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Crystal Palace Engineering School


Price: £9.99


by Dr. John P. Craddock

The Crystal Palace School of Practical Engineering was founded in 1872. The first fourteen students arrived on 6th January 1873 to find that three floors of Brunel’s south water tower had been fitted out as a lecture room, drawing office and workshops equipped with new machine tools. The principal and vice-principal were Joseph William Wilson and his son of the same name.

The inaugural course was in mechanical engineering, involved drawing and making patterns for a steam engine, foundry and fitting work. This was later supplemented by a colonial section and courses on civil and electrical engineering. The colonial course, which was designed to prepare young men for service overseas, included camping on the islands in the ‘tidal’ lake and ‘braving’ Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’ full-size models of prehistoric animals. Later in the century, some of the students undertook the long sea voyage from London to Scotland to view work on the Tay and Forth railway bridges.

When J.W. Wilson Sen. died in 1898 the students instituted a Wilson Premium award to his memory. J.W. Wilson Jun. was appointed principal and his younger brother, Maurice, who had been a student at the School, was vice-principal. With the outbreak of the Great War, when many of the students joined the armed forces, the Trustees of the Crystal Palace compelled the School to leave the south tower. From 1916 the School was relocated and continued by the Wilson brothers at 18 Anerley Hill and later at 14 Anerley Hill, directly opposite the lecture room which is now the Crystal Palace Museum.

This is the first full history of the Wilson family and their school.  Appended to the text is a list of over a thousand students along with their dates of birth and death and their attainments in the School and/or in their subsequent career.

A4 paperback 93 pages 19 photographs 2 plans