The Institute was first known as the Liverpool Mechanics’ School of Arts. It was founded in 1825, but occupied other premises while the money was found to build a dedicated building. In 1832 the name was shortened to the Liverpool Mechanics’ Institution. Its primary purpose was to provide educational opportunities, mainly through evening classes for working men. Lectures were also provided covering topics ranging from Arctic exploration to Shakespeare and philosophy. Luminaries like Charles Dickens and Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered talks and readings.
By 1840 the institution offered evening classes, lectures, a library and a boys' lower and higher school. By the 1850s a School of Art was evolving out of the evening classes. In 1856 this diversity was recognised by another name change – The Liverpool Institute and School of Art.
In the 1880s a new building adjacent to the principal building on Mount Street was opened to house the School of Art. The School of Art and post 18 provision was moved into what was to become Liverpool Polytechnic, now Liverpool John Moores University.
In 1905 Liverpool City Council took over the management of the secondary school in the Mount Street building. From then until its closure in 1985, the school was formally known as The Liverpool Institute High School for Boys.
The Liverpool Institute for Boys was a grammar school with an excellent reputation. The list of distinctions at Oxford and Cambridge runs to some 300 names – this is aside from the distinctions gained at The University of Liverpool.
Miscellaneous distinctions included the highest national scholarship offered at the time, as well as a Nobel Prize winner. The school was a true measure of Liverpool’s intellectual capital. Aside from Sir Paul McCartney and George Harrison, the comedian Arthur Askey, theatre impresario Bill Kenwright and broadcaster Peter Sissons were amongst the most distinguished ex-pupils in the performing arts. Alan Durband, one of the founders of the Liverpool Everyman Theatre, was Paul’s English teacher.