“Richard Cobden M.P. A pioneer of free trade lived here 1836-1843
Owens College (later Manchester University) occupied the building 1851-1873”
Location: County Court, Quay Street
Erected: 1st January 1960
This little blue commemorative plaque is located on the side of Cobden House, the former home of Richard Cobden, an English manufacturer and Radical and Liberal statesman.
Richard Cobden was born in 1804 near Midhurst in Sussex, one of 11 children of local farmer, Richard Cobden. He worked as a travelling salesman before going into the textile trade, which eventually led him to making his fortune and living in Manchester.
He became co-owner of a highly profitable calico printing factory in Sabden as a young man, but soon became more interested in politics. His travelling background led him to believing that the virtues of free trade would encourage better international relations. Along with John Bright, Cobden founded the Anti-Corn Law League in 1838, which aimed to abolish Corn Laws – which were tariffs and other trade restrictions on imported wheat, in turn raising the price of bread. He became a member of Parliament from 1841, and achieved abolition of Corn Laws in 1846 after fighting against opposition from the Peel ministry.
Cobden also went on to campaign against the Crimean War, along with Bright. This campaign resulted in them both losing their seats in Parliament in 1857, though Cobden once regained his MP position in 1859, representing Rochdale. In 1860, he led the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty, an attempt to promote closer independence between Britain and France, which was a success.
Richard Cobden died in 1865 of asthma and bronchitis, aged 60.