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?
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.