Irene Mabel Marsh 1875 - 1938

Irene Mabel Marsh founded the I.M. Marsh College of Physical Education, Sport and Dance (dating back to 1900) where she served as Principal, starting a revolution in physical education and demonstrating that girls should receive instruction in PE.

She was a fiercely committed educationalist who was determined to follow her own vision. An expert in physiology, kinesiology [the scientific study of human movement], pathology and educational method. She travelled widely and gained considerable knowledge from German and Swedish models of physical education, which were more advanced and holistic in approach than British equivalents.

“Irene Marsh was an inspirational leader and one of the first to pioneer physical education for women. She gave her whole life to the development of physical education as she saw it and to the building up of a pioneering college.”

– Professor Pat Shenton, who oversaw the teaching of physical education at both the Polytechnic and LJMU

For over 100 years, the College established itself at the forefront of the development of physical education and teacher training, adopting an innovative approach to the subject that was developed by Marsh, and later emulated nationally and internationally. In its early days, the College grew very rapidly, initially catering only for women until it became co-educational in 1985. 

Apart from more formal educational courses, she also provided recreational classes for Liverpool businesswomen and working-class girls, again adopting innovative models not widely accepted at the time. Most notable is her work with women with a variety of disabilities, including those who were blind, deaf or unable to speak. Subsequently her remedial and physiotherapy work in collaboration with the renowned Liverpool orthopaedic surgeon, Sir Robert Jones, helped develop new approaches to scoliosis or spinal curvature, influenced by techniques used in Berlin.

Her legacy is such that LJMU continues to fulfil her vision through today's School of Sport and Exercise Science long after her death in 1938.

The College was renamed the I.M. Marsh College of Physical Education in 1947 and became the first state-maintained specialist institution of its kind for women in the country. The College became part of the Liverpool Polytechnic in 1981, together with F.L. Calder College, which moved to the I.M. Marsh Campus. Teaching moved away from the site in 2021 to new city centre buildings, but it remains part of our campus portfolio with plans in development for its future use.

Please note
The principal building on the I.M. Marsh site is known as Barkhill and is a Grade II listed building. It is one of the earliest known early nineteenth century villas built in the area in this style and typifies the sort of rural retreat favoured by rich merchants and ship owners made rich directly, or indirectly, through their links with the Transatlantic slave trade.