Archive of the University of Liverpool: Faculty of Engineering

Scope and Content

This section comprises administrative records of the Faculty of Engineering (1910 - 1981), including faculty board minute books, report books, minute books of committees and board of studies. Also some publications, reports and typescripts of the Faculty of Engineering Science (1967 - 1986). Some records of schools and departments, usually photographs of staff and students and material related to courses: Department of Engineering (1946-1947; 1951), Electrical Engineering (1906 - circa 1920; 1940), Mechanical Engineering ([ca.1946 - 1972], not dated), Naval Architecture (1948 - 1949), Department of Metallurgy and Materials Science (1929 - 1930; 1939-40); undated lantern slides.

Administrative / Biographical History

Although the establishment of a Faculty of Engineering had to wait until 1903 when the Ordinances made by the Council and sanctioned by the Court under the powers of the recently acquired Royal Charter of Incorporation of the University provided for the same, the first notable step towards its establishment was taken as early as 1886 when the Harrison Chair of Engineering was founded, the first holder being Dr. H.S. Hele-Shaw.¹

It was Professor Hele-Shaw who was the author of a printed Report Concerning the Engineering Department of University College, Liverpool dated 20 November 1886 and intended for private circulation.² This report is a plea for a properly equipped Engineering Department and Building for the city prompted by the rising number of students who attended the engineering courses which had only started in the Session commencing in October 1885. It was pointed out that whilst Liverpool was not a great centre of engineering manufacture there was a large number of engineers employed in the marine and railway engineering industries and in the docks and various existing manufacturers and in neighbouring colleries who desired instruction for their sons and pupils "which there is not sufficient variety in the nature of local works to afford but which can be obtained in the workshop and laboratory of an engineering school." Professor Hele-Shaw declared that Liverpool was ripe for a movement in favour of technical education and that the centre of the movement would be the new Engineering Laboratories.³

Senate in 1901 invited a committee of the Science professors to prepare a report on the constitution and powers proper to a Faculty or Faculties of Science as a result of which a Faculty of Science was set up in 1902. The new Faculty included both the Professor of Engineering and the Lecturer in Electrotechnics, hitherto regarded as a part of the Department of Physics. However, the Science Committee had a few months earlier voted in favour of the establishment of a Board of Engineering and through the influence in particular of Professor Hele-Shaw it was finally agreed to establish a separate Faculty of Engineering. The constitution of the Faculty was modelled upon that of the Faculty of Arts. The Faculty began its life with a quick expansion in the number of staff : at the beginning of the Session of 1902-3 the staff of the then Department consisted of one professor and three assistant lecturers but in 1903 a Chair of Electrical Engineering was founded, in 1908 a Chair of Civil Engineering established, and in 1909 a Chair of Naval Architecture founded. Later expansion would seem to have taken place principally in the 1920s and the last two decades.

The earliest records of the Faculty unfortunately do not appear to have survived apart from the Examinations Results Book 1904-21 (S.2794) though it is clear from the contemporary numbering of the surviving volumes that others once existed. The fact that the Report Book for 1935-1949 is marked 3 in a hand which appears contemporary with the volume would seem to suggest that volume 1 was already lost; likewise Faculty Board Minute Book no. 1 was probably lost by the 1920s. However, there are amongst the University Archives other records which help to fill some of these gaps and supplement the information contained in the Faculty's surviving archives.

These other records mainly date from 1928 to 1967 but also include the Minute Book of the Engineering Committee of University College 1886-90 (ref. P.5150/3) and some early 20th century correspondence; mention should be made too of the Minute Book of the University Metallurgical Society 1926-36 (ref. D.9/1).

The later history of the Faculty - which changed its name from Engineering to Engineering Science in March 1965 as from the 24 Feb 1984 the title was Faculty of Engineering not Faculty of Engineering Science - is outlined in Thomas Kelly, For Advancement of Learning, The University of Liverpool 1881-1981 (Liverpool University Press, 1981).


The records of the Faculty of Engineering are split into two series: Faculty records and records of Schools and Departments.

Access Information

Please phone (0151 794 2696) or email for an appointment; you may reserve material in advance.

For non University of Liverpool visitors, please bring some form of photo id (e.g. driving licence, travel pass, passport); Sydney Jones Library reception desk staff will issue you with a day pass.

Please note that some materials may be closed or have restricted access.


Besides Professor Thomas Kelly's centenary history of the University of Liverpool, the principal secondary sources of information on the Faculty's history are:

H.S. Hele-Shaw,Report Concerning the Engineering Department of University CollegeLiverpool, 20 Nov 1886; a printed pamphlet intended for private circulation. A copy is attached to p.3 of the Engineering Committee Minute Book 1886-90 in Special Collections and Archives (ref. P.5150/3)

Printed Programme for Ceremonial Opening of the Walker Engineering Laboratories by Lady Walker,November 2nd, 1889; this contains a description of the buildings together with ground plans and two engravings of the exterior. A copy is in Special Collections and Archives' Reference Library.

Printed Programme for Opening of Laboratories of Electrotechnics,July 8, 1905, (Liverpool University Press, 1905); this contains a description of the Laboratories, illustrated by photographs, and a brief history of the department. A copy is in Special Collections and Archives' Reference Library.

W.H. Watkinson,The University of Liverpool : A Description of the Harrison-Hughes Engineering Laboratories Opened on Saturday, May 18, 1912 by the Right Honourable The Viscount Haldane of Cloan,(Liverpool University Press, 1912); Also a Brief Description of the Walker Engineering Laboratories. Copies of this booklet, which is illustrated by ground plans and photographs, can be found in Special Collections and Archives (p.42 of S.2782, and P.5B/1/11) and its Reference Library.

The University of Liverpool Engineering Society, Journal,Vols 1-June 1912- to date; the Special Collections and Archives Reference Library has complete sets of Vols. 1-20 and 27-40 which cover the periods 1912-16, 1927-49, and 1956-69; no numbers were published between 1916 and 1927.

H.A. Ormerod (d.1964), typescript (incomplete) history of the University of Liverpool, chapter X pt.2: The Faculties of Science and Engineering,n.d. [c.1950s.]. A copy of this typescript history is in the Special Collections and Archives' Reference Library.

Printed Programme for Open Days 29 and 30 April 1960: The Chadwick Laboratory and The Laboratories of Civil Engineering and Building Science, 1960;contains sections on the history and development of the departments.

Dr. S.J. Kennett,Department of Metallurgy and Materials Science 1920-1970: A History;1970