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ICE panels launch John Rennie commemoration project

12 October 2021

Members are invited to contribute to the 200th anniversary of the engineer's death.

ICE panels launch John Rennie commemoration project
John Rennie 1761-1821, by Henry Raeburn. Portrait presented to ICE by his son Sir John Rennie.

A new project to commemorate the life and works of legendary engineer John Rennie has completed its first phase with the release of a new website, e-magazine and interactive map.

John Rennie (1761-1821) was responsible for major projects such as the Pembroke Royal Dockyard and the East India Dock, London. He also designed many bridges throughout the UK including the London Bridge, parts of which was later re-erected in the Arizona Desert in the 1971.

The commemorative project, led by the ICE Archives Panel and the Panel for Historic Engineering Works (PHEW) and supported by the Rochester Bridge Trust, aims to raise public awareness, and celebrate the contributions, of Rennie around the UK and to the engineering profession.

Contributions from ICE members and a wide range of heritage and community organisations have generated stories of his life and career and key projects, which have been brought together here.

Making it easier to visit Rennie's works

"The mapping of all of John Rennie's projects provides a powerful visual overview of his prolific output and the extent of his influence on the shape of the United Kingdom,” said PHEW chair and ICE Past President Professor Gordon Masterton OBE.

“He was rightly revered in his time, and fittingly honoured by the nation in being buried in St Paul's Cathedral. But his true monuments are the works he designed, some replaced but surprisingly many still extant after more than 200 years, a wonderfully carbon-efficient use of materials. I hope this map and accompanying new website will encourage many to visit and view the memorials to John Rennie, one of our greatest civil engineers."

Rennie’s work on canals, aqueducts, bridges and dockyards set him out as one of the greatest engineers of his age. Working through the Industrial Revolution, he was a pioneer of mechanical engineering and steam power as much as the civil engineering feats for which he is well known.

Today, 200 years after his death, there are few parts of the UK untouched by projects that were of his design or construction, or on which he was consulted for his advice.

Many survive still and with the help of the new map, can now be more easily visited by all those with a specialist interest as well as more widely by members of the public.

The project continues

"We set out to tell the stories of the huge range and ambition of Rennie’s work, and tell the public about his impressive achievements, including the many structures which are still in use today.

"The project required a great effort by a wide community of engineers, historians and interest groups. We are very grateful to all of them and especially to the Rochester Bridge Trust, which generously funded the project," said ICE Archives Panel member Sue Threader.

The project to promote Rennie’s work and draw public attention to heritage structures continues. To get involved, through article contributions or similar, please contact [email protected]

  • Carol Morgan, archivist at ICE