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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

John Passmore Edwards (1823–1911)

a summary of his Bloomsbury connections

He was born the son of a carpenter in a village in Cornwall, and received only a few years of schooling; however, his father took the Penny Magazine published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in the early 1830s

Passmore Edwards recalled in his autobiography that at the age of twelve he read an article in the Society’s Penny Magazine about the anatomist John Hunter which gave him the ambition to improve his education and to “become known and useful in some way myself” (John Passmore Edwards, A Few Footprints, 1905)

In due course he came to London, where he conducted newspapers and made a fortune, much of which he gave away in the interests of education, mainly for the building of libraries in London and Cornwall

When he was approached in 1894 by Mary Ward, who knew of his philanthropy, he agreed to give £4,000, which was eventually increased to £14,000, for the building of a settlement in Tavistock Place, where the poor children and workers of the crowded eastern part of Bloomsbury would come for clubs, recreation, concerts, lectures, and other activities in the evenings and at weekends

In recognition of his generosity, Mary Ward called the building, opened in October 1897, the Passmore Edwards Settlement

The Times quoted the speech of John Morley MP at the formal opening of the Settlement, praising the “intelligent philanthropy” and “magnificent energy and spirit” of the founders, and singling out Passmore Edwards for his munificence (The Times, 14 February 1898)

For more general biographical information about John Passmore Edwards, see his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, his autobiography, A Few Footprints (1905), Peter Baynes, John Passmore Edwards & Mary Ward: A Beneficial Relationship (1991), and Dean Evans, Funding the Ladder: The Passmore Edwards Legacy (2011).

This page last modified 16 November, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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