John Rennie collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Rennie to Jane, Lady Franklin regarding the British Franklin Search Expedition, 1857-1859 (leader Francis McClintock)

Administrative / Biographical History

John Rennie was born on 30 August 1794 in London, second son of civil engineer, John Rennie (1761-1821), and younger brother of George Rennie (1791-1866). Following his education at Isleworth and at Greenwich, he entered his father's manufactory in Holland Street, London, where he acquired a practical knowledge of civil engineering. In 1815, he assisted his father in the construction of Southwark Bridge, later travelling abroad to study the great engineering works in Europe in 1819. On the death of his father in 1821, he remained in partnership with his brother George, conducting the civil engineering portion of the business. Using plans that had been prepared by his father, Rennie completed the construction of London Bridge, which was opened in 1831, the year in which he was knighted.

Rennie succeeded his father as engineer to the Admiralty, completing various works at Sheerness, Woolwich, Plymouth, Ramsgate, and the great breakwater at Plymouth, of which he published an account in 1848. He spent much of his career making additions and alterations to various harbours on different parts of the coast, both in England and in Ireland. He completed the drainage works in the Lincolnshire fens commenced by his father, and, in conjunction with Thomas Telford, constructed the Nene outfall near Wisbech from 1826 until 1831. Between 1827 and 1828, he restored the harbour of Boston, and made various improvements on the Welland. Rennie was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1844, becoming its president in 1845. In 1852, he laid out a system of railways in Sweden, for which he received the order of Gustavus Vasa. Retiring circa 1862, he died on 3 September 1874 at Bengeo, near Hertford.


The correspondence is arranged chronologically

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and Dictionary of National Biography volume 48, Smith, Elder & Co. London (1896) and BT web world

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

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Further accessions possible