Every time you go on holiday, every time you turn on a light, in fact our very freedom, is all down to mechanical engineers.

But of the oodles of engines that have been invented in the UK, which had the greatest impact? LEIGH ROBINSON reports.

It is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and when it comes to engines he had a special fascination for them.

Now a poll to unearth the favourite Best British Engine invention is being carried out by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

The IMechE, the global leading voice for the profession which has 75,000 worldwide and many hundreds in Wiltshire, is asking the public and its members which British-made engine proved the most innovative and inspirational in history.

So far, more than 2,000 engineers have voted to reveal their top engines, ranging from aviation, rail, automotive and steam. A survey carried out by the IMechE brought down the list to just six.

Another poll, being carried out to see which will win the title of Best British Engine, includes:

  • Thomas Newcomen's first practicable steam pumping engine 1712.
  • Stephenson's Rocket locomotive, which was built in 1829.
  • Sir Charles Parsons' multi-stage reaction steam turbine engine of 1884.
  • Sir Frank Whittle's turbojet engine patented in 1930.
  • Rolls-Royce's Merlin engine which was first flown in a Hawker Hart biplane in 1935.
  • Napier piston engine which first went into production in 1940.

IMechE Fellow William Wong, has already voted for his choice, the Napier & Son piston engine.

He says: "This gets my vote because the firm designed and built engines between the wars that powered the land, sea and air records at that time.

"They also built the most powerful aero engine that went into production at the end of World War Two (the Napier Sabre piston engine), before jet engines took over.

"The Napier powered Typhoon and Tempest could take on the Doodle Bugs. They were able to catch up with them and tilt their wings to cause them to crash."

George Tuckerman, who lives in Sandown Avenue, Old Town is 84 and has been a member of the Institute for almost 50 years.

"I won't be voting in this competition because it is so difficult to compare one invention with another.

"It's like tennis players how do you compare one from one era with another from another era?

"These inventions were superb and the list is quite daunting. All of them had a colossal impact on the society of their day."

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has members in 120 countries. It represents mechanical engineers involved in a diversity of fields such as the automotive, rail, aerospace, medical, power and construction industries.

Andrew Ives, president of the Institute, said: "The IMechE has some hugely important historical archives and artefacts relating to engineering and we thought it would be interesting to see what people think is the best British engine.

"It has certainly stirred up quite a bit of interest and I'm not saying which one I voted for."

The IMechE has rooms dedicated to some of the country's most important mechanical engineers, including Napier, Parsons and Whittle.