The origins of the Marine Biological Station go back to 1885, when Professor, later Sir William, Herdman organized the Liverpool Marine Biological Committee. The Committee conducted dredging excursions in the Irish Sea, and also set up a very small shore laboratory on Puffin Island (off Anglesey) from 1887 to 1891. In 1892 activities were transferred to two small stone buildings (which still exist—see Pl. III) on Port Erin Bay. After nine years these buildings had become quite inadequate to accommodate the growing numbers both of visiting naturalists and of vacation classes which were started at Port Erin in 1897, so a further move was made to the present site at the south-west corner of Port Erin Bay in 1902.
In 1919 the control and ownership of the Marine Biological Station was transferred from the L.M.B.C. to the University of Liverpool; until 1939 the Station formed part of the Department of Oceanography, from 1939 to 1949 it was part of the Department of Zoology, and since 1950 it has formed a separate Department of the University.
The original building of 1902, whose whole seaward frontage still remains virtually unaltered (Pl. I), consisted of a central public aquarium (now room 5 on Text-fig. 1) flanked by a sea-fish hatchery (now 8, 9) and a few small research rooms (2,3,4,6,7), with two sizeable laboratories for student classes on the first floor (45–47 and 28, 30–32 on Text-fig. 2). A very valuable asset consisted of three large open-air ponds which still, after 65 years, perform their original function of maintaining a breeding stock of some 200 adult plaice.