William Horsell

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William Horsell
William Horsell, London, c.1857.jpg
Photograph of William Horsell, by Maull & Polyblank, London, c. 1857
Born(1807-03-31)31 March 1807
Died23 December 1863(1863-12-23) (aged 56)
OccupationPublisher, vegetarianism activist
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Horsell

William Horsell (31 March 1807 – 23 December 1863) was an English hydrotherapist, publisher and vegetarianism activist. Horsell published the first vegan cookbook in 1849.


Horsell was born in Brinkworth, Wiltshire. Before the age of twenty he was preaching the gospel and became a temperance activist in 1833.[1] In 1838, Horsell established the Anti-Nicotine Society at Congleton, Cheshire.[2] Horsell founded the Nature's Beverage Society in 1842. The Society aimed to spread abstinence from all artificial beverages.[3]

Horsell operated a hydropathic infirmary at Northwood Villa, Ramsgate.[4] It has been described as the first vegetarian hospital in Britain.[5] In 1847, a meeting was held at the hospital from which the Vegetarian Society was formed.[4] Horsell was secretary of the Vegetarian Society for several years.[6] In 1856, Horsell noted that there were a thousand members of the Society.[6] He managed the Society from his London office.[7]

Horsell edited the Truth Tester, which became the Society's official journal.[4] The journal described vegetarianism as "the next practical moral subject which is likely to call forth the virtuous energy of society".[6] In 1850, it was renamed the Vegetarian Advocate.[8] Horsell stepped down as Secretary and his journal ceased in 1850.[9] From 1849, the Vegetarian Society's President James Simpson published the Vegetarian Messenger.[9] In 1850, Simpson moved the Vegetarian Society office to Manchester and Vegetarian Messenger became the Society's official journal.[9] Horsell remained active with the London branch of the Vegetarian Society.[7]

He authored a popular hydropathic manual and was an advocate of phrenology.[6] He was a publisher for vegetarian and spiritualist literature.[6] His wife Elizabeth Horsell was also a vegetarian.[6]

Horsell was a London agent for the Fowler & Wells Company.[10]

In 1849, Horsell published Asenath Nicholson's Kitchen Philosophy for Vegetarians, in London. A review in the Vegetarian Advocate, noted that "butter and eggs are excluded" from the recipes.[11] The Vegan Society have cited the book as the first vegan cookbook.[12]

Horsell died of a fever, while on board the Just, on 23 December 1863, while on an anti-slavery mission to Nigeria. He was buried in Lagos Cemetery, West Africa.[13]

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ "Horsell, William (1807–1863)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  2. ^ Blocker, Jack S. Fahey, David M; Tyrrell, Ian R. (2003). Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Enclyopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 634. ISBN 1-57607-833-7
  3. ^ Winskill, Peter Turner. (1891). The Temperance Movement and Its Workers, Volume 2. Blackie & Son. p. 150
  4. ^ a b c Spencer, Colin. (1995). The Heretic's Feast: A History of Vegetarianism. University Press of New England. p. 252. ISBN 0-87451-708-7
  5. ^ Forward, Charles W. (1898). Fifty Years of Food Reform: A History of the Vegetarian Movement in England. London: The Ideal Publishing Union. p. 20
  6. ^ a b c d e f Gregory, James. (2007). Of Victorians and Vegetarians: The Vegetarian Movement in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Tauris Academic Studies. pp. 31-52, pp. 72-73, p. 104. ISBN 978-1-84511-379-7
  7. ^ a b "London Vegetarian Association, 1850s - the world's first 'vegan society'". Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  8. ^ Puskar-Pasewicz, Margaret. (2010). Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-313-37556-9
  9. ^ a b c "The Origins of the 'Vegetarians'". International Vegetarian Union. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  10. ^ LeMaster, J. R; Kummings, Donald D. (1998). Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 230. ISBN 0-8153-1876-6
  11. ^ Anonymous. (1849). Kitchen Philosophy for Vegetarians. The Vegetarian Advocate 11 (1): 10.
  12. ^ "Key facts". The Vegan Society. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  13. ^ Gregory, James. "'Zealously affected in a good thing' The publishing career and life of William Horsell (1807‒1863)". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

Further reading[edit]