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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 Williams (1792–1858)

a summary of his Bloomsbury connections

Vicar of Lampeter, Wales, and in 1824 appointed the first Headmaster of the newly established Edinburgh Academy, he was one of the earliest appointments to be made at the new University of London (later University College London)

He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Roman Language and Literature at a Council meeting on 10 November 1827 (Council Minutes, vol. I, UCL Records Office)

He was also one of the first Professors to resign, in his case before even taking up the post when the University opened in October 1828

In May 1828 Williams was one of three Professors who were also Anglican clergymen to seek permission from the Council of the avowedly secular University of London to rent a chapel on Gower Street for Anglican students

The three—Williams, Thomas Dale, and Dionysius Lardner—were given permission, so long as the establishment was outside the University’s own walls (Council Minutes, vol. I, 15 May 1828, UCL Records Office)

On 1 July 1828 Williams wrote to the Council resigning his position

He explained that with the recent announcement in the press of the plan to found King’s College, a rival university in London supported by the Duke of Wellington’s Tory government, the King, and the Church of England, he had come under pressure not to join the ‘godless College’ on Gower Street: “You will be as much surprised at receiving as I am grieved at writing this letter; but the truth is I have not courage to have the hostility of my own order & to array myself in battle against the lawn sleeves & mitred fronts of my ecclesiastical superiors” [by attaching myself to an institution in which I would find myself] “in direct opposition to the Rulers of the Church” (John Williams to Leonard Horner, Warden of the University, Council Minutes, vol. I, 10 July 1828)

Williams had already resigned his Headmastership

As his friend and patron Walter Scott put it in his diary, he “had fallen with a heavy thump/Upon his reverential rump” (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Williams stayed in Edinburgh, where he was fortunate to be reappointed to the Academy in 1829 after a brief and disastrous tenure by his successor

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

This page last modified 7 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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