New headstone dedicated at Burley-in-Wharfedale to honour former MP William Edward Forster (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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New headstone dedicated at Burley-in-Wharfedale to honour former MP William Edward Forster
8:00am Wednesday 30th October 2013 in News
The memory of an outstanding Victorian social reformer and statesmen was honoured in a ceremony at Burley-in-Wharfedale.
A dedication was held for a new headstone for William Edward Forster, the politician who is remembered for bringing primary education to all children.
The Bradford MP and mill owner, who died in 1886, was also an active member of the anti-slavery movement.
Before becoming an MP he had set up an elected Board of Health in Burley, which led to sanitary improvements for the village.
A successful industrialist, his partnership with William Fison began in Bradford, where they created a successful worsted manufacturing business. They came to Greenholme in 1850 and Forster and his wife Jane made their home in Burley.
His achievements were remembered in the ceremony at God’s Acre cemetery where Forster is buried.
The original headstone on the grave was made of Carrara marble, but had weathered badly and disintegrated.
Descendants of Forster’s four adopted children were among those who contributed to the fund for the new granite headstone.
Local historian Dennis Warwick told the gathering: “He was born of Quaker parents and this influenced the whole of his life and work. He was dedicated to removing poverty and slavery and promoting education and the advancement of all people. As a Member of Parliament, he quickly caught the eye of leading Ministers through speaking out about the need for education and the abolition of slavery.
“His desire for improvement of the lives and welfare of people in the Colonies led to his promotion of the idea of the British Commonwealth of nations. His most important achievement, in the face of much opposition, was to formulate and guide through Parliament the Education Act of 1870 which brought elementary (what we now call primary) education to the whole country for the first time.”
Mr Warwick has written a brief biography of WE Forster to coincide with the replacement of the headstone. It includes a foreword by Wharfedale ward councillor and former Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Dale Smith.
Coun Smith said: “Perhaps once in 100 years is a person of a truly significant eminence recognised within a locality. Dennis and I have no doubt that William Forster (1818-1886) who lived in Burley for over 35 years was one such icon.”