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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

Mary Augusta Ward (née Arnold) (1851–1920)

a summary of her Bloomsbury connections

She was born in Tasmania in 1851, the oldest child of Tom Arnold, the brother of Matthew Arnold; Dr Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School, was her grandfather

After marrying Thomas Humphry Ward in 1872, she became a novelist under the name Mrs Humphry Ward, moving with her husband from Oxford to London in November 1881

The Wards took the large house on the south-eastern corner of Russell Square, no. 61, adjoining the houses in Southampton Row and, having been built in 1745, predating the building of Russell Square itself by more than fifty years

In 1923 her daughter Janet Trevelyan recalled “that comfortable Bloomsbury region, which was then innocent of big hotels and offices, and where the houses in Russell Square had not yet suffered embellishment in the form of pink terra-cotta facings to their windows” (Janet Penrose Trevelyan, The Life of Mrs Humphry Ward, 1923)

The gardens of the house (later demolished to make way for the building in 1905—1911 of the Imperial Hotel) backed on to the gardens of Queen Square

They lived here until early 1891, when they moved to Grosvenor Place, near Buckingham Palace

In February 1890 Mary Ward held a meeting of social reformers at her Russell Square house, which included the Unitarian ministers James Martineau of Gordon Square and J. Estlin Carpenter, son of William Benjamin Carpenter, former Warden of University Hall in Gordon Square

Together they established a so-called Settlement in rooms taken in University Hall, on the model of Toynbee Hall in east London, and with the intention of bringing educational and recreational opportunities to the poor of the area through a number of “Residents” at the Hall, young professional men, mainly lawyers, who would give lectures and lead activities in return for board and lodging

In 1897 the University Hall rooms were given up and a specially designed building on Tavistock Place was opened, now named the Passmore Edwards Settlement after its chief benefactor John Passmore Edwards

Mary Ward had raised subscriptions in addition to the £14,000 given by Passmore Edwards, and had persuaded Herbrand, 11th Duke of Bedford, to let her have the vacant site on the north side of Tavistock Place at preferential rates

She managed the Settlement with energy, pioneering play centres for poor children left on the streets after school and before their parents finished work, and offering activities for both children and parents in the evenings and on Saturdays

In February 1899 she opened the first school for disabled children in the building, and in July 1902 she started the first Vacation School for children

Mary Ward was also connected to the Froebel Society, being a member of its Council in 1885

Her novel Marcella (1894) is set partly in Bloomsbury; one of its protagonists, the philanthropist and social reformer Edward Hallin, lodges in rooms in Gower Street, and the poor people among whom he works live in ‘insanitary tenements’ such as those in the streets immediately to the south and east of the site on Tavistock Place where the Passmore Edwards Settlement was to be built from 1895 to 1897

In 1921, after Mary Ward’s death, the Passmore Edwards Settlement was renamed the Mary Ward Settlement in her honour, Passmore Edwards himself having died in 1911

For more information about Mary Ward’s work in Bloomsbury, see John Sutherland, The Mary Ward Centre 1890–1990 (1990), and John Sutherland, Mrs Humphry Ward: Eminent Victorian, Pre-eminent Edwardian (1990)

For more general biographical information about Mary Augusta Ward, see her entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

This page last modified 17 November, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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