There are four saints and a man known as “King of the Factory Children” whom many people regarded as one.
John Wycliffe never became a saint – most in the church thought him a heretic – but he paved the way for the Reformation and helped give us the Bible in English.
We have two Prime Ministers, both of whom led reforming governments, a world-beating feminist pilot and a man who in the depths of a bitter civil war insisted that morality should never be put to one side.
We have already celebrated some of our great industrialists, today we look at one who not only treated his workers well but fought tirelessly to improve the lot of workers throughout Britain.
Another great campaigner spent decades fighting to end slavery, while two women much more recently showed that there are still battles to be won today.
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1, SUE RYDER
NOT many people celebrate their silver wedding at a special Mass with Pope John Paul II, but Baroness Ryder of Warsaw as she became was always special.
A volunteer with the Special Operations Executive during the war – she doctored her birth certificate to get in under-age - she worked with Polish agents
Years later, as the Iron Curtain fell, she organised relief convoys carrying food and medical aid to the country. Warsaw has a park named after her.
It’s her Sue Ryder charity, providing long-term, palliative care for patients with complex, end-of-life conditions that she’s most remembered for. It has more than 8,000 volunteers, 80 homes and 500 shops worldwide.
After the war she’d worked to help homeless people in France and central Europe, meeting her husband-to-be and equally dynamic charity campaigner Leonard Cheshire.
Born in Leeds in 1924, she died in 2000.
2, ST HILDA
ONE of the greatest figures of early Christianity in the country, Hilda was born in 614, probably in Elmet east of Leeds.
On the fringes of the royal family of the Kingdom of Northumbria, she became a Christian when King Edwin and his kin accepted mass conversion from St Paulinus, sent by the Pope from Rome, on Easter Day 627 at York.
When she decided to become a nun she was given a priory near Sunderland and then at Hartlepool.
In 657 she founded the abbey at Whitby (only given this name later by the Vikings) which became a beacon of learning. Two saints and five bishops were trained here, she encouraged our earliest poet the herdsman Caedmon and staged the Synod of Whitby at which the two branches of Christianity in the country were reconciled and accepted the same date for Easter.
3, JOHN FIELDEN
THE statue of John Fielden overlooks Todmorden’s Centre Vale Park and a town to a large part created by him and his family.
But this hugely-successful millowner also earned the soubriquet “Honest John” for his tireless campaigns to improve the lot of working people.
Born in the town in 1784, Fielden and his brothers petitioned Parliament in 1816 for greater protection for child workers.
A key figure in the campaign for the Reform Act of 1932, he entered the House alongside famous radical William Cobbett as MP for Oldham.
He was a leader of the fight for the act which eventually limited child labour to 10 hours a day, though Fielden himself had wanted just eight.
He also fought for public education and advocated a minimum wage, believing this would also be good for the economy with the extra money spent on buying British goods..
4, JANE TOMLINSON
FEW people have grabbed the nation’s attention like Jane Tomlinson.
In a seven-year battle with cancer her feats raised £1.85m for children’s and cancer charities. Her appeal has now passed the £3m mark.
On Sunday (Oct 2) Bradford’s half marathon and fun run were fund-raisers for it and a series of 10k runs in Hull, Leeds and York are organised every year.
Jane, born in Wakefield, trained as a radiographer after finding a lump in her breast. In 2000 the cancer returned.
Her epics included a 3,800 mile cycle ride across America, a John o’ Groats to Lands Ride and her Rome to Home ride. She ran marathons and triathlons – even a gruelling Iron Man event.
Her books “The Luxury of Time” and “You Can’t Take it With You” sold in huge numbers.|
She had been given only six months to live, but it was 2007 when her body finally gave in. She was 43.
5, AMY JOHNSON
YOU could say that Hull-born Amy Johnson kick-started the age of celebrity heroes and did more for women’s rights than any number of political campaigners.
Anna Neagle played her in a film and the song “Amy, Wonderful Amy” was an enormous hit.
Learning to fly, she was determined to show women were the match of men.
She became the first qualified woman ground engineer and in 1930 persuaded her father and a benefactor to buy her a second-hand Gypsy Moth plane, the Jason, in which she made the 11,000 mile, first solo flight to Australia. The plane is in the Science Museum.
Record followed record: some solo, some with a co-pilot. Twice she set the record for the flight to Cape Town, there was a famous flight to Tokyo and a ticker-tape reception in New York.
She died in the war when a plane she was delivering crashed into the Thames estuary.
6, HAROLD WILSON
BRITAIN probably changed socially more under Wilson than any other Prime Minister.
His government saw reform of the divorce laws, the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality and the abolition of capital punishment. Almost as importantly he kept Britain out of the Vietnam War despite American pressure to join them.
Born at Cowersley, Huddersfield, in 1916, he studied at Oxford and became MP at the age of only 29. In two years he was in the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade - the youngest minister since Pitt – as part of the Attlee government which saw the setting up of the Welfare State.
Wilson realised the power of television and cultivated an image which was popular with voters. He led Labour to victory in 1964 and again in1966 and 1974; resigning in 1976 and dying in 1995.
One of his proudest legacies is the Open University.
7, HERBERT ASQUITH
PENSIONS are an enormous issue today and it was Morley-born Asquith whose government first introduced them.
Almost as important was his introduction of unemployment insurance in 1911. Together they laid the foundations for the Welfare State and of Asquith’s reputation as a great peacetime Prime Minister.
Born in 1852 and educated at Oxford, Asquith became a barrister and then Liberal MP. Gladstone appointed him Home Secretary.
In 1908 he had become leader of the Liberals and Prime Minister. A Tory dominated House of Lords threatened his reforms and a long battle ensued in which Asquith used the threat of creating hundreds of Liberal peers and the intervention of the King to curb their powers – his settlement endured for the rest of the 20th century.
Ousted in World War One by Lloyd-George, he died in 1928 having been made Earl of Oxford. Helena Bonham-Carter, the actress, is his grand-daughter.
8, JOHN WYCLIFFE
MORE than 40 years after his death, the Pope ordered that Wycliffe’s bones should be dug up, crushed and then scattered in the river.
Such were the feelings provoked by this man, who more than any other paved the way for the Reformation in England.
Born around 1330 at Hipswell in the North Riding, he master-minded the publication of the first complete Bible in English believing it essential that people should have easy access to God’s word.
He wanted the church to give up its, by then enormous, earthly possessions and for its preachers to lead a simple life. In 1378 he launched a systematic attack on the workings of the church.
Naturally it enraged the religious authorities and Pope Gregory issued five bulls against him, but powerful protection – particularly from John of Gaunt – kept him safe and he died of natural causes in 1384.
His followers, known as Lollards, made his teachings widely popular.
9, WILLIAM WILBERFORCE
NOT many people have earned the right to be buried in Westminster Abbey, but few people can have merited it more than this son of a Hull merchant.
His name is synonymous with the fight against slavery, but he was also a campaigner to end animal cruelty, for child education and for better conditions in factories.
Wilberforce was born in 1759 and went to Cambridge University where he became friends with William Pitt the Younger. Like him he became a Tory MP.
It was a conversion to evangelical Christianity that led him to become a social reformer and reading a tract against slavery that triggered his life work.
Year after year he introduced bills to end this evil practice, gradually winning support through rallies, petitions and pamphlets.
In 1806 a bill banning slavery was finally passed, but it was 1833, just before his death, that existing slaves were freed.
10, SIR THOMAS FAIRFAX
BEFORE the Battle of Marston Moor, Fairfax reminded his men that whatever happened during the heat of battle they were never to forget they were fighting their fellow countrymen.
That’s the key to this remarkable man: a strong personal morality and the insistence that his troops adhered to a strict code of conduct, something that was almost unknown at the time.
The discipline of his men won much support for his cause and earned him great respect.
Born at Denton Hall,near Otley in 1612, Fairfax became Commander-in-Chief of the Parliamentary armies during the Civil War and was leader at the Battle of Naseby which effectively ended the conflict.
Fairfax was never a political man and he refused to take part in sentencing King Charles I to death.
He helped the restoration of King Charles II by coming out of retirement and persuading many of the opposing troops to go home.
11, ST MARGARET CLITHEROW
FEW people can match the bravery of this Roman Catholic convert who defied the draconian laws of Protestant Queen Elizabeth to hide priests at her home in York’s Shambles – behaviour that earned her the nickname “The Pearl of York”
She was born in the city, probably in 1556, and there is a shrine and museum to her there.
Even though the hiding places in her home enabled many priests to escape detection, it was probably inevitable that she would be detected. In the end she was given away by a child having lessons there.
She refused to plead to save her own children from having to give evidence – they could have been tortured - and sentenced to die by being pressed down by heavy rocks. This was a particularly cruel form of execution.
One of 40 Catholic martyrs, she was created a saint in 1970.
12, ST JOHN OF BEVERLEY
NO town in Yorkshire is more connected with one man than Beverley.
The man to become St John, founded it and its majestic Minster. Along with York and Ripon, Beverley became one of the three great Christian centres in a then less than Christian county.
John was born at Harpham in the East Riding in the late 7th century. We know he belonged to Whitby Abbey, became Bishop of Hexham and then of York, before retiring to his lands and founding Beverley.
He was a great teacher - Bede was a pupil – and a renowned preacher.
After his death in 721, his shrine at Beverley became a centre of pilgrimage and many miracles were believed to take place there. John was canonised and became a favourite saint of monarchs.
Athelstan and Edward I both carried his banner into battle and Henry V credited his heavenly support for victory at Agincourt.
13, ST JOHN FISHER
STICKING to his principles cost Fisher his life in those dangerous, early years of the Reformation. .
Born in Beverley, the son of a merchant, in 1469 he studied at Cambridge later becoming its chancellor, joined the church and rose rapidly through its ranks becoming bishop and then cardinal.
Respected for his learning he is rumoured to have been the actual author of the pamphlet that earned King Henry VIII the title “Defender of the Faith” from the Pope.
But the king was desperate for the male heir his wife Queen Catherine of Aragon could not give him. Marrying his mistress Anne Boleyn seemed a solution, but Fisher supported Catherine and refused to take the Oath of Accession recognising Anne’s children as heirs.
The king never forgave him and, convicted of treason, he was beheaded on Tower Hill in 1535. He was created a saint in 1935.
14, RICHARD OASTLER
IT caused a real stir when an hitherto unknown Yorkshireman wrote to a newspaper saying that in the county of that great anti-slavery campaigner Wilberforce the plight of child workers was worse than that of slaves in the colonies.
Oastler, born in Leeds in 1789, had arrived on the scene and was to make the campaign to improve the lot of child workers his main role in life, earning him the title “King of the Factory Children”.
He had seen the plight of the youngsters in Bradford mills and became a tireless champion for them. He lobbied Parliament, forged alliances, edited a newspaper and spoke to great crowds of people.
Thrown into prison for debt, Oastler was freed when followers had raised enough money through their ”Oastler Festivals” to buy his release.
Finally, he saw the Factory Act in 1847 that put a ceiling of ten hours on child labour.