We were founded in 1889, and our building was constructed in 1911.
In 1889, the University College’s Senate agreed to the formation of a Students’ Union ‘for the provision of magazines and periodicals and the promotion of good fellowship among the students’, and provided a Reading Room in the College’s principal building (a converted lunatic asylum) for students to use for the purpose. The ﬁrst seeds of The Guild were sown.
When the Victoria Building opened in 1892, the Students’ Union found a more comfortable home with a reading room and common room for male students on the ground ﬂoor and similar accommodation for women on the ﬁrst ﬂoor. Later that year, two Students’ Representative Councils (SRCs), one for men and one for women, were formed making Liverpool the ﬁrst English University to give its students the opportunity to inﬂuence the running of their institution.
The two SRCs were replaced in 1904 by a Guild of Undergraduates featuring a President and Lady President as its ofﬁcers. Men and women students continued to be segregated, even when The Guild was ﬁnally given its own building in 1911.
According to one personal account from the time: “Male students were not permitted to enter the women’s’ Union, women students were not allowed into the men’s Union except for Saturday dances in the library and by invitation for tea on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
Despite the original statutes of 1882 decreeing ‘no smoking in the precincts of the college’, one of the most popular social events for students in the 1880s was the regular ‘Smoker’ during which, according to the student magazine, The Sphinx, in 1893, “the Arts Theatre ﬁlled with harmony and smoke” with students enjoying a night of tobacco and music.
Physical segregation ﬁnally ended in 1935 when an extension was added to accommodate the increasing student numbers after the First World War which effectively removed the partitions. The Guild was extended again in 1965 making it one of the largest Students’ Union in Europe. The new extension introduced the Mountford Hall which seated 1,200 people and is still one of Liverpool’s major entertainment venues, now accommodating up to 2,500 people.
Another notable ﬁrst for The Guild was the election of George ET Brancker (known as Theo) in 1960, the ﬁrst black president of a students’ union in the UK. He graduated in Law and rose to become a highly respected Clerk of Parliament in Barbados, passing away in 2002.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s The Guild became more politicised, reﬂecting a widespread spirit of revolt among young people, particularly students, which resulted in some bitter and violent confrontations across the western world. This manifested itself in Liverpool in a series of protests, mostly harmless, against either internal matters (the lecture system, student representation, etc) or external issues such as apartheid, nuclear testing or US policy in Vietnam.
Things became more serious in 1970 culminating with the resignation of The Guild Executive and the now infamous Senate House ‘sit-in’. Around 300 students occupied the building, preventing staff, including the Vice- Chancellor and the Registrar, from entering, and paralysing the administration of the University. The protesters had a number of grievances including alleged University participation in preparations for chemical and biological warfare, investment in South Africa and secret ﬁles on the political views of staff and students.
The authorities reacted quickly but quietly, securing alternative accommodation for the displaced staff, and leaving the students to their protest without involving the police or law courts. Ten days after the occupation began; the University announced that ten of the ringleaders were to appear before the Board of Discipline. The following day, the remaining 150 protesters marched out, ending the occupation. One of those disciplined was broadcaster Jon Snow - who was suspended and never resumed his studies in Liverpool, but received an honorary degree with grace in 2011.