Archive for October 4, 2015


William Edward Forster was born in Dorset in July 1818. After completing school, he worked in the woolen manufacturing trade. He met and married Jane Arnold, daughter of the famous Dr Thomas Arnold, former headmaster of Rugby School in 1850.


In 1859 he stood as Liberal candidate for Leeds in the general election but was unsuccessful. 2 years later he entered Parliament as MP for Bradford. During his political career he undertake an number of jobs and was responsible for the introduction of a number of bills. Perhaps most famous of these was the 1870 Elementary Education Bill, sometimes referred to as ‘Forster’s education act’, which set up schools boards around the country and set the framework for the schooling of all children between the ages of 5 and 13. In 1880 he became Chief secretary for Ireland and during his tenure escaped a number of assassination attempts. That this threat was real was illustrated by the fact that his successor, Frederick Cavendish, was assassinated in Dublin in 1882, only a few hours after he arrived to take up office. Forster had resigned because the government had decided to release Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irish Nationalist politician and others from detention.

"William Edward Forster - Project Gutenberg eText 13789". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“William Edward Forster – Project Gutenberg eText 13789”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – 

He continued to serve as MP for Bradford until he died in April 1886.

His monument in Victoria Embankment Gardens records his contribution to universal elementary education and is not far from that of Robert Raikes, who had set up the first schools open to all children.

William Edward Forster, born July 11 1818, died April 5 1886.
To his wisdom and courage England owes the establishment throughout the land of a national system of elementary education.