Liverpool Mechanics' and Apprentices' Library and Liverpool Mechanics' Institute and College of Arts

With their mantra of 'knowledge is power', it's not surprising that some critics thought the mechanics institutes were dangerous, revolutionary establishments.

Liverpool was the first city in England along with London to establish a Mechanics’ Institute, following their initial development in Scotland. In 1823, the Liverpool Mechanics’ and Apprentices’ Library was founded, laying the foundations for the establishment of a Mechanics’ Institute in 1825.

Early lectures and classes covered the arts, humanities and philosophy, as well as technology and engineering and the science of medicine and physiology. Nearly 200 years later, LJMU continues to innovate in areas such as the application of art in science, and using drone technology to support animal conservation.

In the nineteenth century, educational opportunities for women were limited and classes in the Liverpool Mechanics’ Institute and College of Arts were initially restricted to men but by 1835, women began to attend lectures too. Many of LJMU’s other antecedent colleges, such as the School of Pharmacy and College of Commerce, also welcomed female students, while others sought more radical reform by challenging conventional views of women’s roles, such as F.L. Calder College and I.M. Marsh College of Physical Training. Today, LJMU continues to champion equality and diversity, recruiting students from 100+ countries around the world.

Perhaps the most distinguished lecturer to appear at the Liverpool Mechanics’ Institute was Charles Dickens on 26 February 1844; an event attended by around 1200 men and women. Listen here to find out more.

"It is a delight and happiness to me to connect myself with such an institute as this."

Charles Dickens -
Liverpool Mechanics' Institute, 1844

William Roscoe (1753 - 1831)

As Liverpool’s Member of Parliament, abolitionist and LJMU founding father, William Roscoe helped to redeem the city’s reputation by voting against the slave trade in 1807. In 1823, he played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Liverpool Mechanics’ and Apprentices’ Library, the precursor of LJMU, and his mission to extend the benefits of education to all remains at the heart of the University’s operations. His legacy lives on through out public Roscoe Lecture Series.