Over 15 plaques commemorating a diverse range of distinguished people can be found across the University of London’s (UoL) central precinct in the heart of Bloomsbury, central London.
Installed by local councils, civic societies and English Heritage, the plaques represent people from different social backgrounds and religions and of different ages, genders and nationalities but what unites them all is their eminence within their field of expertise.
It is quite fitting that these notable people from all walks of life are marked on University-owned property. Since the University’s founding in 1836 it has been pioneering in opening up its degrees to a broad range of people. UoL was the first to open its doors to all students irrespective of race, creed or political belief, the first to admit female students and the first to open its degrees to distance learning.
It’s an honour to have people such as T S Elliot, Christina Rossetti and Virginia Woolf remembered on UoL buildings in an area synonymous with knowledge, culture and education. Celebrating people in this way highlights the historical associations of buildings and demonstrates the way these small but important pieces of text, inscribed on metal and stone, foster community interest in local history.
From anesthetists to anthropologists and poets to politicians, each individual identified on their plaque will have a unique story to tell about their time in Bloomsbury. Though some parts of their stories will be lost, their lasting memory is here to stay – albeit in a small way – on Bloomsbury’s bricks and mortar.
- Rowland Hill, who founded the postal service, was the first person to found a school with central heating and a swimming pool.
- Christina Rosetti, the poet most famous for writing In the Bleak Midwinter, was the model for the Virgin Mary in her brother Dante Gabriel’s painting The Girlhood of Mary
- It was Sir Samuel Romilly who made possible the repeal of laws which made stealing from the person a capital offence.
- Mary Prince born into slavery suffered great cruelty and eventually wrote a harrowing account (The History of Mary Prince) of her life which was a runaway best seller.
- George Orwell, renowned for writing Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, began his life as an Imperial Policeman.
- Dame Millicent Fawcett, the suffragist, was the sister of Elizabeth the first woman doctor, and the mother of Philippa Fawcett the distinguished mathematician.