Our history

100 years of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield.


Our history

On 15th December 1916, it was decided that the Faculty of Applied Science would split into two faculties; the Faculty of Metallurgy and the Faculty of Engineering.

On 21st June 1917, the Department of Mechanical Engineering was born at the first meeting of the faculty.

We have seen a lot of change over those hundred years, from new people to new buildings, new technology and new ideas.

When the department opened we had a mere six academic staff, all men, now, 100 years later, we have over 60 academics, with the first woman (Dr Rachel Tomlinson) joining us in 1998.

Our first Professor was Walter Greenwood and the first head of Department was William Ripper.

It has been a century of growth which has led to an extension to the original Mappin building in 1955, moves out to new buildings at Garden Street, the Arts Tower and even all the way out to Beighton, state of the art labs in Pam Liversidge and of course, our latest asset, the Diamond.

The department has shown itself to be adaptable to industrial needs, particularly during the first and second World Wars. In the First World War, we trained 1000 men to make shells and later produced aircraft and gun components and trained hundreds of munitions workers, many of them women, in the Second World War.

There are a lot of memories in these walls and we are looking to you, our staff, students and alumni, to share your best memories of Mechanical Engineering at Sheffield. If you’d like to tell your story, or share photos, please contact us at me-centenary@sheffield.ac.uk.

Your memories

We have loved hearing from our staff and students past about their memories of their times here in Sheffield over the last one hundred years.

Here is a selection, and if you'd like to add yours, please get in touch at me-centenary@sheffield.ac.uk.

Brian Rixham - Class of 1957

“I very much enjoyed my time in the Mechanical Engineering Department. Outside the classroom, I spent most of my time (which was very scarce) in the activities of the Engineering Society and on the University Lawn Tennis team.

I played for the tennis team every year, and in 1957, we were fortunate to win the U.A.U. Championship.

This was achieved despite the fact that we never had any time to practice, and we only played matches every Wednesday and Saturday.

The only time we made the playoffs, where eight teams qualify, was in 1957. In the playoffs, we won all our matches by a 5-4 score with each doubles pairing winning at least one match.

It was an incredible performance by the whole team because every member was a major contributor to winning the championship.”

Graham Jolley - Class of 1958

“I left Sheffield in 1958 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and engaged to the then Barbara Ball, secretary to Professor Boulton then Dean of the Faculty of Engineering.

I then took a Graduate Apprenticeship with Rolls Royce where I spent my whole career, retiring in 1995 as a Company Executive.

I am still married to Barbara for nearly 58 years. We have a family and keep in good health and retain fond memories of our time at St Georges Square.”

100. A Centenary Celebration

Our book, 100., looks back over the last hundred years of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield.

Learn about our history, the people who have made us, how we teach and what we research. Get to grips with our student led learning and our biggest achievements.

With interesting stats, fascinating stories and packed full of photos, we think you'll love our guided tour down memory lane.

You can read the digital version of our book here.

If you'd like to share your own memories of the department, please contact mec-comms@sheffield.ac.uk

A global reputation

Sheffield is a research university with a global reputation for excellence. We're a member of the Russell Group: one of the 24 leading UK universities for research and teaching.