In 1999 the Club promoted a project designed to acknowledge the lives and work of distinguished engineers whose connections with the region are not well known. It was decided that commemorative plaques placed on or near buildings associated with the selected candidates would help to emphasise their local association as well as draw attention to the contribution they made to their chosen profession.
By fixing such plaques, it was hoped that not only would they publicise the role played by engineers in the technical development of the country but at the same time might help to regenerate interest in engineering as a career. It was not intended to duplicate any acknowledgement that may previously have been made by other organisations.
Before agreeing to the fixing of a plaque, the Club would fully research the life and engineering career of a candidate and only those considered worthy of selection would be approved.
In 2001 the first plaque was fixed in Exeter to commemorate James Green, Devon’s first County Surveyor and this was followed the year after by a plaque to Sir Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine, who lived in Chagford. Since then, plaques have been fixed for George Parker Bidder and James Meadows Rendel, both past presidents of the Institution of Civil Engineers who were born in Mortonhampstead and Whiddon Down respectively and in Lyme Regis for Percy Carlyle Gilchrist, co-inventor of a phosphorous removal process that revolutionised the manufacture of steel. Most recently, in March 2009 a plaque was unveiled in Honiton by Gwilymn Roberts a past President of the ICE, in memory of Joseph Locke the Railway Engineer and MP for Honiton.
Research into other potential candidates continues and it is hoped that not only will the project help to revitalise interest in professional engineering but will also serve to highlight the connection such eminent engineers have had with the area embraced by the Club’s membership.
To view the plaques click plaque here.
A DVD may be borrowed from the Club Secretary showing the unveiling of the Whittle Plaque. It contains the BBC Spotlight and ITV West Country news reports of the event and is preceded by a short film devoted to Sir Frank and his development of the jet engine. (Running time 40 minutes)