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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

William Benjamin Carpenter (1813–1885)

a summary of his Bloomsbury connections

He was born in Exeter, the son of the celebrated Unitarian minister and schoolmaster Dr Lant Carpenter

He studied medicine briefly at University College London in the 1830s, apparently attending thirty-five lectures a week (H. Hale Bellot, University College London 1826–1926, 1929)

He graduated MD from Edinburgh in 1839; having taught physiology at the Royal Institution in 1844, he became Professor of Medical Jurisprudence at University College London in 1849

In 1847 Carpenter was appointed the first Swiney Lecturer by the Trustees of the British Museum under the provision of the £5,000 Swiney Fund

The fund was bequeathed to the Museum by the will of Dr George Swiney, an eccentric doctor and benefactor, who died in 1844

The will stipulated that the lectures should be on geology and the appointed lecturers should have graduated MD at Edinburgh, as Swiney himself had done

Carpenter gave five series of lectures, first at the Royal Institution, then in 1851–1852 at the Russell Institution in Great Coram Street (Minutes of General Meetings of Trustees, 8 May and 3 July 1847, vol. VII; Minutes of Committee Meeting, 8 November 1851, vol. XXV, British Museum Central Archive)

In the summer of 1852, when Richard Holt Hutton was obliged to resign as Principal of University Hall, a Hall of Residence built in Gordon Square in 1849 for students of University College London, Carpenter was appointed in his place

After its shaky beginnings, when first Francis William Newman, then Arthur Hugh Clough, followed by Hutton, had failed to stay long enough to make it a going concern, University Hall settled down under Carpenter, who moved into the Principal’s quarters at the Hall with his wife and growing family, even bringing his organ and instituting musical evenings and other social events (University Hall Minute Book, 16 June 1853, vol. IV, MS 12.85, Dr Williams’s Library)

During his tenure, Manchester New College, after several years of hesitation, finally moved to London in 1853 to share University Hall’s large and under-used building

At the same time, the Catholic Apostolic Church was being built next door by enthusiasts for the millenarian preaching of the late Rev. Edward Irving; negotiations about the use of the party wall between the two institutions – the one dissenting and Unitarian, the other elaborately fond of ritual – went on from 1853 until 1862 (University Hall Minute Books, 1853–1862, vols IV and V, MSS 12.85 and 12.86, Dr Williams’s Library)

Carpenter also presided over the final arrangements with the Duke of Bedford’s agents to take up the offer, made when the Hall was first being built on Bedford land in 1848–1849, of taking the lease for 1000 years at a peppercorn rent (University Hall Minute Book, 14 June 1855, vol. IV, MS 12.85, Dr Williams’s Library)

In 1856 Carpenter was appointed Registrar to the University of London, keeping on his job at University Hall until 1859, when he resigned from the Hall in order “to devote the whole of his time to the business of that Institution [i.e. the University]” (University Hall Minute Book, 24 March 1859, vol. V, MS 12.86, Dr Williams’s Library)

The second of Carpenter’s five sons, Joseph Estlin Carpenter, was brought up in University Hall, and later became Principal of Manchester New College after its removal from University Hall to Oxford (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

For more general biographical information about William Benjamin Carpenter, see his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

This page last modified 7 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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