UCL logo




Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury and the Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury People

What is the Bloomsbury Project?

The Leverhulme-funded UCL Bloomsbury Project was established to investigate 19th-century Bloomsbury’s development from swampy rubbish-dump to centre of intellectual life

Led by Professor Rosemary Ashton, with Dr Deborah Colville as Researcher, the Project has traced the origins, Bloomsbury locations, and reforming significance of hundreds of progressive and innovative institutions

Many of the extensive archival resources relating to these institutions have also been identified and examined by the Project, and Bloomsbury’s developing streets and squares have been mapped and described

This website is a gateway to the information gathered and edited by Project members during the Project’s lifetime, 1 October 2007–30 April 2011, with the co-operation of Bloomsbury’s institutions, societies, and local residents

Walter Bagehot (1826–1877)

a summary of his Bloomsbury connections

He was born in Somerset, the son of a Unitarian banker and Church of England mother, and after a brilliant school career at Bristol College, became an undergraduate at University College London in 1842, at the age of sixteen

For part of his time at the University he boarded with the Independent minister, and Professor of Philosophy at University College, the Reverend John Hoppus, in Camden Street

Bagehot graduated in 1846, winning the University of London scholarship in mathematics in his final examinations in 1846 (UCL Annual Report, 1847, UCL Records Office)

He stayed on at University College for two more years to study Political Economy and Philosophy, taking his MA and winning a gold medal for Philosophy in 1848 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

While at University College, Bagehot founded in 1843 a Debating Society with his friends Richard Holt Hutton and William Caldwell Roscoe

In his first speech to the Society, in February 1844, he addressed the motion”On the Question ‘Whether Government Ought to Interfere in the Dissemination of Blasphemous or Seditious Publications’ ”, arguing against suppression on the grounds that “all attempts to guide the expression of opinions, without first directing the belief, are so many incitements to insincerity and hypocrisy” and that such laws were therefore “not only inexpedient but unjust” (The Collected Works of Walter Bagehot, ed. Norman St John-Stevas, vol. XIV, 1986)

In February 1847, at the time of his twenty-first birthday, he moved into lodgings of his own at 6 Great Coram Street while he studied for the bar at Lincoln’s Inn

In the early months of 1849 he was involved, along with his friend and fellow-graduate Roscoe, in the appointment of Arthur Hugh Clough as the Principal of University Hall, then being built in Gordon Square as a Hall of Residence for students of University College

Bagehot was a member of a committee of former students advising the founders of the Hall, of which he was himself one by virtue of buying a subscription

In their report the recent graduates stressed the importance of offering students something better than boarding in private houses or living in lodgings, in order to “prevent University College being considered as a mere assemblage of Lecture Rooms’ (‘Educational Institution. Copy of a Communication from Former Students of University College”, 1 March 1847, University Hall MS 12.90, Dr Williams’s Library)

As a member of the first Council of University Hall, Bagehot helped to persuade some reluctant members to appoint Clough as Principal, despite Clough’s reluctance to take prayers in Hall and his generally unenthusiastic attitude, especially towards the “mercantile Unitarians” who ran the institution (Walter Bagehot to Richard Holt Hutton, 1 March 1849, The Collected Works of Walter Bagehot, ed. Norman St John-Stevas, vol. XII, 1986; Arthur Hugh Clough to Tom Arnold, 16 May 1851, The Correspondence of Arthur Hugh Clough, ed. Frederick L. Mulhauser, 1957)

Though called to the Bar in 1852, Bagehot chose not to practise, returning instead to his home in Somerset to join the family banking firm

For more general biographical information about Walter Bagehot, see his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

This page last modified 16 January, 2012 by Deborah Colville


Bloomsbury Project - University College London - Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT - Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 3134 - Copyright © 1999-2005 UCL

Search by Google