ICE panels launch John Rennie commemoration project

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

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

ICE members are invited to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of civil engineer John Rennie by contributing to a special commemorative project.

The ICE Archive Panel and the Panel for Historic Engineering Works (PHEW) would like to bring together examples of Rennie's life and significant projects from each of the ICE regions and beyond.

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 which was later re-erected in the Arizona Desert in the 1971.

An insight into John Rennie's life and work

Written submissions and images are being sought that would provide interesting insight into the life and work of John Rennie. All contributions should appeal to a wide-range of audiences - from specialist professionals to members of the public.

"Anniversaries of significant events are a trigger for making a respectful nod to the achievements of our predecessors" said PHEW chair Gordon Masterton.

"In the case of great civil engineers, this includes a rediscovery of what we owe to their far-sightedness. John Rennie is one of those great achievers, many of whose works survive despite the 200 years since his death. What a great testament to the resilience of his foresight and the quality of his work. He deserves this year of commemoration."

The ICE panels are coordinating efforts to ensure a good coverage of topics across the regions, without duplication of effort.

It is hoped the contributions could eventually generate a variety of multimedia material celebrating Rennie and his works, from print publications to online videos and potentially live, or digitally delivered events.

How to contribute

Written and illustrative images are being sought of between 500 and 1,000 words, accompanied by up to five related images. The tone of voice should be appropriate for a non-technical audience.

Submissions could explain the following areas of Rennie's projects:

  • A brief description of the structure highlighting any unusual or ground-breaking details.
  • An explanation of the problem Rennie was trying to solve and the social or political context of the project.
  • What has happened to the structure since it was completed.
  • If the structure survives, what a visitor could expect to see and should look out for if they visit.
  • If the structure does not survive, why it was demolished and what, if anything, replaced it.

Suitable images might include archive plans, paintings or prints of the original structure, archive photographs and, for surviving structures, what can be seen today. The ICE Archive and Library will be able to assist with sourcing suitable photographs.

Contributions are also being sought covering the following:

  • A biography of Rennie's childhood and family life.
  • Rennie’s professional development and impact on the civil engineering profession.
  • How his image and reputation were developed and managed, including his relationships with other key engineers of the time.
  • An overview of the contribution of the surviving structures to modern life (with an emphasis on capital carbon savings through maintenance of historic structures).
  • Any other stories about Rennie and his work which would be of interest to the general public.

For more information or to express your interest in contributing to this project, please contact Carol Morgan at [email protected].

More detail of Rennie's life and a list of his projects can be viewed on the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.