Crown Point Bridge model features in new exhibition

It’s a model example of engineering excellence which Leeds once put on show in a bid to impress some of the world’s brightest minds.

Now a remarkably detailed recreation of the city’s historic Crown Point Bridge is among the fantastic feats set to be celebrated in a carefully constructed new exhibition at Leeds Industrial Museum.

The incredibly precise model was originally displayed at the inaugural Great Exhibition, held in London in 1851 with the purpose of reaffirming Britain’s place as a global industrial leader.

The prestigious event saw famed engineers, scientists, intellectuals and inventors from around the globe attend, marvelling at one another’s accomplishments alongside honoured guests including Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens.

The Crown Point Bridge model demonstrated what at the time were cutting edge techniques used to construct not only one of the city’s key access points, but a particularly  elaborate and aesthetically pleasing piece of civil engineering.

The much vaunted bridge itself had been built in 1842 and was designed by engineer father and son George and John Wignall Leather, who both played a huge part in the development of the Leeds area at the time.

The Grade II-listed bridge opened to the public in July 1842, and was made of more than 400 tonnes of cast iron, which was wrought in a Sheffield ironworks.

The recreation of the bridge is set to feature in Engineery, a new exhibition at Leeds Industrial Museum which coincides with the upcoming 300th anniversary of Leeds’s own John Smeaton, dubbed the Father of Civil Engineering, who was born in 1724.

As well as exploring Smeaton’s life and legacy, the exhibition will include objects central to his journey including a lathe he crafted as a young engineer at his home in Austhorpe, Leeds and a medal he was awarded 1787 by the Royal Society of Arts.

They will be on show alongside more modern examples of engineering including the cylinder head from a Land Rover and a breathing aid designed and manufactured during the COVID-19 pandemic and used in more than 130 NHS hospitals.

Also on display will be a vintage theodolite, used for measuring and surveying and an antique surveyor’s compass, also known as the circumferentor, used to measure horizontal angles.

John McGoldrick, Leeds Museums and Galleries curator of industrial history said:

“The Crown Point Bridge model is a fantastic example of how engineering has not only left its mark on history as a whole, but has also been a huge source of civic pride and local identity.

“John Smeaton was the very first person to describe himself as a civil engineer, and since he coined that phrase, his successors have followed in his illustrious footsteps, designing and constructing countless projects which have shaped and defined the town and cities we live in.

“Engineering impacts almost every aspect of our lives, from the roads and buildings we use every day, to machines which help us in industry, production, transport and healthcare.

“This exhibition will chart the journey which began with John Smeaton, and which has continued through the centuries thanks to the many innovators who came after him.”

Engineery is held in partnership with Leeds 2023 and forms part of the Smeaton300 programme taking place across the city to celebrate Smeaton’s life and legacy.

It will be held in conjunction with an accompanying exhibition by the Young Smeatonians and will also run alongside a programme of events and activities.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said:

“Leeds has a unique and historic legacy in the field of civil engineering, and is the birthplace of John Smeaton, a true pioneer in the field.

“His legacy changed the face of our city and many others and has created a fascinating and historic story which we’re proud to be celebrating three centuries later.”

For more information on Smeaton 300, visit:

For more information on Leeds2023 go to

Engineery will be at Leeds Industrial Museum from 27 October 2023. For more details visit: Engineery – Leeds Museums & Galleries


This post is based on a press release issued by Leeds City Council

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