King's College London
Online Exhibitions
In the Beginning ...

First principals

The first three Principals were William Otter, Hugh James Rose and John Lonsdale.

William Otter

Seated portrait of William Otter, first principal of King's College LondonReverend William Otter, first principal of King's 1831-1836 Otter, the first Principal of King's College London, was born in 1768. A fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, he was ordained in 1791 and after a continental tour he was installed in the rectory of Colmworth in Bedfordshire in 1804.

Otter was subsequently a rector in Essex and Shropshire and his friendship with Dr George D'Oyly, soon to be instrumental in the foundation of King's College, accounted for his installation as minister of St Marks, Kennington, in 1825.

He was appointed Principal of King's in June 1831. Considered a tolerant and moderate man of even temper, and an enthusiastic proponent of educational reform, he was an ideal candidate to settle any disputes that might arise during the inception of the College.

Otter resigned in 1836 when he was advanced to the bishopric of Chichester and where he set up the theological college that still bears his name. He died in 1840.

Hugh James Rose

Hugh James Rose succeeded William Otter as Principal in 1836. Rose had already proved influential in setting up the College when he delivered a sermon in Cambridge in October 1826 that stressed the importance of religious and moral education. The sermon provided the focus for supporters of a new institution.

For a portrait of Rose, see The proposal for King's College earlier in this exhibition.

Rose was a high church theologian and philosopher of great distinction whose early career was spent at Cambridge as a fellow of Trinity and later as Christian Advocate. He enjoyed numerous appointments in the Church, which included the vicarage of Horsham and curacy of St Thomas's, Southwark.

He was also appointed domestic chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury and was sympathetic with the Tractarianism of his close friends Newman and Keble, while the meeting that led to the formation of the so-called 'Association of Friends of the Church' took place in Rose's rectory at Hadleigh, Suffolk in 1833.

Rose was thus an enthusiastic advocate of Anglican renewal and an ideal choice to succeed William Otter as Principal in 1836.

He distinguished himself as a regular lecturer on the Christian religion and was an enthusiastic advocate of the teaching of engineering at the College. His tenure as Principal was all too short, however. Following influenza, he died in December 1838.

John Lonsdale

John Lonsdale was the third Principal of King's College. He had actively supported the foundation of the College in 1828 and in 1838 was already an established member of Council.

A Latin scholar and moderate Anglican who had trained at Eton and King's College, Cambridge, Lonsdale presided over a period of growth and optimism at King's with the opening of the new hospital and reorganisation of senior teaching in the College by the creation of the new Department of General Literature and Science.

Lonsdale resigned from his post in 1843 consequent on being appointed bishop of Lichfield. His replacement, Richard William Jelf, remained Principal until 1868, during which time the breadth of teaching widened to encompass subjects as diverse as theology from 1846, evening classes and military science.

A Principals Timeline has been created showing all holders of this important position at King's College throughout its history.

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