The Cornish Institute of Engineers by LR Mabson

To older readers of this Journal, there will be no need to elaborate on the activities of the Cornish Institute of Engineers.

The origins of the CIE date back to the Camborne Association of Engineers, a small but prestigious body existing in the early years of this century composed mainly of mechanical engineers. On 2nd November 1912, a special meeting of this Association was held at the Mining School, Camborne which led to a decision to enlarge its scope. A General Meeting was held on 4th January 1913 when the then Principal of CSM, J.J. Berringer, led a discussion on the “Assaying of Tin in Mines”. At this meeting sufficient support was achieved and the Cornish Institution of Mining, Mechanical and Metallurgical Engineers, as it was then known, was formed under its first President, Josiah Paul, on 1st March 1913.

At that time, the Institute was particularly anxious to encourage Foremen as Associates. It was also keen in covering the mining, mechanical and metallurgical fields of mining activity, all three being proportionately represented on the governing body. Initially there were 130 Members, including 30 Associates.

The Institute at once assumed a commanding position in monitoring the progress of mining activities in the County, with papers being delivered by persons of standing such as Josiah Paul, J.J. Berringer and William Thomas. To quote a former President, “The Papers and reported discussions formed valuable contributions to engineering literature, some of them having since been referred to as ‘mining classics”.

A further quote from the same source may convey the importance with which the CIE was regarded when he says that “in general we may claim that our endeavours have materially furthered the great modern objective of spreading the knowledge of mining engineering in all its branches as well as bringing before the public the actual and potential value of the minerals in the County awaiting development. I make bold to say that our efforts have benefited and hastened the advancement of the mining industry in the County to a much larger extent than is generally supposed or the Institute is given credit for”. This was said in his Presidential address in 1926 by the late F C Cann, Manager of Geevor Mine.

The early work done by the Council and Secretaries was immense. Transactions were compiled and published which were highly regarded and make interesting reading today. Copies are available in the CSM library.

The outbreak of the Great War in 1914 brought difficulties but the Institute survived and made important contributions to the ‘Metallurgical and Research Scheme’ administered by the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy to further the war effort. A ‘Cornish Tin and Tungsten Research Committee’ was formed on which a number of CIE members sat.
The 1914-18 War was followed by a serious depression and the Institute played a supportive role making generous donations to the Mining Division Unemployment Fund. During this period a number of events occurred including the Levant mine accident when contributions were made to the Relief Fund. Later, in the 1920’s the Institute played a very active role in resuscitating the mining industry in the Camborne-Redruth area.

By 1923 it was known by its present title of the Cornish Institute of Engineers when it organised, unaided, the Cornish section of the International Exhibition in London with great success.

More recently, during the Second World War, the CIE was again consulted and assisted the Government in its plans for maintaining stocks of strategic minerals.

In the post war years, the Institute was extremely active in organising symposiums and publishing its transactions. These have included “The Celtic Sea Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration Symposium and Exhibition” held in July 1973 when four technical papers were read and, in 1975, the CIE organised the “12th Annual Mining and Quarrying Symposium” at which four lectures of significance were presented.

Recently, the Institute has collaborated with the University of Exeter Press in the publication of the late J H Trounson’s book on “Areas in Cornwall of Mineral Potential”

Scanning through past records of the CIE, great names and great characters appear as Presidents, Secretaries and speakers. Many have held posts at CSM or studied there. The close ties with the Camborne School of Mines cannot be over emphasised, for since its early years, it has used its lecture theatre for meetings.

The early emphasis was naturally on mining and its associated operations, but the Institute provided a ready platform for the industries allied with it. There has always been a desire to maintain an interest in all aspects of Engineering, with a result that lectures have been on very diverse topics. This tendency has increased with the reduction in hard rock mining in Cornwall.

To quote the Constitution of the CIE “The Institute shall devote itself to the advancement of all branches of Engineering and the exchange of information and ideas concerning the foregoing by arranging meetings for the presentation of papers and films, and coordination with interested bodies of existing and new engineering activities”.

These are essentially the aims and philosophy of the Institute. It is generally considered that, over the years, these objectives have been achieved and it is hoped it will continue to do so in the future.

One additional function of the CIE is the award of medals and prizes for outstanding achievements. These are made to students of mining or to those presenting papers of high technical merit.

The John Trounson Memorial Prize is an annual award of £200 to the best student in the MSc mining course at CSM. The William Thomas Memorial Prize of £50 is for a paper on mining submitted to the Council. The West Medal is given for papers on minerals engineering and The Wheeler Crittall Berry Medal is currently awarded for papers on electricity or heating or ventilation. Although these awards may not be of great monetary value, they do have considerable prestige. Details of these are published in CSM annually or are available from the Secretary of the CIE. Though not specifically under the jurisdiction of the CIE, the Institute is strongly represented on the Cornwall Industrial Trust who are able to make grants to students of CSM.

A broad overview of the present organisation of the Institute is as follows: The Executive consists of the President, who stands for two years, a Senior and a Junior Vice President, together with a Secretary and Treasurer. Council consists of 15 members who hold office for three years. Present membership is around 100 spread over a wide field of disciplines. The meeting programme is normally for about 7 lectures presented at monthly intervals on a Thursday evening and held at the CSM, ending with a short AGM and technical lecture in April. During this programme one joint meeting is held with the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall and two with the Minerals Engineering Society (MES). In the early autumn and late spring industrial visits are made.

The most recent 1998-1999 programme has ranged from the Presidential address, “The construction of the Channel Tunnel Crossover “, to “Telecommunications now and in the future”, a practical session of Computer Aided Design, “Cornish mining in the 20th century “, “Tomographic techniques in measurement”, Industrial Minerals of Great Britain” and finally” The construction of the Eden project”, so you can see that programmes now cover a very wide field and attract engineers of all disciplines.

The Institute is most grateful to the Director of the Camborne School of Mines for the use of the lecture theatre and for this opportunity to publicise the activities of the CIE.