old England. With respect to his ancestors, we can go no farther back than his grandfather, indeed nothing is known of them prior to him. He was a day. labourer, and worked for one farmer from the day of his marriage to that of his death, upwards of forty years. He died before Mr. Cobbett was born, but he often slept beneath the roof that had sheltered him, and where his widow dwelt for several years after his death. iMr. Cobbett's grandfather was no philosopher. Indeed he was not. " He never made a lightning rod, nor bottled up a single quart of sunshine, in the whole course of his life. He was no almanack maker, nor quack, nor chimney-doctor, nor soapboiler, nor ambassador, nor printer's devil : neither was he a deist ; and all his children were born in wedlock." The legacies he left were his scythe, his reap-hook, and his flail ; he bequeathed no old and irrecoverable debt to an hospital ; he never cheated the poor during his life, nor mocked them at his death.

His father was a farmer, an honest, industrious, and frugal man, and happy in the possession of a wife of his own rank, who, like himself, was beloved and respected by all. The reader will easily believe, from the poverty of his parents, that he had received no very brilliant education ; he was, however, learned for a man in his rank of life. When a little boy, he drove plough for twopence a day; and these, his earnings, were appropriated to the expenses of an evening school. What a village schoolmaster could be expected to teach, he had learnt ; and had, besides, considerably improved himself in several branches of the mathematics, he understood land-surveying well, and was often chosen to draw the plans of disputed territory ; in short, he had the reputation of possessing experience and understanding, which never fails, in England, to give a man in a country-place, some little weight with his neighbours. So much for his ancestors.

Mr. Cobbett had three brothers: George, Thomas, and Anthony ; one of whom was a shop-keeper, the second a farmer, and the youngest in the service of the East India Company. He went to an old woman who kept a school, but she did not succeed in learning him his alphabet. In the winter evenings, his father taught them all to read and write, and gave them a tolerable knowledge of arithmetic. Grammar he did not perfectly understand himself, therefore his endeavours to learn them necessarily failed. Their religion was that of the Church of England, to which Mr. Cobbett ever remained attached. As to politics they were like the rest of the country-people in England - they neither knew nor thought anything about the matter. The shouts of victory or the murmurs of a defeat would at times break in upon their tranquility for a moment..."

* Mr. Cobbett never appeared to be certain of the exact time of his birth. His sons, however, inform us that he was born on the 9th of March, 1762, as above, and not in 1766, as the newspapers have it.
* Farnham is the neatest spot in England. All there is a garden. The neat culture of the hop extends its influence to the fields round about. Hedges cut with shears, and every other mark of skill and care strike the eye at the birth-place of our hero."


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Gallery pages sourced & created by Sheila Goodyear.
William Rowbottom's Diary as published in the Oldham Standard - Transcribed by Mary Pendlbury & Elaine Sykes
Courtesy of Oldham Local Studies & Archives - Not to be reproduced without permission of Oldham Local Studies & Archives

Header photograph © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for re-use under the C.C. Licence.'Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0'

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