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

Elisabeth Jesser Reid (née Sturch) (1789–1866)

a summary of her Bloomsbury connections

Born Elisabeth Jesser Sturch in London, the daughter of a wealthy Unitarian ironmonger, in 1821 she married Dr John Reid, a nonconformist who had studied medicine at Edinburgh in the 1790s with Peter Mark Roget

The Reids lived at 6 Grenville Street, where Mrs Reid remained following her husband’s death only thirteen months after the marriage

In 1849 she founded the Ladies’ College at 47 Bedford Square, the first institution in the UK to offer higher education for women (though women could not take a degree until the University of London opened its examinations to them in 1878)

She funded the institution with an initial loan of £1500, which she had to turn into a gift in 1856 when the College was in financial difficulties

Using her Unitarian and Bloomsbury connections, she got several Professors from University College London to teach at the college, including Augustus De Morgan, Francis William Newman, and Alexander John Scott

She was also supported by her friend Henry Crabb Robinson, whose diaries chart the difficulties she faced in setting her College on a sound financial footing and her frustration at the lack of financial support from men (Crabb Robinson’s diaries are in Dr Williams’s Library, London; extracts relating to Mrs Reid and the Ladies’ College are in the Elisabeth Jesser Reid Papers at Royal Holloway University of London)

Crabb Robinson and other friends noted her single-mindedness and tactlessness, but also her philanthropy and support for progressive causes, including the anti-slavery movement

She invited Harriet Beecher Stowe to her home when the American anti-slavery protester visited Britain in 1853

In 1860 she offered accommodation to Sarah Remond, a black anti-slavery lecturer who attended some classes at the Ladies’ College (Louis and Rosamund Billington, ‘A Burning Zeal for Righteousness: Women in the British Anti-Slavery Movement, 18201860’, in Jane Rendall ed, Equal or Different: Women’s Politics 1800–1914, 1987)

In 1860 Mrs Reid made over the College property to three young female trustees, Eliza Bostock, Jane Martineau, and Eleanor Smith

After her death in 1866 they continued the work of the College, which moved out of Bloomsbury in 1874 and later became a College of the University of London

For more general biographical information about Elisabeth Jesser Reid, see her entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

This page last modified 7 April, 2011 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