Thomas Pelham Dale was born at Greenwich on 3 April 1821 and grew up in Beckenham, Kent. After attending King's College London, in 1841 he went up to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and graduated in 1845. He was elected as a fellow of his college.
In 1861, with Bishop Tait, Elizabeth Ferard (see 18 July in Church of England calendar) and two other women, founded the North London Deaconess Institution based in King's Cross.
Originally an evangelical, Dale came to believe that ritualism was specifically appropriate to deal with the nature of secularism and forces hostile to Christianity of the time. He began to use eucharistic vestments at Christmas 1873.
Opposition to Dale crystallised around his ritualism, especially after he offered locum tenens ministry in 1875 to the congregation of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, whilst the Revd Alexander Heriot Mackonochie was suspended for Ritualist practices. In 1876 he was prosecuted under the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874. He was supported by the English Church Union in his prosecution by the Church Association. In the same year, he joined the Society of the Holy Cross. In December 1878 he recommenced all his former practices and another judgement against him from Lord Penzance in the Court of Arches was obtained in 1880. Two days later Dale was arrested and imprisoned in Holloway prison.
Dale's imprisonment drew great sympathy from all but his most die-hard opponents. Such imprisonments did more than anything else to turn public opinion against Disraeli's attempt to put down Ritualism by law.
Soon after his release Dale was presented to the living of Sausthorpe-cum-Aswardby, near Spilsby, in 1881. He died on 19 April 1892 (on the eleventh anniversary of the death of Disraeli (one of the architects of the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874)) and was buried in Sausthorpe churchyard.