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Last week's poll: Commemorating engineers

Plans are afoot for a statue of LNER’s former chief engineer and locomotive designer Sir Nigel Gresley to be placed at Kings Cross Station. Should more engineers be commemorated in this way?

gresley statue

The proposed statue of Sir Nigel Gresley. The duck represents Gresley’s famous locomotive, Mallard, and also his fondness for feeding ducks.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, our audience of engineers was overwhelmingly in favour of more statues being erected to commemorate famous engineers and their achievements. Of the 421 respondents to the poll, 58 per cent said that statues would help to raise the profile of engineers and their role, and 29 per cent said that only engineers who had made a significant contribution to British society should be considered. Of those opposed, 8 per cent of the total thought that statues gave the wrong impression of what is a collaborative discipline, and 3 per cent were concerned that it made engineering seem a thing of the past.


We don’t know of many statues of engineers. There are ten of Isambard KIngdom Brunel, three of which are in London; George Stephenson is commemorated with three statues around the UK, and his son Robert at Euston Station; London also has statues of marine engineer Samuel Plimsoll, of Plimsoll Line fame; Joseph Bazalgette, who built London’s Victorian sewers; Hugh Myddleton, whose New River brought fresh water from Hertfordshire to London in the 1600s; tunnelling engineer James Greathead (who was actually South African) and shipbuilder and philanthropist Richard Green. Outside London, Gugliemo Marconi is commemorated in Chelmsford; James Watt in Greenock, Glasgow, Leeds and Birmingham (with his business partner Matthew Boulton); 18th century roadbuilder John Metcalfe in Knaresborough; steam pioneer Richard Trevithick in Cambourne, Cornwall; railway and civil engineer David Davies in Wales (twice), and there’s a monument to the Titanic engineers in Southampton. We’d like to know of any others around the UK (or, indeed, elsewhere); and also please suggest other engineers who should be commemorated and where their monuments should be.

Readers' comments (26)

  • Ok ,why is there a statue of a duck with Nigel Gresley? More engineers should be recognised but just a statue will not do it. There should be an explanation plaque too or, dare I suggest, a small solar powered LCD screen with an interactive display built into the plinth or nearby wall, vandal proofed of course.

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  • The duck represents the Mallard, which Gresley designed, and also his habit of feeding ducks near his home.

  • Yes; but only for engineers who made significant contributions to British society

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  • I think it's a good idea, not just statues though.

    Too many people in the UK never think about where things come from, or how they get to them. The involvement of Engineers in this country is overlooked on a wide range of things from that magic moment that the light comes on when you flick a switch to the point you put a tin of baked beans into your supermarket trolley. Engineers have made all of those possible, at a cost that people can afford.

    We should be bragging about these achievements in order to let the talented youth know what Engineering provides for them.

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  • I agree with the first choice, and also agree that an information panel should be placed by the statue to explain about the person, and their contribution to society.
    Agreed that this panel needs to be vandal proof - what about a QR code as well?
    Would love to see more in town centres, and other buildings where the general public would regularly see them. All should be related in some way to the building or town where they are placed.

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  • I hope you will honor my great, great uncle Robert Stirling inventor of the Stirling engine.

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  • Statues and recognition of engineers should be as prolific as those of Sports stars (we should also pay them as much). Agree with all the other ways suggested to provide content and context for the statue.

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  • Yes - and more should be done to raise the profile of the British scientist/engineers Newton, Watt, Faraday, Joule, Kelvin and Gray. Six Britons are commemorated by having SI units named after them - more than any other country.

    PS - Will politicians, please stop sabotaging the work of our scientist/engineers.

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  • Engineers need more recognition for their contributions to society. We have the same problem on this side of the pond. All you hear lately is STEM, STEM, STEM--but how often do you hear about those who make the 'E' in STEM? I like the statues idea, but I also agree that more is needed.

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  • Once when visiting Derby industrial museum I asked if there was a museum to RR Cars, the answer was "Yes, they are on the road."
    Perhaps the best monument to engineers is their works. Naming a local school etc is good.

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  • Us (REAL) engineers are greatly underestimated in the ease of modern life. I try to take my rocket car (a real one Richard) in to schools to get youngsters interested but no one is interested or care. Engineering is front of them every day

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