College for Civil Engineers

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The College for Civil Engineers in Putney, west London, was one of the earliest educational establishments to teach civil engineering.


A private college, it was founded in 1839 and initially based in Gordon House in Kentish Town but was relocated to two riverside mansions, Putney House and The Cedars, in Putney in August 1840.[1] Fully titled as the College for Civil Engineers and of General, Practical and Scientific Education,[2] it was established under the presidency of the Duke of Buccleuch, for the purpose of affording sound instruction in the theory and practice of civil engineering and architecture.

At the time, the civil engineering profession tended to prefer pupillage routes and were sceptical about the quality of the engineers educational establishments produced.[1] A lengthy 1840 article in The Civil Engineer and Architects' Journal (reproduced in Mechanics' Magazine and Journal of Science, Arts, and Manufactures)[3] condemned the College venture as "ridiculous" and a "clumsy imitation of the Polytechnic School" (presumably the Royal Polytechnic Institution, founded in 1838), before concluding:

"We have been influenced by no prejudice against the college or its objects, but we feel that we have best done our duty both to it and our readers, by unsparingly denouncing what we consider an erroneous and inefficient system of education, and a certain delusion to those who have the misfortune to be its victims."

The college was not a financial success and closed during the 1850s - sources variously suggest 1851,[4] 1852[2] or 1857[1] - though local records suggest the college was demolished sometime before 1853.[5]

Notable teachers[edit]

Notable students[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Smith, Denis (2001). Civil Engineering Heritage: London and the Thames Valley. Thomas Telford. p. 273. ISBN 9780727728760.
  2. ^ a b Russell (2003), p.22-23.
  3. ^ Percy, Sholto (1840). Mechanics' Magazine and Journal of Science, Arts, and Manufactures (vol 32 ed.). London: Knight & Lacey. pp. 425–430.
  4. ^ Robertson, F. (2010). Drawing distinctions: engineers, draughtsmen and artisans in nineteenth century Britain. British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference. Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge. 5–7 January 2010. Retrieved: 30 September 2015.
  5. ^ Deodar Road: Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Strategy, London Borough of Wandsworth, November 2010. Retrieved: 30 September 2015.
  6. ^ David Thomas Ansted: 1814–80 Archived 2015-10-01 at the Wayback Machine, Darwin Correspondence Project. Accessed: 30 September 2015.
  7. ^ Hawes, Susan M; Kolpas, Sid. "Oliver Byrne: The Matisse of Mathematics - Biography 1830-1839". Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  8. ^ Samuel Clegg, Junior. Grace's Guide. Retrieved: 30 September 2015.
  9. ^ Russell (2003), p.109.
  10. ^ "Henry Palfrey Stephenson". Grace's Guide. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  11. ^ Story: Stewart, George Vesey, Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved: 30 September 2015.


  • Russell, Colin A. (2003). Edward Frankland: Chemistry, Controversy and Conspiracy in Victorian England. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521545815.