I.M. Marsh College of Physical Training

Irene Mabel Marsh started a revolution in physical education and demonstrated that girls should receive instruction in PE. Her legacy lives through the University's innovative teacher training, PE, sport and dance programmes.

The I.M. Marsh College of Physical Education and Sport dates back to 1900, and the establishment of the Liverpool Gymnasium College, later known as the Liverpool Physical Training College. The College was initially established at 110 Bedford Street near the city centre. It remained there, with some expansion into nearby buildings, until it moved to its current Barkhill Road site in Mossley Hill between 1920 and 1929. The site became known as the I.M. Marsh campus in 1947.

Entry requirements for students were a bit different back in the 1900s than they are today. Not only did Marsh’s students have to be ‘gentlewomen’ without bobbed hair but they had to be over five foot three as well. 

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. 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. Irene Marsh’s ingenuity continues to permeate University operations, and the annual cycle of holiday clubs used by around 12,000 local children is a fitting memorial to a woman who devoted her life to enthusing generation after generation of students about the importance of physical activity.

Irene Mabel Marsh (1875-1938)

Irene Mabel Marsh, or ‘Mums’, was born into a large family with six sisters and four brothers. When only 18 years old, Marsh was appointed Director of the Bootle Gymnasium and taught women’s classes for the Liverpool YMCA in the Liverpool Gymnasium, receiving a salary of £50 a year. She retained this role until 1937 alongside establishing her own College, where she also served as Principal from 1900.

She became an expert in physiology, kinesiology (the scientific study of human movement), pathology and educational method. She travelled widely for the period, and gained considerable knowledge from German and Swedish models of physical education, which were more advanced and holistic in approach than their British equivalents. While Principal, she also founded the Girl Guides Corps at the College in 1917 and became District Commissioner, receiving visits from Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout movement.

Marsh was a fiercely committed educationalist who was determined to follow her own vision, who adopted new methods and led the way in the development of physical education training and teaching in Britain for much of the twentieth century.

Athena Swan Bronze award

Athena Swan Bronze AwardThe School was awarded Athena SWAN Bronze status in 2019. The Athena Swan award demonstrates the School’s commitment to gender equality and ensures our continued investment in the implementation of enhanced practices and systems in order to drive the equality of opportunity for all.