Richard Oastler, 1789–1861, factory reformer, was born on 20 December 1789 in St Peter's Square, Leeds, the eighth and last child of Robert Oastler (1748–1820), a local linen merchant, and his wife, Sarah Scurr (d. 1828). He attended a Moravian boarding school from 1798 to 1810 and became a commission agent. Oastler did this job for ten years and in 1820 was appointed as steward for Thomas Thornhill, the absentee landlord of Fixby, a large estate near Huddersfield.
In 1830 Oastler met John Wood, a worsted manufacturer from Bradford, who agonised over the need to employ children in his factory. After a lengthy meeting Oastler decided to join the struggle for factory legislation.