On the 18th October 1899 a circular was issued to engineering firms in the town. As a result, twenty engineers met at the Grimwade Memorial Hall in Fore Hamlet on Wednesday 25th October. Mr E Bruce-Ball was elected Chairman and it was decided to form the Ipswich Engineering Society.
A committee of six was appointed which held its first meeting on Saturday 28th October, on which date a Constitution was discussed. At further meetings on the 11th and 13th November, this was finalised and the objects of the new society declared:
To enable engineers to meet and correspond and to facilitate the interchange of ideas respecting improvements into the various branches of engineering science and the publication and communication of information in such subjects.
These objects were very similar to those that the Mechanics Institute had drawn up about seventy-five years earlier, except that they now referred to a definite branch of applied science and industry, instead of to applied science generally.
The first general meeting was held on the 20th November, and there appeared to be no lack of enthusiasm amongst the thirty-eight original members present.
The Council consisted of members from leading local firms including Ransome Rapier, E R and F Turner, Ransomes Sims and Jefferies and Reavells.
The subscription was fixed at ten shillings and sixpence for members and five shillings for associate members (eighteen to twenty-four years of age).
The second General Meeting was held on 18th December under the presidency of Mr Leonard Turner and before forty members, Mr A A Arnold read a paper on 'Steam Piping'.
Thus began a Society which has continued for one hundred years, and still flourishes by bringing together like-minded engineers in the Ipswich area.
The Society has always had the support of engineering employers in the area. Obviously without this assistance and, on occasion, financial help, the Society would have been short lived. In the early days of its history, the Society invited as its presidents men of influence and local position, this too must have contributed to its appeal. Many of these attained national if not international fame and the Society is proud to have been associated with them. Outstanding influence on the Society and local engineering was made by such famous names as Sir Wilfred Stokes, Sir William Reavell and his son, Colonel Kingsley Reavell. The Society is honoured by the fact that Sir William Reavell and Mr E Bruce-Ball, both founder members, attained the high distinction of becoming Presidents of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers - the leading and oldest institution of its kind in the world.
A review of its activities shows that it has played an important part in the industrial life of the Borough and its membership is open to all and includes representatives of Boards of Directors and the shop floor.
A perusal of the old Council minutes discloses the very wide field that has been covered in the many hundreds of lectures and papers that have been presented. At all times the Society has tried to be up to date and, in fact, has secured a 'scoop' by introducing a speaker and subject before general exploitation. The history of the steam engine through to the developments of the Internet, are just a few of the subjects that have been covered. Many of the speakers and lecturers have been of international repute, and it is difficult to recall an occasion when the lecture room has not been filled with interested and enthused members. During the summer months, a feature of the Society's programmes has been visits to companies' works. These have ranged from steel mills in the Midlands to works on the Thames Barrier, the Ford Development works at Dunton, as well as many local companies.
The Society continues to embrace new technological developments, and seeks to encourage members of a broader range of engineering disciplines.