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IMechE's oldest region celebrates its centenary

Ashley W Crossland

Ashley W Crossland, past chairman of the region
Ashley W Crossland, past chairman of the region

The honour of being the IMechE’s oldest region goes to Yorkshire, which held its inaugural meeting in Leeds on 14 February 1921.

The original committee adopted the name of “the Leeds local branch”, but within a month or so the name was changed to “the Yorkshire branch”. Now it is “the Yorkshire region”, with around 5,600 members.

A hundred years ago, the Institution’s activities were centred on London, and it had no regional branches. First the council had to be convinced that branches would be a benefit, and then it had to devise the rules to govern them. 

None of this might have happened had it not been for the persistence of three presidents who had strong links to Manchester: Michael Longridge, Dr Edward Hopkinson and Captain Matthew Riall Sankey. Despite these three all campaigning with Manchester in mind, it was to be the Leeds branch that was created first and only one day before the North Western branch, which was then followed two days later by the Midlands branch.

The past 100 years have seen many changes in the world of engineering and Yorkshire has been at the forefront of innovation and technology. The region is home to many leading engineering companies and is also at the cutting edge of research, which is shown in the breadth and expertise of our membership.

Yorkshire’s strong engineering heritage is reflected in the fact that, from the earliest days, lectures and site visits were chosen for their topical appeal as well as their local and technical interest. We are proud to have hosted the first James Clayton Lecture, “The early history of the Whittle jet propulsion gas turbine,” by Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle himself. The lecture attracted capacity audiences at the City Museum, Leeds on 13 February 1946, and on the following evening at the University of Sheffield. The region has also won more than its fair share of the Institution’s prestigious Engineering Heritage Awards. 

Many members in the region volunteer as STEM Ambassadors, going into schools to inspire young people to find out more about science and technology.

Our Young Members’ Panel has been the catalyst for a new series of webinars launched by the Institution, including one on supporting female engineers in the workplace which was held to mark International Women in Engineering Day last June.

The regional committee enjoys close collaboration with local universities, with members helping to run and judge local heats of the Design Challenge and Speak Out for Engineering competition. The depth of engineering expertise in the region is shown by the fact that we have five universities sending teams of engineering students to take part in the annual Formula Student racing car competition.

This first centenary is just the start and I’m confident that the Yorkshire region will be contributing to engineering excellence for many years to come. 

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