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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

Cail family

a summary of their Bloomsbury connections

Both Elizabeth Cail (born 1841) and her sister Mary Isabella Cail (born 1846) acted as Principal of the Home for Lady Students at Russell House in the late nineteenth century

Their father Benjamin Cail was a railway agent at the time of the 1841 census; he had married Isabella Lambert in Haydon near his home town of Gateshead in 1840

By 1851 Cail was farming 30 acres with six hands in Battersea; he and Isabella had 5 children including Elizabeth, the eldest, and Mary Isabella

In 1861 the family were living in Bray, Berkshire, where Benjamin was a land agent — all except Elizabeth, who (aged 19) was listed as governess to the family of Septimus A. Cail in Elswick, Northumberland, presumably a relative

The Cails were still in Berkshire in 1891, with Benjamin still working as a land agent aged 74; his wife Isabella, six years his senior, outlived him (he died in 1894) and was listed as a widow living on her own means in Berkshire in the 1901 census at the age of 90, although she died later that year

Elizabeth Cail was back with the rest of the family in Berkshire in 1871, but at some time thereafter she became Principal of the Home for Lady Students at Russell House; she may have helped to found it in 1878, and was its resident Principal in the 1881 census

She then married, aged 46, at St Pancras Church in January 1888; her husband was William Nicholson, a widower, aged 67, who had founded the brewery Nicholson’s in Maidenhead in 1840 when he was just 20

Elizabeth left Russell House to live in Maidenhead with her husband, who was still a brewer and wine and spirit merchant in the town in 1901 at the age of 81

The brewery eventually closed in 1960 and the site was taken over by the commemoratively-named Nicholson’s shopping centre

The Cail family were also commemorated by windows in the local church, St Mary’s, as they had been “much involved as planners and builders in Maidenhead during the construction boom of the late 19th century” (Pat Symons, ‘Historical Tour of the Church’ (opens in new window))

After the departure of Elizabeth, the management of Russell House was taken over by Elizabeth’s younger unmarried sister, Mary Isabella Cail; in 1891 it housed 5 boarders, 4 of them art students

By 1901 Russell House was no longer extant, its building had been demolished, and Mary Isabella Cail was living with her widowed mother in Maidenhead

Although the Cails are commemorated in Maidenhead, Elizabeth and Mary Isabella also deserve to be remembered for their efforts on behalf of some of the earliest women students at pioneering institutions in the area

This page last modified 7 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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