Archive of the University of Liverpool: Guild of Students, Student Societies and Student Life

Scope and Content

This sequence comprises material relating to the administration of the Guild of Students, Student Societies and Student Life. Some of the deposits have been donated by graduates and past members of the Guild and concern either student activities or societies.

Administrative / Biographical History

The origins of the Guild of Undergraduates may be traced back to the establishment in 1892 of two Students' Representative Councils at University College, Liverpool. But even before this date students of the College were forming social and athletic and other societies, the Athletic Club leading the way, being founded in 1885, three years after the opening of the College. The first departmental Society, the Medical Students' Debating Society (more recently entitled the Medical Students Society), had been founded in 1874 by students of the Royal Infirmary School of Medicine, and proved the impetus for the formation of various student associations, for instance the Women's Literary Society (1888), the Arts and Debating Society (1888), the Literary and Historical Society (1889), the Physical Society (1899), the Thiasos (Society for the Reading and Study of Greek Literature) (1888), and the Choral Society (1891). Reports on these societies' activities appeared in the University College Magazine, the first number of which was published in 1886.

Largely through the efforts of several students, in particular Edward Carey (later Registrar of the University) and Ramsay Muir (later Professor of Modern History), two Students' Representative Councils were established in 1892. The SRCs were to be elected at the commencement of each session and to hold office for one year; there were two councils (Men's and Women's S.R.C.) acting independently of each other except in matters of mutual concern when they co-operated as one council. The object of the S.R.C. was to act as the students' governing body, to represent the students before the Senate and the public, to manage the Students' Reading/Common Rooms (which were provided in the Victoria Building, itself opened in 1892), and to promote a University social life amongst the students. The S.R.C. was claimed to be the first representative student body established in any English university or college. University College Magazine was replaced by the livelier Sphinx, the first number of which appeared in 1893, under Ramsay Muir's editorship; up until the establishment of Guild Gazette in 1937 the Sphinx was to serve as the students' principal journal, providing reports on the activities of the various clubs and societies, etc.

By the terms of the Letters Patent (’Charter’) of 1903 which constituted an independent University of Liverpool it was provided that there shall be one or more Guild or Guilds of Undergraduates (as may be determined by the Court), and a Representative Committee of every such Guild. So in place of the S.R.C. there was established the Guild of Undergraduates, the new Guild Council holding its first meeting in November 1904. Membership of the Guild was compulsory to every full-time registered student. The Guild Council's work was delegated to eleven Standing Committees:

Executive, Finance, General Purposes, Athletics, Debates, Reading Room, Sphinx Management, Affiliated Societies, Entertainments, Book Exchanges, and Handbook. As the lists which follow make clear, a number of the minute books of these committees appear no longer to survive within the University. In more recent years the Guild's Committee structure has been altered and added to: no less than thirteen Committees (including the Executive and the Joint Union Management Committees) are listed in the 1982 edition of the Students' Handbook.

Nowadays the Guild's permanent centre is in the Students' Union building in Bedford Street North. It dates from three principal periods: the original elegant Greek Revival style Students' Union building of 1910-13 designed by Professor Charles H. Reilly (Roscoe Professor of Architecture, 1904-33) with its originally separate wings, Men Students' facing Bedford Street, and Women Students', facing Mount Pleasant; the adjoining central section of 1932-35 (designed by C.H. Reilly, L.B. Budden, and J.E. Marshall, all members of staff of the University's School of Architecture); and the large extension to the south (1962-64; architect: Peter Shepheard of Bridgwater, Shepheard and Epstein).

Prior to the erection of the Students' Union students had the use not only of rooms in the Victoria Building but also a Women Students' Club-house, opened at 28 Brownlow Street in 1896, and the men students had premises at 53 Bedford Street from 1906. On the athletic etc. front the Athletic Club's permanent home was initially (from 1892) about ten acres of grounds, Field House, in Smithdown Road. In 1908 new grounds, at Calderstones, were acquired which were not vacated until 1923; in the meantime, through the generosity of Mr. T. Harrison Hughes, a ship-owner, the University was able to purchase the Wyncote estate in Allerton, the new playing fields (opened in 1922) which were laid out here being named the Geoffrey Hughes Athletic Grounds, in memory of Mr. Harrison Hughes' brother, killed in the First World War. In 1929 additional land was acquired at Wyncote. In the University area, the Walter Harding Gymnasium in Bedford Street North [on the site of which is now the 1962-64 extension of the Students' Union], opened in 1938, provided facilities for badminton and boxing as well as gymnastics; this Gymnasium replaced a gymnasium in converted property in Elizabeth Street. Nowadays in the University Precinct the role played by the successive previous gymnasiums has been taken over by the Sports Centre, at the north west corner of Abercromby Square and opened in 1966.

Despite the increase, during the last two decades, in the variety and number of publications issued under the auspices of the Guild of Undergraduates or in association with it, the Students' Handbook remains the best single introduction to the range and variety of activity, social, political, athletic, cultural, and culinary associated with the Guild. It may be supplemented, in particular by the University College Magazine, later the Sphinx, principally up to 1939, and from 1937 by Guild Gazette.


Arranged into sections

  • Administrative Records
  • Athletic Union
  • Plans of the Students Union
  • Student Societies
  • Student Life
  • Publications

Access Information

Access is open to bona fide researchers unless otherwise stated.


For details of books and articles about the Students' Union, students and graduates, and also details of student publications (which considerably supplement the holdings in the Students' Union), see Part III of the Bibliography of the History of the University of Liverpool by A.R. Allan, copies of which are held in the University Archives and in the Special Collections Department of the University's Sydney Jones Library

For Advancement of Learning : The University of Liverpool 1881-1981,Thomas Kelly, Liverpool U.P.,  1980

Tom Hare [President of the Guild of Undergraduates, 1921-22] A History of the Student Body of Liverpool Universityin The University of Liverpool Students' Handbook1922-1923, Guild of Undergraduates, Liverpool, 1922 , pp.7-51

G.S. Veitch,Guild of Undergraduates to c. 1903, typescript, unpublished history, University Archives ref. in D40/5/9

The Students' Union, a brochure published by the University for the opening of the extension to the Union in 1965

University College Magazine,Vols. I-VI and N.S. Vol.1, 1885-92

Sphinx, Vols. 1 -, 1893 - to date,  no issues published during the Second World War; the editions for the post-war period have been in the form of arts magazines, the function of reporting and commenting upon student life etc. having been taken over by Guild Gazette.

Guild Gazette,Vol. 1 -, 1937 - to date

The University of Liverpool Students' Handbook,1905 - to date

Pantosfinx / Panto Sphinx1925 - to date

Diary of the Guild of Undergraduates (now the Guild of Students)1937-38 - to date

Guild of Undergraduates Programme of Events1972 - to date

(University of) Liverpool Students' Song Book1906 and 1913  editions

The University of Liverpool Engineering Society (later Societies) Journal1912 - 1972

The University of Liverpool Society Chronicle1931 - 1939,  published for private circulation among old students, past and present staff, members of the court, etc.

(The) Sphincter (Journal of the Medical Students' Debating Society, later entitled the Liverpool Medical Students' Society1937 - to date

Nucleus: Magazine of the Liverpool University at Coleg Harlech,1939 - 1940

Journal of the Liverpool University Geographical Society, later entitled University of Liverpool Geographical Society Journal1967 - 1978

Polychronicon (Journal of the University History Society)1905 - to date

Botany Department Magazine (not always so entitled)not dated, [1969] - not dated [1988]