Anthony Ashley-Cooper

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1801-1885

7th Earl of Shaftesbury, Social Reformer & Protestant Campaigner: 'The poor man's earl'


He was born on 28 April 1801 at 24 Grosvenor Square, London, his father being then a younger brother of the family, but when his father succeeded to the title and estates in 1811 his home was at St. Giles in Dorsetshire, the family seat.

He first entered parliament as Lord Ashley in 1826 as member for Woodstock.


  • The County Lunatic Asylums (England) Act and Madhouses Act, 1828, Lunacy Act and the County Asylums Act, 1845
  • The Ten Hours Act, 1847
  • The Mines and Collieries Act, 1842
  • Regularly visited mills and mines: “easier to talk after you have seen”
  • The Chimney Sweepers Regulation Act, 1864
  • The Ragged Schools Union
  • President of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews
  • President of the Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade
  • President of the British and Foreign Bible Society
  • President of the Evangelical Alliance
  • First Chairman of the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (Then NSPCC)
  • Campaigned for regulation of lodging houses
  • Leading member of London’s Board of Health
  • Made enemies of the railway companies
  • He was the chief originator of a movement for holding religious services in theatres and music halls, a movement which he had to defend in the House of Lords from the charge of lowering religion by associating its services with scenes of frivolity.
  • Refused the Order of the Garter and the post of Home Secretary
  • Campaigned to shut the Post Office on Sundays
  • Offered to Visit the Grand Duke of Tuscany to effect the release of Francesco and Rosa Madiai in 1853
  • Opposed ‘Papal Aggression’
  • Opposed the Oxford Movement
  • Ardent supporter of the London City Mission
  • Campaigned for nationalisation of cemeteries and keeping new ones close to working class areas
  • Negotiated the attendance of Prince Albert at The Labourer’s Friends Society
  • Established a joint Anglo-Prussian bishopric of Jerusalem
  • Took legal action against a Rossendale factory owner on behalf of a mutilated employee


  • High Toryism & Paternalism
  • Opposed expansion of democracy
  • Opponent of the Salvation Army
  • His own estate cottages were in a poor state even after he inherited the earldom
  • Resigned as an MP over the Corn Laws
  • Opposed the 1872 Ballot Act
  • Opposed growing theological liberalism- allied to Spurgeon
  • Public Worship Regulations Act (1874)
  • National Protestantism
  • Opposed the Education Act of 1870

Quotes: About him:

Georgina Battiscombe: "No man has in fact ever done more to lessen the extent of human misery or to add to the sum total of human happiness

Charles Spurgeon, 3 days after his death: "DURING the past week the church of God, and the world at large, have sustained a very serious loss. In the taking home to himself by our gracious Lord of the Earl of Shaftesbury, we have, in my judgment, lost the best man of the age. I do not know whom I should place second, but I certainly should put him first—far beyond all other servants of God within my knowledge—for usefulness and influence.

By Him:

"By everything true, everything holy, you are your brother's keeper."

"Creed and colour, latitude and longitude, make no difference in the essential nature of man."

"Social reforms, so necessary, so indispensable, require as much of God's grace as a change of heart."

"What is morally right can never be politically wrong, and what is morally wrong can never be politically right."

"No man … can persist from the beginning of his life to the end of it in a course of generosity, [or] in a course of virtue … unless he is drawing from the fountain of our Lord himself."


For discussion: Is there a conflict between social action and sharing the gospel?