William Wilberforce

Portrait of Wilberforce drawn by J. Stewart



Name: William Wilberforce

Dates: 1759 - 1833

Profession: Politics

Address: 44 Cadogan Place , SW1

Dates at address: 1831 - 1833

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Biography

Wilberforce was born in Hull to a merchant family. Brilliantly intelligent, he breezed through school and Cambridge while maintaining an active social life. An early fling with evangelical Christianity while staying with his uncle in London was cut short by his mother but reappeared in full-force in 1785. He married Barbara Spooner at thirty-eight and this is believed to have been his first romantic involvement.

Various inheritances allowed Wilberforce to pursue a political career, getting elected MP for Hull in 1780, Yorkshire in 1784 and entering the Commons aged only twenty-four. Although an independent he was also a friend and public ally to William Pitt The Younger. His return to evangelism in 1785 shaped his future policies, despite nearly quitting politics for the church. In 1787 he embarked on his nineteen-year crusade, the abolition of slavery in the West Indies, supported by Pitt, Thomas Clarkson and the Quakers. After countless set backs his bill was passed in 1807 spurring Wilberforce to move for a total ban. Another long and bitter battle ensued but this time he did not see its end, dying a month before the bill was passed.

Wilberforce came to the borough in 1808, living at Gore House until 1821. He returned to the borough in his retirement, moving to Cadogan Place in 1831. Suffering from severe ill health, his stay was short and he died at his home in 1833. He was interred at Westminster Abbey against his wishes after his family were petitioned long and hard by Parliament, who wished to honour his life.