John Rennie (1761-1821)
John Rennie was born in Phantassie near East Linton, East Lothian, in 1761, and was to become one of the greatest engineers of his generation. From an early age he began working for the esteemed millwright Andrew Meikle, a fellow Scot who invented the threshing machine, an agricultural device which separated husks from the grain. Having studied at Edinburgh University Rennie soon became acquainted with James Watt of Boulton and Watt, the engineering firm who specialized in the manufacturing of steam engines. This led to Rennie designing the machinery for the Albion Mills in Blackfriars, one of London`s first great factories and one which incorporated the Boulton and Watt steam engine.
In 1791 Rennie started up his own engineering business and began work on a number of canals, including the Lancaster Canal, the Kennet and Avon Canal and the Royal Canal of Ireland. He was to also demonstrate considerable skill as a bridge designer, with his ingenious technique of combining stone and cast iron allowing him to produce wide arches, such as those seen on Southwark Bridge. Rennie designed a number of other notable bridges including Leeds Bridge, Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge (the latter being completed after his death by his son Sir John Rennie). As if these achievements were not enough Rennie also designed a number of docks, including ones in London, Hull, Liverpool and Greenock.
Following his death 1821 Rennie was buried in St Paul`s Cathedral.