Foundation (1846-1875)

During the Autumn of 1846 a group of engineers met to watch locomotive trials at the Lickey Incline near Bromsgrove. Here they discussed the idea of forming an Institution of Mechanical Engineers to meet the needs of what had become a burgeoning separate discipline within engineering.

Four of this group - Edward Humphrys, Archibald Slate, James McConnell and Charles Beyer - signed their names to a letter which was circulated among prospective Members. The letter invited recipients to attend a meeting at the Queen’s Hotel, Birmingham on Wednesday October 7th 1846.
The letter stated that the aims of a new Institution would be to:

“enable Mechanics and Engineers engaged in the different Manufactories, Railways and other Establishments…to meet and correspond…to increase their knowledge and give an impulse to inventions likely to be useful to the world.”

The result of this meeting was the formation of a committee to draw up and agree the rules and regulations of the new Institution. That committee met in November 1846.

On 27th January 1847, 56 engineers and manufacturers meet at the Queen’s Hotel, Birmingham for a General Meeting to formally found the Institution. George Stephenson was elected the Institution’s first President.

In May 1847 the Institution held its first reading of a paper for publication – William Buckle’s ‘Series of experiments relative to the fan blast’, - in what would become the Institution’s Proceedings.

The Institution’s first meetings were held at the Queen’s Hotel in Birmingham before growing membership numbers led to a series of rented meeting venues across Birmingham including at the Midland Institute, Philosophical Institution, Temple Buildings and Newhall Street.

Initially there were four meetings a year held on the fourth Wednesday of January, April, July and October. By 1848 there were over 162 members. From the mid 1850s it was decided to hold Summer meeting away from Birmingham. Informal visits to works in the region and papers presented related to local industry. Elaborate programmes and tickets were produced.

1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, saw the Institution hold its first meeting in London, in the Society of Arts’ Adelphi Rooms.

In 1871 Council formed a committee to investigate building an entirely new premises in Birmingham, with enough room to hold all the Institution’s meetings.

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