History of Birkbeck: 1700s/1800s

1776 Founder George Birkbeck born in Settle, Yorkshire.
1800 George Birkbeck joins the Andersonian Institute in Glasgow – over 500 people attend his first lecture on the ‘mechanical arts’.
2 December 1823 Around 2000 people flocked to the Crown and Anchor Tavern on the Strand to witness Dr George Birkbeck and his supporters launch London’s first ever Mechanics’ Institution dedicated to the education of working people. 
1825 The Institution moves to the Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane.
1830 The first women students are admitted to the Institution. 
1841 Dr George Birkbeck dies. His horse-drawn funeral cortège attracts thousands of mourners. 
1858 The ratification of the University of London’s Charter means that any student can sit degree examinations. The Institution soon emerges as the main provider of university education for people who cannot afford to study full-time. 
1866 The Mechanics’ Institution changes its name to the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution. 
1868 Membership is now up to 3000, including a significant number of students studying for University of London degrees.

Notable students include the co-founder of the LSE, Sidney Webb, future playwright, Arthur Wing Pinero, and Annie Besant, whose involvement with atheists and birth controllers so alarmed the Institution’s Governors that they tried to avoid publishing her exam results.

1884 A generous donation from Francis Ravenscroft, of the robe-making firm Ede and Ravenscroft, helps pay for the move to the Breams Building, on Fetter Lane.

Ramsay MacDonald enrolls, forging a lifelong passion for the arts. He goes on to lead the Labour party to their first election victory in 1923.

1885 The Prince of Wales officially opens the Breams Building, which would be home to Birkbeck for the next 65 years. 
1892 Millicent Fawcett lectures on the problems of poverty. 
1896 Dr George Armitage-Smith begins a distinguished term of leadership, serving as Principal from 1896 until 1918.