Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 127,354 pages of information and 200,902 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

J. and G. Rennie

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c1830s. 0-4-2 Rennie's Outside Cylinder Engine.
1868. Floating dock at Carthagena.
1869. Centrifugal pump at Keyham Dockyard.

J. and G. Rennie, marine engineers, 6 Holland Street, Blackfriars.

1791 The old works were established by John Rennie in Holland Street, Blackfriars.

1821 On the death of John Rennie, the business was divided between his two elder sons, who remained in partnership as regards the works in Holland Street with George Rennie (1791-1866) managing the principal part of the mechanical business while (Sir) John Rennie (1794-1874) was responsible for the completion of the engineering works. The firm carried on engine-making in the old works.

1838 Provided engine for SS Archimedes - the first successful screw steamer in the world. (Rennie Brothers of Millwall).

1838-42 See 1839-1842 Marine Engine Makers for details of engines made for the Admiralty.

c.1840 Boiler shop at Bankside in the old retort house of Phoenix Gas Co[1]

1855 Patent marine engine: The disc engine. (G. Rennie and Son).

1889 Engines and boilers for HMS 'Calliope' built in 1883.

1912 Moved to Wivenhoe

Later known as the Rennie Forrest (sic) Shipbuilding and Dry Docks Co.

Short Histories of Famous Firms' by Ernest Leopold Ahrons [2]

Amongst a number of well-known London engineering firms of the early Victorian period, most, if not all, of which have since disappeared, the firm of G. and J. Rennie was at one time in the front rank. The first engineering works associated with the name appear to have been founded in 1791 by John Rennie, the father of George and Sir John Rennie, who had been engaged in the erection of engines and mill machinery by Messrs Boulton and Watt. The designs for the London Bridge were originally made by John Rennie senior and the work was completed by his sons after his death in 1821.

The firm known as G. and J. Rennie was established by the sons in 1824 at 52, Stamford-street, and in 1833 the works were removed to Holland-street, Blackfriars, to the site of a large flour mill, after the latter had been destroyed by fire. The machinery for this mill had been designed and erected by George Rennie. Although both brothers were in partnership, the mechanical engineering side and the management of the works developed upon the elder brother George, whilst John devoted himself to civil engineering, in which branch he became famous as Sir John Rennie.

At Holland street works the first biscuit-making machinery, and also machinery for chocolate works, was made. The extension of the railway systems in this country, especially after 1836, created a demand for locomotives, with the result that a number of...[more]

Apparently locomotive building in the London area was accompanied by too many disadvantages to make that branch of engineering a profitable trade in competition with the Newcastle and Lancashire firms, and Messrs. Rennie then devoted their energies more especially to marine engines, in the design and manufacture of which they attained considerable fame. For the Royal Navy the firm constructed the engine of the Dwarf, the first vessel in the Navy to be propelled by screw. Many of Messrs. Rennie's earlier marine engines were designed with four horizontal cylinders, placed in pairs on either side of a central crank shaft. The air pumps were placed in an inclined position beneath one end of the shaft, and were driven by a single-throw crank.

Although both of the original partners had died many years earlier, the firm of Messrs. G. and J. Rennie continued to exist under the old name until about 1890, as ship and dock builders, boiler makers, and marine engineers, with works at Thames-street, Greenwich, in addition to the old works at Holland street, Blackfriars. The latter works appear to have been abandoned in 1890, and in 1893 the name of Rennie also disappeared from the list of firms in the Greenwich district.

Steam Locomotives

1841 Built broad-gauges locomotives for the Great Western Railway[3]:

  • Mazeppa
  • Arab

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1862/03/21
  2. The Engineer 1921/04/08, p 366.
  3. The Engineer 1910/12/16 Supplement