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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

Thomas Dale (1797–1870)

a summary of his Bloomsbury connections

He was a recently ordained evangelical Church of England preacher at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, when he was appointed first Professor of English Language and Literature at the new University of London (later University College) in January 1828 (Council Minutes, vol. I, 21 January 1828, UCL Records Office)

Before the University opened to students in October 1828, Dale, with two other clerical colleagues, John Williams, appointed Professor of Roman Language and Literature, and Dionysius Lardner, Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, sought and obtained permission from the Council to open a temporary chapel in rented premises at 62 Gower Street, where they would hold services for Anglican students and teach Divinity (Council Minutes, vol. I, 15 May 1828, UCL Records Office)

The establishment of the chapel caused anxiety among the supporters of the avowedly secular university

It did not flourish because Williams never took up his post, resigning before the University opened in October 1828, and Lardner became preoccupied with petitioning the Council for a better salary and resigned in 1831

Dale himself, though he did preach and give theology lectures at the Chapel for part of the session 1828–1829, soon also left the University (H. Hale Bellot, University College London 1826–1926, 1929)

He was unhappy at the disappointingly small number of students who enrolled for English and consequently at the small (fees-related) salary he received after the first two years of a guaranteed £300 per session

He wrote to Lord Auckland, a member of the Council, on 3 August 1830 explaining that he had been planning to move from his home in Beckenham, to the south east of London, to live in Bloomsbury, but he could not afford to give up the private pupils near his home while his salary at the University was so meagre and uncertain

In addition, he was angry at a recent public announcement by Thomas Hewitt Key, Professor of Latin, stating that students who entered for English would not be able to take Latin

English, being a new subject for study at university, needed to be encouraged, he felt, but instead the Professors of Latin, Greek (Malden), and mathematics (De Morgan) were concerned to keep their subjects compulsory and not to allow English to join them (Dale to Lord Auckland, 3 August 1830, College Correspondence: Dale 1828–1830, UCL Special Collections)

In 1835 he was appointed Professor of English Literature and History at King’s College London and simultaneously held various clerical posts in London

Dale returned to Bloomsbury in 1846 to become vicar of St Pancras New Church on the corner of Upper Woburn Place and Euston Road

The Church was at the heart of the most populous parish in London (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Dale lived in the rectory, no. 31 Gordon Square, just round the corner from University College, until 1861

In 1852 he became a Life Governor of University College Hospital (Council Minutes, vol. IV, 13 November 1852)

According to his contemporaries, Dale was a popular preacher

One observer noted in 1898 that Dale had plenty of “worldly wisdom” and that when he accepted the chair at the University of London “it was understood that University College, with it liberal institutions, with its Dissenters and Jews, was no place for a Churchman who wished to rise. Dale saw this, gave up his professorship in Gower Street, and reaped a rich reward” (Christopher Crayon’s Recollections: The Life and Times of the late James Ewing Ritchie, as told by Himself, 1898)

There may have been some truth in this, as there certainly was in the case of Dale’s colleague, John Williams, who resigned from the University of London before it opened because he feared the displeasure of his Anglican superiors

It is also true that professorial salaries at the University of London were insufficient for anyone without private means or a ready source of additional income outside the University

And Dale was right to complain that English could never become a popular subject if it was forced to compete with Latin, Greek, and mathematics for student attendance

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

This page last modified 7 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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