This Day in History: 1786-09-19

On 19th September 1786, the ‘Leeds Intelligencer’ reported that committees of local inhabitants in several towns in the West Riding of Yorkshire had been formed by constables to superintend and regulate all parochial matters, especially relative to the poor and the highways. The rules of the Pontefract Society included: ‘ That we will on every proper occasion encourage and assist the various parochial officers in the execution of their duty, particularly in suppressing all kinds of irregularities or tippling in the alehouses in the Lord’s Day, and in searching for vagrants, cheats, etc., and taking them before the magistrates ; and also in giving information ourselves, where we have personal knowledge and proof of the breaking of our excellent laws, for the due observance of the Sabbath, and against swearing and other notorious immoralities.’ William Wilberforce was so impressed by the success of the West Riding ‘campaigns’ that he tried to convert the movement into a national one.