In June 2006 The Duke of Edinburgh put on a hard hat and boots to watch students building their own versions of engineering landmarks.
The engineering students from Civil Engineering were taking part in Constructionarium, an annual event in which groups had just five days to tackle a challenging project, such as creating a seven metre high version of the world’s tallest vehicular bridge, the Millau viaduct in Southern France.
The event was designed to give students hands-on experience of engineering in a realistic environment. The projects took place on a two hectare section of a Norfolk site which is used for training specialist construction trade workers such as scaffolders and steeplejacks. The site, in Bircham Newton, was owned by the National Construction College.
Prince Philip visited on the students’ last day and saw the projects in their final stages. He was given a tour of the different projects underway, and watched as students pulled a replica oil rig to the middle of a lake and stabilised it. The TV Studio (by then called Media Services) was on hand to capture the event.
This 24 year old video will bring back memories for those who can remember Imperial’s South Kensington campus before all of the rebuilding work and many changes began. Back in late summer 1992 I shot some stock footage around the campus for inclusion in videos we were currently making. This is just a small selection of campus views and I intend to find others, shot prior to this current video.
I recently discovered this 8mm colour film shot for inclusion in the student news programme TOPIC. No programmes from that period remain and the one photo we have, on the right, shows me during a recording of that programme in 1971. This is, as far as I know, the only record of Croquet being played at Imperial. I’m not sure in which month of 1972 this was shot, but it’s either early summer or autumn. What I do know is that it’s the late Professor Bernard Neal (former head of dept civil engineering) playing. According to the Imperial obituary “…He was also an accomplished sportsman captaining Cambridge at tennis and excelling at croquet, playing for Great Britain and winning the All England Club’s men’s singles title 38 times.”
In June 2011 the BBC had a web page all about his croquet abilities saying “…He has won more Wimbledon singles titles than Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe combined, and yet you have probably never heard of him. That is because 89-year-old Professor Bernard Neal from Cheltenham is not a tennis player but a croquet player…”
It was only recently that I was made aware of the fact that both Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering were created as separate departments 100 years ago. In 1907 the City and Guilds College had a department that combined both civil and mechanical engineering. W. E. (Ernest) Dalby was then Dean of the C&G College and Professor of Engineering. Following recommendations (made by the Wolfe Barry Committee), in 1913 Dalby’s department was split in two, when separate civil and mechanical engineering departments were created. Stephen Dixon was appointed to head the civil engineering department and W.E. Dalby remained Dean of the C&G and also head of mechanical engineering.
So that’s clearly a very good reason to see what we have in the video archives that shows, or relates to, both of these departments. Seen many times before we have the amazing 1960 colour film of the City and Guilds building on Exhibition Road. Shown in the film, during the demolition of the building, is the construction of the new Mechanical Engineering Department, of which we get a ‘tour’. This video is silent please note.
New to our YouTube channel is a video I have only just recently digitised. I made it in 1993 as a promotional video for Civil Engineering under the title of ‘Building your Future’. Many aspects of the department are featured and past students are seen talking about their jobs and careers outside of Imperial. You’ll also see a field trip we made to a central London construction site.
And finally a video (or more correctly film) with links to both departments. It’s the (c)1969 film ‘This week in Britain’. Those who remember Civil Engineering from that period will immediately spot where both the opening and closing sequences were shot on the main staircase. Watch out for the Civil Engineering hydraulics lab and the Mechanical Engineering workshops, plus more.
Over the years, many film and TV companies have come to Imperial College. I recall regular visits to the South Kensington campus by BBC TV’s “Tomorrows World” and in some cases I watched them at work. But these visits have all disappeared with no record retained by the college. This is a great shame because these are part of the history of Imperial, its staff and more importantly its research.
But there is just one item that was retained in the archives. Although it doesn’t have any form of introduction titles, it was made, (I think) by the Central Office of Information in about 1969. I certainly remember the filming of the opening and closing sequence. If I am correct then this is one of several identical films shot in a series called “This week in Britain”. Identical because they were all made in several languages at the same time. And judging from the accent, this one was for Australia (ABC perhaps?). I certainly remember one of these visits to the lab of Eric Laithwaite where several women in different colourful outfits each did the same introduction, one after the other, but in their own language.
The film that we do have shows some interesting research being carried out around the college at that time. You’ll see the original Civil Engineering Hydraulics Lab; a brief example of Eric Laithwaite’s linear motor research; Alan Swanson demonstrating his artificial knee joint replacement; the wind tunnel in Aeronautics and finally Chemical Engineering’s Plutonium work. Were you in the Mechanical Engineering workshop when they filmed in there, if so you might spot yourself? The introduction and closing was shot on level 3 of Civil Engineering. And if you remember the college from the 1960’s you will also spot the distinct style of the signs on the old walkway.
Finally, I love the phrase used at the end where Imperial College is called “Science City”, a term I have never heard! Maybe we should start to use it?