Fielden, John, MP

Methodist Unitarian of Todmorden, born on 17 January 1784, the son of a Quaker, Joshua Fielden of Haslingden. He was employed in his father's spinning mills and from 1803 was a leading figure in the family firm. He became associated with the WM society through his involvement with Sunday School work, but then joined the Methodist Unitarians and in 1865 built them a chapel in Todmorden (which later became Unitarian).He became actively involved in factory reform and a champion of the cause of women and children factory workers, e.g. in his pamphlet The Curse of the Factory System (1836). In 1832 he was elected, with William Cobbett, as radical MP for Oldham and though not an eloquent speaker became recognized as sincere and down-to-earth. He was in favour of such measures as the ballot and universal suffrage. He was re-elected in 1835, 1837 and 1841, but not in 1847. He opposed the New Poor Law of 1834, which replaced outdoor relief by the workhouse system, and in 1847 succeeded in carrying the Ten Hours Bill through Parliament. He was an active Chartist, but against resort to violence. Following his sudden death at Skegness, on 29 May 1849, the Fielden Society was formed to further his aims by constitutional means.

His youngest son, Joshua Fielden (1827-1887), born at Todmorden in 1827, was Conservative MP for the Eastern Division of the West Riding from 1868 to 1880 and died on 9 March 1887. Two of Joshua's sons, Thomas (1854-1897) and Edward (1857-1942) also entered Parliament.

  • H. McLachlan, The Methodist Unitarian Movement (1919)
  • Arthur W. Fox, Annals of the Todmorden Unitarian Congregation: A Centenial Sketch (Todmorden, 1924)
  • WHS Proceedings, 12 pp. 178-80
  • G.D.H. Cole, Chartist Portraits (1941) pp.218-38
  • M. Stenton (ed.), Who's Who of British MPs, vol. 1 (1976)
  • S.A. Weaver, John Fielden and the Politics of Popular Radicalism, 1832-1847 (Oxford, 1987)
  • B.R. Law, Fieldens of Todmorden: a nineteenth century business dynasty (1995)
  • Oxford DNB