Charting the 175 year history of Liverpool College

Modern day lessons at Liverpool College, which recently became an academy

Modern day lessons at Liverpool College, which recently became an academy - Credit: Archant

Its founding father was Gladstone and Sir Simon Rattle launched his conducting career here.

The cricket team in 1915

The cricket team in 1915 - Credit: Archant

Almost two centuries have done much to change historic Liverpool College since its foundation in 1840. That was the year David Livingstone set off for Africa, British colonists arrived in New Zealand and Chartist leaders were transported to Australia. It was also the year the last Great Auk was spotted, captured and, inevitably, killed in Great Britain.

The one thing which hasn’t changed in the intervening 175 years is the Liverpool College ethos, embodied in a motto which was devised not by some civic grandee but by a humble 27-year-old stone mason called Mr Spence, who suggested it as he was working on one of the original college buildings.

‘Non Solum Ingenii Verum Etiam Virtutis’ – not only the intellect but also the character – comes from the writings of Cicero and is still the golden thread which runs through College life.

Principal Hans van Mourik Broekman puts it into rather simpler language: ‘It’s about learning with character. William Gladstone, future four-times Prime Minister, was one of our founding fathers. When he spoke at the opening, he said if you had all the knowledge in the world but didn’t know what it was for, and didn’t have the character and faith to do something with it, then your education would have been in vain.’

Old boy Sir Simon Rattle

Old boy Sir Simon Rattle - Credit: Archant

The roll-call of past students who went on to achieve great things may span war heroes to rock stars and bishops to footballers (with a few actors, entertainers, politicians and judges in the mix), but the College also wants to use the milestone to celebrate its vision for the future.

‘We’ve got a number of high profile events planned and it’s a chance to remind ourselves of the high expectations and ideals that lay at the root of this great institution,’ said Mr Broekman. ‘More practically, it’s a chance to bring many young people – and their parents – into the College family and connect them with our shared history.’

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The College’s original building was in Shaw Street, Everton, while the Liverpool College for Girls (later Huyton College) was established in Grove Street in Liverpool in 1856. The two merged to create a co-ed establishment in 1993.

The College has been based in leafy Mossley Hill, next to that well known Liverpool road called Penny Lane, since 1929. A rare piece of Pathe newsreel still exists from the dedication of the school’s new junior wing in 1929. The grainy black and white footage shows legions of smartly dressed (and well-behaved) boys and appropriately stiff-backed Masters in gowns and mortar boards.

One of the first reports from 1876

One of the first reports from 1876 - Credit: Archant

Some of the boys in that footage undoubtedly went on to great things. Old Lerpoolians, as former pupils are known, include Noel Chavasse, one of only three people to have been awarded the Victoria Cross and Bar, and countless individuals who went on to distinguish themselves in many fields.

Among them are judge Sir Brian Leveson, President of the Queen’s Bench Division and chair of the public inquiry into the British press, former Tory MP David Hunt – now Baron Hunt of Wirral – conductor Sir Simon Rattle and the late actors Sir Rex Harrison and Derek Guyler.

Other alumni include former Bishop of Manchester the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, actress Katy Carmichael, lyricist Richard Stilgoe, milliner Stephen Jones, Matthew Murphy of rock band The Wombats, former Olympic athlete Curtis Robb, the late Lancashire and England cricketer Kenneth Cranston, former Norwich City and Wimbledon footballer Efan Ekoku and TV presenter Elton Welsby. John Houlding, founder of Liverpool Football Club, and Will Cuff, a chairman of Everton, also attended.

The school, which was fee-paying for 173 of its 175 years, recently became an Academy, a move which the Principal believes takes it closer to its original founding principles than ever before.

‘Education provision in the city in 1840 was minimal, and we were one of a number of schools built around this period. The founders’ vision was that it would educate all the people of Liverpool. They even offered night classes. And while the college was founded as a Church of England foundation it has always been open to pupils of all faiths and none.’

Today, it enjoys some of the best A-level results in the country. In the 2014 Daily Telegraph A-level league tables, it was ranked 37th in the country and best in Merseyside.

But Mr Broekman says: ‘We’re not a hot-house institution. We understand that children come in all shapes and sizes, with different aptitudes and abilities, and for us the key to a good education is to find the best bits of every child and help them make the most of them, while ensuring we also take a holistic view of the children in our care.

‘I have five children of my own at the college – all of them very different – and I’ve found it fascinating to see how the college has dealt with each one in a way which meets that child’s needs.’

Mr Broekman, who studied at the University of St Andrew’s in Scotland and has worked in schools across America, says that this year especially, they are keen to get Old Lerpoolians back into the school’s fold.

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