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British Industrial History

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John Assheton Rennie

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John Assheton Rennie (1876-1949) Naval Architect, of G. Rennie and Co. Director of Crompton and Co, Chelmsford, and Plenty and Son, Newbury.

1876 Born the son of George Banks Rennie and his wife Charlotte Julia Paget

1894 Entered Cambridge University

1896 Left Trinity Hall; went to work in the Greenwich Iron Shipbuilding and Engineering Yard of G. Rennie and Co[1]

1898 Went to Lake Nyasa to commission a gun-boat for the firm

By 1902 was a partner in the firm

WWI Lieutenant, Devon Regt.

1949 February 15th. Died.

1949 Obituary [2]

BY the death of Mr. John A. Rennie, which occurred at his home near Newbury, Berks, on Tuesday, February 15th, at the age of seventy-two, the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers has lost an honoured member, who for forty-six years filled the office of Treasurer to the Society, and was its President in 1897. In those offices he followed many distinguished members of his family, for his great grandfather, John Rennie, was a member and Treasurer from 1812 until 1821 and his great uncle, Sir John Rennie, and his grandfather, George Rennie, were Treasurer and President in 1841 and in 1844 respectively. Both these gentlemen, we may recall, were responsible as engineers for the design and construction of the old Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge. Mr. John A. Rennie's father, George B. Rennie, was President in 1873 and Treasurer from 1883, until his son succeeded him in 1903.

It is worthy of note that in the history of the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers, since its inauguration in 1771, only two families of engineers have been Treasurers of the Society, one family being that of Rennie and the other of Milne.

Like other members of his distinguished family John Rennie devoted his life to the engineering profession. After he had taken his degree at Cambridge University, he took over the management of the family business in Greenwich. Besides the ordinary civil engineering work which that firm did, it maintained a shipyard and engine works, which continued in operation after the other activities of the firm had ceased. Perhaps the last contract undertaken by Rennie's was that for the construction of six of the forty Thames passenger steamers for the London County Council, when an attempt was made in about 1903 or 1904 to revive Thames passenger traffic.

With the decline of shipbuilding on the River Thames, Rennie moved to Wivenhoe, in Essex, where he took over the old Forrest Shipbuilding Yard and renamed it the Rennie-Forrest yard, continuing to build river vessels and coasters for the Crown Agents for the Colonies and others. He sold the business after the 1914-1918 war.

In 1925 Mr. Rennie became interested in reinforced concrete construction and became the chairman of a firm which undertook important contracts. He was also chairman of the Jersey Electric Light Company.

His great hobby was fly fishing, and he became President of the Fly Fishers' Club. It naturally followed from his interest in angling that he took a keen interest in the question of river pollution. He was chairman for many years of the Fisheries Committee of the British Field Sports Society, and took a leading part in that Society's campaign for cleaner rivers which has been supported by the publication of several reports on the pollution of rivers, the last two of which will shortly be issued. It was Mr. Rennie's great ambition to try and induce the present or some future Government to introduce new legislation which would prevent river pollution.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Mechanical engineer records
  2. The Engineer 1949/03/04