William J. Oliver

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For the American contractor and industrialist, see William J. Oliver (industrialist).

William J. Oliver aka 'Oliver the Spy' aka W.J Richards - was a 19th-century informer, and suspected agent provocateur, employed by the English Home Office against the Luddites and similar groupings. He appears to have played a significant role in thwarting the Pentridge or Pentrich Rising of 1817, leading to the execution of Brandreth, Ludlam and Turner. See e.g. E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class

William Oliver was a building surveyor who had been imprisoned for debt before he was recruited by the foreign office.[1]

His shadowy role is commemorated in Charles Lamb's poem, 'The Three Graves'.[2]


  1. ^ William's role in the uprising accessed July 2007
  2. ^ The three Graves accessed July 2007