Powell was baptized in Horsforth in 1734, and moved to London in 1762 where he worked as a lawyer's clerk. In 1764 he began his pedestrian career by wagering that he could walk 50 miles in 7 hours, which he accomplished on the Bath Road. He became a national celebrity, but made very little money from walking, which he treated as a hobby, and died in relative poverty at the age of 59 on 15 April 1793. He was buried at St Faith's Church in St Paul's Cathedral Churchyard, after a walking funeral procession.
In 1773 he walked 400 miles from London to York and back, and in 1788 walked 100 miles in 21 hours 35 minutes. He also ran 2 miles in 10 minutes.
- Charles G. Harper (1922) The Great North Road: London to York 2nd edn Cecil Palmer, London
- Arthur Mee (1941) The King's England: Yorkshire West Riding (Hodder & Stoughton, London) pp190–1
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 3 July 2016
- Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 46: Powell, Foster
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