Royal Naval Engineering College

Royal Naval Engineering College

The Royal Naval Engineering College was a specialist establishment for the training of Royal Navy engineers. It was founded as Keyham College in 1880, new buildings were opened in Manadon in 1940 and the old college site at Keyham closed in 1958. The college was renamed HMS "Thunderer" in 1946, and closed in 1994.

Keyham College

Construction of Keyham College on the dockside in the Keyham suburb of Plymouth started in February 1879, at a cost of £30,000 and opened in July 1880 as Training Schools for Engineer Students, replacing the hulk of HMS "Marlborough" which had been used as accommodation for engineering students since 1877. Students spent five years living at the college, and undergoing training in workshops around the dockyard, before spending a further two years at Greenwich college and then assigned to ships as Assistant Engineers.

The college originally only contained accommodation, replacing that provided by "Marlborough", but an additional building was later constructed containing lecture theatres, a laboratory and a gymnasium which was subsequently converted to a test engineering shop. The two buildings were connected by a bridge. Later further workshops were added, as was a covered parade ground. An extension to provide accommodation for an additional 50 students was built in 1895-1897.

The Selborne-Fisher scheme of 1903 meant that engineering and deck officers received the same basic training and led the closure of the college in 1910. However it reopened in July 1913 and on the outbreak of the First World War the following year the students were sent off to serve on warships and the college turned over to special entry cadet training. After the war, the college reverted to engineer training.

RNEC Manadon

Plans were announced in 1937 to move the college to Manadon, and the new college opened in May 1940 at the manor house, expanding rapidly during the Second World War. By 1945 there were several new permanent and temporary buildings on the site, and the original manor house was being used for staff accommodation.

In December 1946 the RNEC Manadon had been renamed HMS "Thunderer". Further permanent building work took place following the end of the war, with a recreation block completed in 1947, and the instructional block, boiler house and factory workshop completed in 1951.

The old Keyham College closed in 1958 and was converted to the Dockyard Technical College, reopening in November 1959. The buildings were demolished in 1985.

HMS "Thunderer" continued until 1994, when engineer training was transferred to the University of Southampton.


*cite web | url =
title = Royal Navy Engineering College - HMS Thunderer | work = The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History | accessdate = 2008-10-05

*cite web | url =
title = RNEC Manadon | accessdate=2008-10-05

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