The Society makes grants both to individuals and to organisations in support of cultural and scientific activities which increase innovation, outreach and diversity in Leeds and its immediate area. It also supports local museums and galleries and publications relating to the city.

About the Society

The Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, founded in 1819, is a charity that promotes interest in science, literature and the arts – in the city of Leeds and beyond. We have meetings, lectures, entertainments, publications and visits.

Smeaton of Austhorpe

Celebrating the tercentenary of the birth of ‘The Father of Civil Engineering’ – Bob and Jacki Lawrence, East Leeds History & Archaeology Society

07 Jun 2024

St Mary's Whitkirk Community Centre, Selby Road, LS15 0AA



More about this event

On the eve of his 300th birthday, come and join us for a presentation commemorating the personal and professional life of local man John Smeaton, known as the Father of Civil Engineering.

John Smeaton 8 June 1724-28 October 1792

Famous mainly for designing and building the Eddystone Lighthouse, a monolithic achievement in its time, Smeaton was also involved in many other schemes including bridges, canals and other types of infrastructure.

Beginning with his childhood interests at Austhorpe, the presentation will examine how his achievements inspired many of the later 19th century engineers and helped to shape the Industrial Revolution.

Finally, the speakers will discuss his legacy, which resonates into the 21st century, even being recognised by NASA.

There is some parking in the grounds of the Community Centre, including for accessibility vehicles. Selby Road and nearby streets do not have parking restrictions (30 and 20mph zones), and one of the Leeds to Garforth/Selby bus routes stops right outside the Centre. Cross Gates station is also in walking distance – but uphill!

Tea and coffee will be served after the event. A bar in the Community Centre, staffed by volunteers, will be open before and after the talk. Proceeds go towards church and Community Centre upkeep.

The church will be open from 18:30 for visitors to view the Smeaton monument.

On Saturday 8 June, there will be other events at the venue: 11:30 ‘Astronomy of John Smeaton’; 14:00 ‘The making of an Engineering Genius’. There will be an exhibition too.

On Saturday afternoon there will be a Service of Commemoration in church, with a wreath laid. You are welcome to come along to these events, which will also be attended by civic guests and members of societies associated with John Smeaton.

Jacki Lawrence

Following my retirement from my job as a business analyst I joined the East Leeds History & Archaeology Society in 2004 as Meetings and Events Organiser. I soon found myself involved in researching and documenting local history stories. I am particularly proud of the society’s involvement in promoting the story of the Barnbow Lasses – those women and men who lost their lives in the major explosion at the Number One Shell Filling Factory in World War One. I really enjoy visiting local schools to tell this story. I am also a volunteer and vice chair of Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours Scheme.

Bob Lawrence

I joined the East Leeds History & Archaeology Society in 1998 and as it was in its early stages, quickly became the society’s General Secretary. I also became the Curator of the East Leeds Heritage Centre, based in Cross Gates Library. In 2007, as part of the ‘Celebrate Leeds’ activities and supported by Leeds City Council, I wrote and published ‘Smeaton of Austhorpe’, a short history of the life and times of this famous East Leeds engineer. I became President of our Society in 2008. I am also a volunteer and walk leader with Cross Gates & District Good Neighbours Scheme.

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