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The beginning of the QMUL journey

A 19th-century idea

The People’s Palace, Mile End Road, circa 1900’
The People’s Palace, Mile End Road, circa 1900

Our heritage can be traced back to the late 19th century with the establishment of the People’s Palace, a philanthropic organisation designed to bring culture, recreation and education to the East End. It inspired and delighted the local community with a vibrant calendar of social events and facilities including swimming baths, concerts and a Winter Garden enclosed in glass.

The People’s Palace was a collaborative project funded largely by the Beaumont Trust and the Drapers’ Company, one of the historic Livery Guilds of the City of London. A constant source of financial and organisational assistance throughout our history, the Drapers’ Company continues to support our work through the Drapers’ Charitable Fund, and is commemorated in the name of our Drapers’ Lecture Theatre and Students’ Union bar.

The next generation of tradespeople

The People’s Palace also established Technical Schools to train a new generation of tradespeople for the key industries of east London; however, many students excelled at their studies and progressed into further academia, demonstrating a significant need for higher education opportunities in the local area. As the success of the People’s Palace Technical Schools continued to grow, it was decided that teaching would be extended in the sciences and introduced in the arts and humanities – and it was this commitment to academic excellence that led to the Schools’ permanent admission to the University of London in 1915 under the new name of East London College (ELC).

Education can be instrumental in solving many of our social and economic problems…education is a social function with a social end
George Godwin,
Queen Mary College

A reputation beyond the East End

By 1934, the College’s influence and reputation had developed beyond the capital: students came from almost every county in Britain, along with many countries across the world. Awarded its own Royal Charter by Queen Mary of Teck, ELC took the name Queen Mary College, and began to expand its teaching and research opportunities as well as its campus, partnerships and accolades.

20th century and beyond

The latter half of the 20th century brought a merger with Westfield College, an early pioneer of women’s education, and St Bartholomew’s and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, one of the world’s leading medical schools. Today, the teaching and research at Queen Mary University of London spans three faculties: Humanities and Social Sciences; Science and Engineering; and Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. True to our roots, our vibrant and diverse community of staff and students are not only renowned for their academic ability, but their active commitment to public good. Read more about our work with our local community today.

Discover more about our history by visiting the Queen Mary University of London Archives or read more about some of our notable people.

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