Robert Peel (Senior)

Robert Peel (Senior)

Robert Peel was born at Peelfold, Lancashire on 25th April 1750. His father was the owner of a calico-printing firm, Haworth, Peel & Yates in Blackburn. Robert was educated in London and then entered his father's business.

At the age of twenty-three Robert Peel was made a partner and soon afterwards took charge of the company. Peel made full use of the new inventions in the textile industry. However, he was worried how the handloom weavers would respond to these changes and decided to establish a new factory in Tamworth in Staffordshire. He solved the problems of finding workers for his new factory by importing workhouse children from London. Peel's new cotton factory was a great success and the business expanded rapidly. By the 1790s Peel was one of the country's leading industrialists and employed over 15,000 workers.

At the age of thirty-three, Peel married Ellen Yates, the daughter of one of his partners. The couple had eleven children, including Robert Peel, who later became Prime Minister. In 1790 he was elected as MP for Tamworth.

In the House of Commons Peel supported William Pitt and his Tory government. Peel was aware that some factory owner's treated their young workers very badly. He therefore argued that Parliament needed to find a way of protecting the most vulnerable workers. In 1802 Parliament passed Health and Morals of Apprentices Act. This legislation limited the hours of pauper children, apprenticed in cotton mills, to twelve hours a day.

The 1802 Factory Act was largely ineffective and so Peel continued to argue for further reform. With the support of other factory owners, such as Robert Owen, the 1819 Factory Act was passed. This legislation forbade the employment in cotton mills of any children under nine, and limited the hours of those between nine and sixteen to twelve hours per day. Sir Robert Peel died at Drayton Manor on 3rd March, 1830.