Skip to main content

Timeline :: Liverpool - School of Social Science set up


The Charity Organisation Society, as in London, was already delivering lectures for its volunteers in Liverpool in 1904, when Professor Gonner (later Sir Edward Gonner) on the suggestion of his friend Sir Charles Loch of the COS, established the School of Social Science - an arrangement between the University of Liverpool, the Victoria Settlement for Women and the Liverpool Central Relief and Charity Organization Society. This School was not fully incorporated into the university until 1917 (see Macadam 1945).

The university’s own archives states that the School of Training for Social Work was launched in January 1905.  Lectures were initially delivered on a part time basis but a full time course began in 1908. By 1911 the course had ten full time students studying for a diploma, and 74 students, including clergymen, doctors, teachers, matrons, poor law officials, rescue, church and voluntary workers, taking parts of the course and was providing the teaching of Social Psychology courtesy of Cyril Burt. The renamed School of Social Science moved to 26 Abercromby Square in 1925. Alexander Morris Carr-Saunders became the first Chair of Social Science in 1923, creating an honours school and launching a research programme. He also appointed a Senior Lecturer in Social Statistics, D Caradog Jones who made inroads into social research in Liverpool, publishing the Rockefeller Trust-sponsored Survey of Merseyside in 1934. Margaret Todd, later Simey, was the first honours graduate in 1928. Her husband, Thomas Spencely Simey, became Chair in 1939, signalling a period of great research in the department with the work of Dennis Chapman and J B Mays. In 1971 the department was renamed the Department of Sociology. (see

Liverpool is rightly proud of its connection with Elizabeth Macadam (1871-1948). Elizabeth Macadam trained for four years at the Women’s University Settlement in Southwark and then came north in 1902 to Netherfield Road, Everton in Liverpool to act as warden at the Victoria Settlement for women, with Eleanor Rathbone as Honorary Secretary. The settlement had been founded in 1898 under the auspices of the Liverpool Union of Women Workers, ‘at a time when there were many such institutions in major cities’ ( Its function was to be a residential home for women engaged in social work. The aim, according to a booklet produced by the organisation in 1913 (D45/4/1), was ‘to bring the two social elements commonly designated as “rich” and “poor” into some sort of natural and friendly relations with each other, so that each might get to know and understand a little of the other.’ From the early days of the settlement, volunteers organised a dispensary for women and children, set up social clubs for girls, and arranged classes for invalid children ( The University made a financial contribution to the Victoria Settlement for a number of years (see Finance Committee, 9 May 1978 Minute 167 and 4 December 1979 Minute 54).

In 1904 the settlement launched a training programme for social workers that combined lectures on poverty, child welfare, and civic administration with a course of practical work undertaken in collaboration with municipal and voluntary associations. This became the School of Social Science and of Training for Social Work, established in January 1905; Liverpool became the first British city after London to start a school of this kind in connection with its university. As well as workers from the settlement (twelve of the initial intake of students were from the settlement), the school ‘also played host to men and women engaged in various fields of work involving social service, including doctors, clergymen, Poor Law officials, teachers, trade union organisers, and matrons’. Macadam and Rathbone served on the committee of the new school and both taught classes under its auspices, alongside staff from the University, including the historian Ramsey Muir and Professor of Political Economy E. K. Gonner. Lectures were given on various subjects, but the school also placed great emphasis on giving practical experience to its students, with most of this practical work being organised through the settlement. (

In 1910, Liverpool University absorbed this programme and appointed Elizabeth Macadam as the first lecturer on the Methods and Practice of Social Work; by the outbreak of the First World War, this course had more than a hundred students. In 1917, the school became an official part of the University of Liverpool.

From 1916, Elizabeth Macadam was granted a leave of absence from the university to assist in the setting up training programmes for welfare workers in factories on behalf of the Ministry of Munitions (later the Home Office). In 1919, she left Liverpool permanently for London where she bought a house with Eleanor Rathbone. She became secretary of the newly-established Joint University Council for Social Studies. (

Both the Victoria Settlement and the School of Social Science continued. In 1928 the first student to take an Honours Degree in Social Science graduated; this was Margaret Simey (nee Todd), who also volunteered at the settlement. She married Tom Simey, a political scientist, in 1935. He went on to become a lecturer in public administration and subsequently Charles Booth Professor of Social Science. She became a local councillor (in the city and then county council) where she championed the rights of the poor in Liverpool.

In 1919, the Josephine Butler Memorial Training Home was set up by the Church of England Advisory Board for Spiritual and Moral Welfare with links to Liverpool University; this home was also used by Roman Catholic social workers.

Training for probation workers was first offered here and in Birmingham and London, paid for by the Home Office; this was outlined in the report of the Departmental Committee on the Social Services in Courts of Summary Jurisdiction in 1936.

In 1940, during the Second World War, the Ministry of Labour and later the Ministry of Supply and Ministry of Aircraft Production asked four universities to provide a succession of short emergency courses of academic instruction for what is now ‘personnel management (human resources) with an intermediary month spent in a factory: Liverpool was one of them (see Macadam 1945, p.29).

Elizabeth Macadam died at Nile Grove in Edinburgh in 1948, two years after Eleanor Rathbone’s sudden death in 1946. The School of Social Science and of Training for Social Work went on to become the university’s Department of Sociology in 1971. Margaret Simey died in 2004, aged 98.

Sources:;; Obituary of Margaret Simey in The Telegraph; Oakley, 2014; University of Chester, Riverside Museum.