Royal Indian Engineering College

Coordinates: 51°26′25″N 0°34′12″W / 51.4402°N 0.5701°W / 51.4402; -0.5701
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The former Royal Indian Engineering College in 2004

51°26′25″N 0°34′12″W / 51.4402°N 0.5701°W / 51.4402; -0.5701 The Royal Indian Engineering College (or RIEC) was a British college of Civil Engineering run by the India Office to train civil engineers for service in the Indian Public Works Department. It was located on the Cooper's Hill estate, near Egham, Surrey. It functioned from 1872 until 1906, when its work was transferred to India.

The college was colloquially referred to as Cooper's Hill and I.C.E. College (I.C.E. being an acronym for Indian Civil Engineering).[1]


A Public Works Department was created in India in 1854, with responsibility for the construction of roads, canals and other civil engineering projects. It experienced difficulties in recruiting suitably qualified staff from the United Kingdom, and in 1868 a scheme was proposed for a dedicated training college in England. The chief advocate of this scheme, and effective founder of the college, was Sir George Tomkyns Chesney.[2] The India Office bought the Cooper's Hill estate for £55,000 in 1870; and the college was formally opened on 5 August 1872, with Chesney as its first President.[3]

The college educated about 50 students a year, who paid fees of £150 each. The curriculum included pure and applied mathematics, construction, architectural design, surveying, mechanical drawing, geometry, physics, geology, accounts, Hindustani, and the history and geography of India.[4]

By the late 1870s the college was training more civil engineers than were required in India; but, rather than scaling down its activities, Chesney broadened them. From 1878, the college began to train candidates for the Indian Telegraph Department.[5] From 1881, it began to train candidates for non-Indian services, such as the Royal Engineers, the Egyptian Government, and the Uganda Railway.[6] In 1885, the first forestry school in England was established at Cooper's Hill, with William Schlich as the founding director.[7]

In the face of competition from new training facilities for engineers elsewhere (notably at the new "redbrick" universities), the college closed on 13 October 1906.[8]


The principal building at Cooper's Hill was a mansion house erected c. 1865 for the unprincipled company promoter, Baron Albert Grant, to a semi-Gothic design by F. & H. Francis. The conversion of the house for educational use, the design of the interiors, and the addition of a new south wing (including a chapel) were undertaken by the architect Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt.[9]

Rugby football team[edit]

In its day, the college's rugby union team, referred to by its opponents as "Cooper's Hill", was one of the most prominent rugby clubs in England. In the 1870s, it produced a number of famous international players including Stephen Finney, Petley Price, W. C. Hutchinson, N. F. Macleod, and F. D. Fowler.

By the 1890s, the team was deemed of medium strength, and a long way behind the form of its heyday. This was put down to boys leaving school earlier than they had previously, thus the team became composed of men who were physically smaller in stature and physique than their predecessors.[1] It boasted the following internationals who played for their countries whilst attending the college:

After closure[edit]

After the college moved out in 1906, the buildings stood empty until bought in 1911 by Baroness Cheylesmore for use as a private home.[10]

Later, the site became Shoreditch College of Education, a teacher's college specializing in handicraft education, before becoming the Runnymede Campus of Brunel University (until 2007). The site was acquired in 2016 by the Audley Group for conversion into a retirement village, due to open in early 2019.[11]

Cultural references[edit]


Other staff[edit]

Staff at the college included:[13]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Marshall, Francis, Football; the Rugby union game, (1892) (London Paris Melbourne, Cassell and company, limited)
  2. ^ Farrington 1976, pp. 135–6.
  3. ^ Farrington 1976, p. 136.
  4. ^ Farrington 1976, p. 137.
  5. ^ Farrington 1976, pp. 137–8.
  6. ^ Farrington 1976, pp. 138.
  7. ^ Burley, Jeffery; et al. (2009). "A History of Forestry at Oxford". British Scholar. 1 (2): 236–261. doi:10.3366/brs.2009.0007.
  8. ^ Farrington 1976, p. 138.
  9. ^ Nairn, Ian; Pevsner, Nikolaus; Cherry, Bridget (1971). Surrey. The Buildings of England (2nd ed.). London: Penguin. p. 596. ISBN 0-14-071021-3.
  10. ^ Brunel University - Coopers Hill, Runnymede Archived July 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Audley Group, press release, "Audley Retirement completes purchase of fourteenth site," 08 June 2016 : accessed 06 October 2018
  12. ^ Farrington 1976, p. 149.
  13. ^ A full list of staff appears in Farrington 1976, pp. 149–51.
  14. ^ The Royal Engineering College, Cooper's Hill (1871-1906)
  15. ^ "Prof. Alfred Lodge", Obituary, Nature. Nature Publishing Group. Retrieved 13 April 2014
  16. ^ "Burrough, John (BRH892J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.


  • Farrington, Anthony (1976). The Records of the East India College, Haileybury, & other institutions. London: H.M.S.O. pp. 135–51.
  • Hornsey, Richard (2022). Imperial Engineers: The Royal Indian Engineering College, Coopers Hill. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

External links[edit]