Author: Faber, Oscar
1 August 1923
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PART VI. Prior to 1771, engineers who did not know each other very well often met accidentally in the Houses of Parliament and in the Courts of Justice, and frequently each stoutly maintained the superiority of his own opinions; and heated technical arguments were put forward for non-technical politicians to adjudicate upon. It was suggested to Smeaton that such a state of the profession was undesirable, and that it would be well if occasional meetings could be arranged where Civil Engineers might shake hands, and become personally acquainted, so that in this way, and by a friendly interchange of opinions on controversial subjects, and by a comparison of experiences, it might be possible to eliminate erroneous ideas and conduct their business “without jostling one another with rudeness, too common in the unworthy part of the advocates of the law, whose interest it might be to push them on, perhaps too far, in discussing points in contest.” E. Fiander Etchells
The first meeting, since its inauguration, of the newly formed Western Counties branch of the Institution of Structural Engineers was held on Saturday afternoon, 24th February, 1923, at Bristol University. This was preceded by a visit of inspection to the new buildings of the University in course of erection. The members and a number of friends, making a party of about 50, assembled at the top of Park Street, and by the kind permission of the architects, Messrs. Oatley and Lawrence, were conducted over the new buildings, and were able to see the progress that has been made, and were furnished with a number of particulars that might also be of interest to the members generally. The new buildings lie to the south of the earlier buildings of the University, and are grouped around a Quadrangle at the back, and a forecourt in the front towards Queen’s Road. The most prominent feature from the street is the tower, which has at present reached rather over a third of its ultimate height. The main entrance is in the base of the tower, and leads immediately into the entrance hall (75 ft. high to the fan vaulting) from which rise two parallel flights of stairs of easy ascent leading directly to the great hall, approached through a wide vestibule or crush space at the top of the stairs. This vestibule is to be vaulted in stone upon the same principle as the entrance hall. The body of the great hall measures 100 ft. by 50 ft. It is covered by a hammer beam roof of English oak, now in course of construction, and is provided with a recessed orchestra at its northern end and two superimposed recessed galleries at the opposite extremity.
Structural Engineering. The distinction between civil and military engineering has frequently been pointed out, and no one with any pretensions to a knowledge of the engineering profession has any excuse for failure to realise that the Institution of Civil Engineers represents civil as distinct from military engineering, and is not in any way exclusively concerned with dock and harbour construction and similar work of the class which is usually referred to as civil. The Institution of Civil Engineers, which was founded in 1818, is the great parent institution which represents every type of non-military engineering activity, Its roll of members and its proceedings carry clear evidence of the wide scope of its interests. Since its founding, other great, but specialised, institutions have grown up, making no attempt to compete with the catholicity of the parent body, but concerning themselves with some one branch of work. The chief of these are the Institutions of Mechanical Engineers, Naval Architects and Electrical Engineers. These each deal with one of the important branches into which the whole field covered by the Institution of Civil Engineers may be divided. A branch of work already dealt with by the Institution of Civil Engineers, but which so far has not been taken up by any specialised Institution of the standing of the Institution of the Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, or the Institution of Naval Architects is that of structural engineering, but the newly-formed Institution of Structural Engineers evidently hopes to occupy this position. This body, in its original form of the Concrete Institute, dates from 1908, but it can hardly yet claim to standing and prestige which will put it on a level with the other leading specialised institutions. Its particular line of work, however, lies in an important field which is possibly large enough to carry an institution of its own, and there given wise management and the maintenance of a good standard of membership, there is no reason why the Institution of Structural Engineers should not in due course take its place alongside the other leading specialised bodies. The first presidential address of the new institution, which was delivered by Mr. E. Fiander Etchells in the hall of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 19th inst., certainly set a good standard. In view of the special nature of the occasion, Mr. Etchells naturally dealt with the formation of the body he represents. His address was a remarkable sketch of the growth of engineering institutions and associations from the earliest times, and showed that even in the dawn of history the builders, surveyors and artificers who were the engineers of those days tended to band together in crafts and associations. Doubtless the, bodies of an earlier day had a more political or trades-union aspect than have the professional institutions with which we are familiar, but Mr. Etchells' address none the less established a line of continuity