King Cole in all his glory

King Cole in all his glory

Sir Henry Cole

Dates: 1808 - 1882

Profession: Politics

Address: 33 Thurloe Square , SW7

Dates at address: 1873 - 1877

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Cole was born and educated in Bath. He moved to London and lived with author Thomas Peacock, befriending figures like Charles Buller and John Mill and developing strong utilitarian beliefs. Married to Marian Bond in 1833 they had eight children who he adored. His diaries are filled with his concern that all of them, both boys and girls, should get the best education and employment available, an example of his radical politics.

He started as a clerk at the Record Commission, where a pay dispute led to him publishing two articles attacking corruption within the institution. This resulted in the Commission’s complete restructuring, with Cole appointed as one of four senior assistant keepers in 1838. He also campaigned that year for the instating of the penny postage system, the first national prepaid system. His successes in the field of science and the arts include: creating a national system of art education in 1848, organising the Great Exhibition in 1851 and being appointed first Director of the South Kensington Museum in 1855. He also published the first ever Christmas card under the pseudonym Felix Summerly.

The Great Exhibition made Cole an icon in South Kensington, where he was known as “King Cole”. Credited with transforming the area into the national hub of science and art, he continued to dominate the South Kensington Museum after his retirement. He also provided educational opportunities in the borough catering for both men and women. Cole died in his home at Philbeach Gardens and is buried at Brompton cemetery.

Related records:

Blue PlaqueJohn Stuart Mill – Religion and Philosophy