Posts Tagged ‘Robert Stephenson’

Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Joseph Locke
9 August 1805 – 18 September 1860


Joseph Locke

Locke was born in Attercliffe, Sheffield in Yorkshire, moving to nearby Barnsley when he was five. By the age of 17, Joseph had already served an apprenticeship under William Stobart at Pelaw, on the south bank of the Tyne, and under his own father, William. He was an experienced mining engineer, able to survey, sink shafts, to construct railways, tunnels and stationary engines. Joseph’s father had been a manager at Wallbottle colliery on Tyneside when George Stephenson was a fireman there. In 1823, when Joseph was 17, Stephenson was involved with planning the Stockton and Darlington Railway. He and his son Robert Stephenson visited William Locke and his son at Barnsley and it was arranged that Joseph would go to work for the Stephensons. The Stephensons established a locomotive works near Forth Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, to manufacture locomotives for the new railway. Joseph Locke, despite his youth, soon established a position of authority. He and Robert Stephenson became close friends, but their friendship was interrupted, in 1824, by Robert leaving to work in Peru for three years.

George Stephenson carried out the original survey of the line of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, but this was found to be flawed, and the line was re-surveyed by a talented young engineer, Charles Vignoles. Joseph Locke was asked by the directors to carry out another survey of the proposed tunnel works and produce a report. The report was highly critical of the work already done, which reflected badly on Stephenson. Stephenson was furious and henceforth relations between the two men were strained, although Locke continued to be employed by Stephenson, probably because the latter recognised his worth. Despite the many criticisms of Stephenson’s work, when the bill for the new line was finally passed, in 1826, Stephenson was appointed as engineer and he appointed Joseph Locke as his assistant to work alongside Vignoles, who was the other assistant. However, a clash of personalities between Stephenson and Vignoles led to the latter resigning, leaving Locke as the sole assistant engineer. Locke took over responsibility for the western half of the line. One of the major obstacles to be overcome was Chat Moss, a large bog that had to be crossed. Although, Stephenson usually gets the credit for this feat, it is believed that it was Locke who suggested the correct method for crossing the bog.

Whilst the line was being built, the directors were trying to decide whether to use standing engines or locomotives to propel the trains. Robert Stephenson and Joseph Locke were convinced that locomotives were vastly superior, and in March 1829 the two men wrote a report demonstrating the superiority of locomotives when used on a busy railway. The report led to the decision by the directors to hold an open trial to find the best locomotive. This was the Rainhill Trials, which were run in October 1829, and were won by “Rocket”.

When the line was finally opened in 1830, it was planned for a procession of eight trains to travel from Liverpool to Manchester and back. George Stephenson drove the leading locomotive “Northumbrian” and Joseph Locke drove “Rocket”. The day was marred by the death of William Huskisson, the Member of Parliament for Liverpool, who was struck and killed by “Rocket”.

In 1829 Locke was George Stephenson’s assistant, given the job of surveying the route for the Grand Junction Railway. This new railway was to join Newton-le-Willows on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway with Warrington and then on to Birmingham via Crewe, Stafford and Wolverhampton, a total of 80 miles. During the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, Stephenson had shown a lack of ability in organising major civil engineering projects. On the other hand Locke’s ability to manage complex projects was well known. The directors of the new railway decided on a compromise whereby Locke was made responsible for the northern half of the line and Stephenson was made responsible for the southern half. However Stephenson’s administrative inefficiency soon became apparent, whereas Locke estimated the costs for his section of the line so meticulously and speedily, that he had all of the contracts signed for his section of the line before a single one had been signed for Stephenson’s section. The railway company lost patience with Stephenson, but tried to compromise by making both men joint-engineers. Stephenson’s pride would not let him accept this, and so he resigned from the project. By autumn of 1835 Locke had become chief engineer for the whole of the line. This caused a rift between the two men, and strained relations between Locke and Robert Stephenson. Up to this point, Locke had always been under George Stephenson’s shadow. From then on, he would be his own man, and stand or fall by his own achievements.

The line was opened on 4 July 1837.

Locke’s route avoided as far as possible major civil engineering works. The main one was the Dutton Viaduct which crosses the River Weaver and the Weaver Navigation between the villages of Dutton and Acton Bridge in Cheshire. The viaduct consists of 20 arches with spans of 20 yards.

An important feature of the new railway was the use of double-headed (dumb-bell) wrought-iron rail supported on timber sleepers at 2 ft 6 in intervals. It was intended that when the rails became worn they could be turned over to use the other surface, but in practice it was found that the chairs into which the rails were keyed caused wear to the bottom surface so that it became uneven. However this was still an improvement on the fish-bellied, wrought-iron rails still being used by Robert Stephenson on the London and Birmingham Railway.

Locke was more careful than Stephenson to get value for his employers’ money. For the Penkridge Viaduct Stephenson had obtained a tender of £26,000. After Locke took over, he gave the potential contractor better information and agreed a price of only £6,000. Locke also tried to avoid tunnels because in those days tunnels often took longer and cost more than planned. The Stephensons regarded 1 in 330 as the maximum slope that an engine could manage and Robert Stephenson achieved this on the London and Birmingham Railway by using seven tunnels which added both cost and delay. Locke avoided tunnels almost completely on the Grand Junction but exceeded the slope limit for six miles south of Crewe.

Proof of Locke’s ability to estimate costs accurately is given by the fact that the construction of the Grand Junction line cost £18,846 per mile as against Locke’s estimate of £17,000. This is amazingly accurate compared with the estimated costs for the London and Birmingham Railway (Robert Stephenson) and the Great Western Railway (Brunel).

Locke also divided the project into a few large sections rather than many small ones. This allowed him to work closely with his contractors to develop the best methods, overcome problems and personally gain practical experience of the building process and of the contractors themselves. He used the contractors who worked well with him, especially Thomas Brassey and William Mackenzie, on many other projects. Everyone gained from this cooperative approach whereas Brunel’s more adversarial approach eventually made it hard for him to get anyone to work for him.

In 1834 Locke married Phoebe McCreery, with whom he adopted a child. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1838.

A significant difference between the surveying methods of George Stephenson and Joseph Locke was that, because Stephenson had started his career at a time when locomotives had little power to overcome excessive gradients, he avoided such gradients at all costs, often adding many miles to the line of the route, whereas Locke had more confidence in the ability of modern locomotives to climb these gradients. An example of this was the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway, which had to cope with the barrier of the Lake District mountains. In 1839 Stephenson proposed a circuitous route that avoided the Lake District by going all the way round Morecambe Bay and West Cumberland, claiming: ‘This is the only practicable line from Liverpool to Carlisle. The making of a railway across Shap Fell is out of the question.’ The directors rejected his route and chose the one proposed by Joseph Locke, one that used steep gradients and passed over Shap Fell. The line was completed by Locke and was a success.

The difference of opinion between Locke and George Stephenson over the choice of route for the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway illustrates a difference in philosophy between the two men regarding the way to build a railway. Both George and Robert Stephenson were prepared to go to great lengths to avoid steep gradients that would tax the locomotives of the day, even if this meant choosing a circuitous route that added on extra miles. Locke, on the other hand, believed that they underestimated the power of the latest locomotives and that the shortest practicable route should be chosen, even if it involved some steep gradients. His reasoning was that by avoiding long routes and tunneling, the line could be finished more quickly, with less capital costs, and could start earning revenue sooner. This became known as the ‘up and over’ school of engineering. Locke took a similar approach in planning the Caledonian Railway, from Carlisle to Glasgow. In both railways he introduced gradients of 1 in 75, which severely taxed fully laden locomotives. Even as more powerful locomotives were introduced, the trains that they pulled became heavier. It may therefore be the case that Locke, although his arguments carried the day, was not entirely right in his reasoning.

Locke was subsequently appointed to build a railway line from Manchester to Sheffield, replacing Charles Vignoles as chief engineer, after the latter had been beset by misfortunes and financial difficulties. The project included the three-mile Woodhead Tunnel, and the line opened, after many delays, on 23 December 1845. The building of the line required over a thousand navvies and cost the lives of thirty-two of them, seriously injuring 140 others. The Woodhead Tunnel was such a difficult undertaking that George Stephenson claimed that it could not be done, declaring that he would eat the first locomotive that got through the tunnel. It was estimated that the mortality amongst the navvies at the Woodhead Tunnel was just over 3 per cent, whereas the mortality amongst soldiers at the Battle of Waterloo was only 2.11 per cent.

In the north, Locke also designed the Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway; the Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock Railway; and the Caledonian Railway from Carlisle to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In the south, he worked on the London and Southampton Railway, later called the London and South Western Railway, designing, among other structures, Richmond Railway Bridge (1848, since replaced), and Barnes Bridge (1849), both across the River Thames, tunnels at Micheldever, and the 12-arch Quay Street viaduct and the 16-arch Cams Hill viaduct, both in Fareham (1848).

He was actively involved in planning and building many railways in Europe, including the Le Havre, Rouen, Paris rail link, the Barcelona to Mataró line and the Dutch Rhenish Railway. He was present in Paris when the Versailles train crash occurred in 1842, and produced a statement concerning the facts for General Charles Pasley of the Railway Inspectorate. He also experienced a catastrophic failure of one of his viaducts built on the new Paris-Le Havre link. . The viaduct was of stone and brick at Barentin near Rouen, and was the longest and highest on the line. It was 108 feet high, and consisted of 27 arches, each 50 feet wide, with a total length of over 1600 feet. A boy hauling ballast for the line up an adjoining hillside early that morning (about 6.00 am) saw one arch (the fifth on the Rouen side) collapse, and the rest followed suit. Fortunately, no one was killed, although several workmen were injured in a mill below the structure. Locke attributed the catastrophic failure to frost action on the new lime cement, and premature off-centre loading of the viaduct with ballast. It was rebuilt at Thomas Brassey’s cost, and survives to the present. Having pioneered many new lines in France, Locke also helped establish the first locomotive works in the country.

Distinctive features of Locke’s railway works were economy, the use of masonry bridges wherever possible and the absence of tunnels. An illustration of this is that there is no tunnel between Birmingham and Glasgow.

Locke and Robert Stephenson had been good friends at the beginning of their careers, but their friendship had been marred by Locke’s falling out with Robert’s father. It seems that Robert felt loyalty to his father required that he should take his side. It is significant that after the death of George Stephenson in August 1848, the friendship of the two men was revived. When Robert Stephenson died in October 1859, Joseph Locke was a pallbearer at his funeral. Locke is reported to have referred to Robert as ‘the friend of my youth, the companion of my ripening years, and a competitor in the race of life’. Locke was also on friendly terms with his other engineering rival, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

In 1845, Locke and Stephenson were both called to give evidence before two committees. In April a House of Commons Select Committee was investigating the atmospheric railway system proposed by Brunel. Brunel and Vignoles spoke in support of the system, whilst Locke and Stephenson spoke against it. The latter two were to be proved right in the long run. In August the two gave evidence before the Gauge Commissioners who were trying to arrive at a standard gauge for the whole country. Brunel spoke in favour of the 7 ft gauge he was using on the Great Western Railway. Locke and Stephenson spoke in favour of the 4 ft 8½in gauge that they had used on several lines. The latter two won the day and their gauge was adopted as the standard.

Locke served as President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in between December 1857 and December 1859.

Locke also served as Member of Parliament for Honiton in Devon from 1847.

Locke died in 1860, apparently from appendicitis, whilst on a shooting holiday. He is buried in London’s Kensal Green Cemetery.

Locke Park in Barnsley was dedicated to his memory by his wife Phoebe in 1862. It features a statue of Locke plus a folly, ‘Locke Tower’.

Locke’s greatest legacy is the modern day West Coast Main Line (WCML), which was formed by the joining of the Caledonian, Lancaster & Carlisle, Grand Junction railways to Robert Stephenson’s London & Birmingham Railway. As a result, around three quarters of the WCML’s route was planned and engineered by Locke.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

George Stephenson
9 June 1781 – 12 August 1848


George Stephenson

George Stephenson was born on 9 June 1781 in Wylam, Northumberland. He was the second child of Robert and Mabel Stephenson, neither of whom could read or write. Robert was the fireman for Wylam Colliery pumping engine, earning a very low wage, so there was no money for schooling.

At 17, Stephenson became an engineman at Water Row Pit in Newburn. George realized the value of education and paid to study at night school to learn reading, writing and arithmetic – he was illiterate until the age of 18.

In 1801 he began work at Black Callerton Colliery as a ‘brakesman’, controlling the winding gear at the pit. In 1802 he married Frances Henderson and moved to Willington Quay, east of Newcastle. There he worked as a brakesman while they lived in one room of a cottage. George made shoes and mended clocks to supplement his income.

Their son Robert was born in 1803, and in 1804 they moved to West Moor, near Killingworth where George worked as a brakesman at Killingworth Pit. His wife gave birth to a daughter, who died after a few weeks, and in 1806 Frances died of consumption (tuberculosis).

George decided to find work in Scotland and left Robert with a local woman while he went to work in Montrose. After a few months he returned, probably because his father was blinded in a mining accident. He moved back into a cottage at West Moor and his unmarried sister Eleanor moved in to look after Robert.

In 1811 the pumping engine at High Pit, Killingworth was not working properly and Stephenson offered to fix it. He did so with such success that he was promoted to enginewright for the collieries at Killingworth, responsible for maintaining and repairing all the colliery engines. He became an expert in steam-driven machinery.

In 1815, aware of the explosions often caused in mines by naked flames, Stephenson began to experiment with a safety lamp that would burn without causing an explosion. At the same time, Cornishman Humphry Davy, the eminent scientist was also looking at the problem. Despite his lack of scientific knowledge, Stephenson, by trial and error, devised a lamp in which the air entered via tiny holes. Stephenson demonstrated the lamp to two witnesses by taking it down Killingworth Colliery and holding it in front of a fissure from which firedamp was issuing.

This was a month before Davy presented his design to the Royal Society. The two designs differed, Davy’s lamp was surrounded by a screen of gauze, whereas Stephenson’s lamp was contained in a glass cylinder. For his invention Davy was awarded £2,000, whilst Stephenson was accused of stealing the idea from Davy, because of the fact that he was not seen as an adequate scientist.

Stephenson having come from the North, meant that he did not speak the language of parliament. This made him seem lowly. Having experience in this meant that George later educated his son, Robert, in a private school, where he learnt to speak with the correct vocabulary and accent. Due to this, parliament preferred Robert to his father.

A local committee of enquiry exonerated Stephenson, proved he had been working separately and awarded him £1,000, but Davy and his supporters refused to accept it. They could not see how an uneducated man such as Stephenson could come up with the solution he had. In 1833 a House of Commons committee found that Stephenson had equal claim to having invented the safety lamp.

Davy went to his grave believing that Stephenson had stolen his idea. The Stephenson lamp was used exclusively in the North East England, whereas the Davy lamp was used everywhere else. The experience gave Stephenson a lifelong distrust of London-based, theoretical, scientific experts.

There is a theory that it was Stephenson who indirectly gave the name of Geordies to the people of the North East of England. By this theory, the name of the Geordie lamp attached to the North East pit men themselves. By 1866 any native of the North East could be called a Geordie.

Stephenson designed his first locomotive in 1814, a travelling engine designed for hauling coal on the Killingworth wagonway named Blücher after the Prussian general Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. It was modelled on Matthew Murray’s locomotive Willington which George studied at Kenton and Coxlodge colliery on Tyneside and constructed in the colliery workshop behind Stephenson’s home, Dial Cottage, on Great Lime Road.

The locomotive could haul 30 tons of coal up a hill at 4 mph, and was the first successful flanged-wheel adhesion locomotive: its traction depended on contact between its flanged wheels and the rail. Altogether, Stephenson is said to have produced 16 locomotives at Killingworth. Most were built for use at Killingworth or for the Hetton colliery railway.

The new engines were too heavy to run on wooden rails, and iron rails were in their infancy, with cast iron exhibiting excessive brittleness. Together with William Losh, Stephenson improved the design of cast iron rails to reduce breakage. Stephenson managed to solve the problem caused by the weight of the engine on the primitive rails. He experimented with a ‘steam spring’ (to ‘cushion’ the weight using steam pressure), but soon followed the practice of ‘distributing’ weight by utilizing a number of wheels.

Stephenson was hired to build an 8-mile Hetton colliery railway in 1820. He used a combination of gravity on downward inclines and locomotives for level and upward stretches. It was the first railway using no animal power.

In 1821, a parliamentary bill was passed to allow the building of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR). The 25-mile railway connected collieries near Bishop Auckland to the River Tees at Stockton, passing through Darlington on the way. The original plan was to use horses to draw coal carts on metal rails, but after company director Edward Pease met Stephenson, he agreed to change the plans. Stephenson surveyed the line in 1821, assisted by his eighteen-year-old son Robert and construction began the same year.

A manufacturer was needed to provide the locomotives for the line. Pease and Stephenson had jointly established a company in Newcastle to manufacture locomotives. It was set up as Robert Stephenson and Company, and George’s son Robert was the managing director. A fourth partner was Michael Longridge of Bedlington Ironworks.

On an early trade card, Robert Stephenson & Co was described as “Engineers, Millwrights & Machinists, Brass & Iron Founders” In September 1825 the works at Forth Street, Newcastle completed the first locomotive for the railway: originally named Active, it was renamed Locomotion and was followed by “Hope“, “Diligence” and “Black Diamond“.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway opened on 27 September 1825. Driven by Stephenson, Locomotion hauled an 80-ton load of coal and flour nine miles in two hours, reaching a speed of 24 miles per hour on one stretch. The first purpose-built passenger car, Experiment, was attached and carried dignitaries on the opening journey. It was the first time passenger traffic had been run on a steam locomotive railway.

The rails used for the line were wrought-iron, produced by John Birkinshaw at the Bedlington Ironworks. Wrought-iron rails could be produced in longer lengths than cast-iron and were less liable to crack under the weight of heavy locomotives. The gauge Stephenson chose for the line was 4 feet 8 1/2 inches which subsequently was adopted as the standard gauge for railways, not only in Britain, but throughout the world.

Stephenson had ascertained by experiments at Killingworth that half the power of the locomotive was consumed by a gradient as little as 1 in 260. He concluded that railways should be kept as level as possible. He used this knowledge while working on the Bolton and Leigh Railway, and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR), executing a series of difficult cuttings, embankments and stone viaducts to level their routes.

Defective surveying of the original route of the L&MR caused by hostility from some affected landowners meant Stephenson encountered difficulty during Parliamentary scrutiny of the original bill, especially under cross-examination by Edward Hall Alderson. The bill was rejected and a revised bill for a new alignment was submitted and passed in a subsequent session.

The revised alignment presented the problem of crossing Chat Moss, an apparently bottomless peat bog, which Stephenson overcame by unusual means, effectively floating the line across it. The method he used was similar to that used by John Metcalf who constructed many miles of road across marshes in the Pennines, laying a foundation of heather and branches, which became bound together by the weight of the passing coaches, with a layer of stones on top.

As the L&MR approached completion in 1829, its directors arranged a competition to decide who would build its locomotives, and the Rainhill Trials were run in autumn 1829. Entries could weigh no more than six tons and had to travel along the track for a total distance of 60 miles. Stephenson’s entry was Rocket, and its performance in winning the contest made it famous. George’s son Robert was responsible for the detailed design of Rocket, although he was in constant postal communication with his father, who made many suggestions. One significant innovation, suggested by Henry Booth, treasurer of the L&MR, was the use of a fire-tube boiler, invented by French engineer Marc Seguin that gave improved heat exchange.

The opening ceremony of the L&MR, on 15 September 1830, drew luminaries from the government and industry, including the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington. Stephenson became famous, and was offered the position of chief engineer for a wide variety of other railways.

1830 also saw the grand opening of the skew bridge in Rainhill of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The bridge was the first to cross any railway at an angle. It required the structure to be constructed as two flat planes between which the stonework forms a parallelogram shape when viewed from above. It has the effect of flattening the arch and the solution is to lay the bricks forming the arch at an angle to the abutments. The technique, which results in a spiral effect in the arch masonry, provides extra strength in the arch to compensate for the angled abutments. The bridge is still in use at Rainhill station.

The next ten years were the busiest of Stephenson’s life as he was besieged with requests from railway promoters. Many of the first American railroad builders came to Newcastle to learn from Stephenson and the first dozen or so locomotives utilized there were purchased from the Stephenson shops. Stephenson’s conservative views on the capabilities of locomotives meant he favored circuitous routes and civil engineering that were more costly than his successors thought necessary.

Despite Stephenson’s loss of some routes to competitors due to his caution, he was offered more work than he could cope with, and was unable to accept all that was offered. He worked on the North Midland line from Derby to Leeds, the York and North Midland line from Normanton to York, the Manchester and Leeds, the Birmingham and Derby, the Sheffield and Rotherham among many others.

Stephenson became a reassuring name rather than a cutting-edge technical adviser. He was the first president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on its formation in 1847. By this time he had settled into semi-retirement, supervising his mining interests in Derbyshire – tunnelling for the North Midland Railway revealed coal seams, and Stephenson put money into their exploitation.

George first courted Elizabeth (Betty) Hindmarsh, a farmer’s daughter from Black Callerton, whom he met secretly in her orchard. Her father refused marriage because of Stephenson’s lowly status as a miner. George next paid attention to Anne Henderson where he lodged with her family, but she rejected him and he transferred his attentions to her sister Frances, who was nine years his senior. George and Fanny married at Newburn Church in 1802. They had two children Robert and Fanny. George’s wife died, probably of tuberculosis, the year after. While George was working in Scotland, Robert was brought up by a succession of neighbors and then by George’s unmarried sister Eleanor, who lived with them in Killingworth on George’s return.

In 1820, George (now considerably wealthier) married Betty Hindmarsh at Newburn. The marriage seems to have been happy, but there were no children and Betty died in 1845.

In early 1848, at St John’s Church in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, George married for the third time, to Ellen Gregory, another farmer’s daughter originally from Bakewell in Derbyshire, who had been his housekeeper. Six months after his wedding, George contracted pleurisy and died, aged 67, on 12 August 1848 at Tapton House in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. He was buried at Holy Trinity Church, Chesterfield, alongside his second wife.

George Stephenson had two children. His son Robert married Frances Sanderson, daughter of a City of London professional John Sanderson. George Stephenson’s daughter was born in 1805 but died within weeks of her birth.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

James Kennedy
13 Jan 1797 – 25 Sep 1886


James Kennedy

Kennedy was born in the village of Gilmerton. He was apprenticed at the age of 13 to a millwright near Dalkeith, where he remained for five years. He spent some years working as a millwright, working with winding and pumping engines at several places before moving to Lavenoch Hall, where he was employed to erect pumping and winding engines of his own design.

In Liverpool to supervise the installation of a marine engine, he met George Stephenson, the locomotive pioneer. Stephenson was then establishing his locomotive works, Robert Stephenson and Company, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and appointed Kennedy manager in 1824. While in this post he constructed two pairs of stationary winding engines and planned the first three locomotives for the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825.

In 1825 he left Stephenson to return to Liverpool as manager of Mather, Dixon and Company but very soon joined locomotive builder Edward Bury and Company as foreman of the Clarence Foundry. In 1842 he became a partner in the firm, now renamed Bury, Curtis and Kennedy.

In 1844 he moved again to manage the Liverpool shipmaker Thomas Vernon and Son where he introduced iron deck beams.

He was a founder member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1847, becoming its President in 1860.

He died in 1886 at his home, Cressington Park. He was survived by his wife, Adelaide.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Nicholas Wood
April 24 1795-December 19 1865

Wood was born in County Durham, the son of Nicholas who was a mining engineer at Crawcrook colliery. Wood attended the village school and stared work at the Killingworth Colliery as an apprentice colliery viewer. He eventually became manager and an associate of George Stephenson. Wood helped Stephenson develop the safety lamp and contributed to the building of the locomotive Blucher. Wood had drawn the “Geordie” lamp design. Wood also designed the system of actuating the valves on the Blucher. In 1818 Wood carried out experiments on rolling resistance, lubrication and laminated steel springs of locomotives. In 1823 he was part of the meeting that set up the Stockton and Darlington railway. Robert Stephenson even became Wood’s apprentice.

By 1825 he had a reputation that he published a book, A Practical Treatise on Rail-roads and Interior Communication. Which analyzed various types of motive power then in use from horses to steam locomotives. He gave evidence to Parliament about the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Bill and was appointed as one of the three judges for the Rainhill Trials. He published a second edition of the book in 1831 and a third in 1838.

In 1832 Wood was involved in building the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway and in 1845 became one of its directors. He also was noted for his geographical knowledge and when a mining accident took fifty lives, his knowledge of coal safety was consulted. He became a founder and first president of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers. He remained president until his death.

In 1844 he became a partner in the company that owned the Hetton Colliery and moved to Hetton Hall as the colliery manager. He was also invested in other collieries and businesses. When the Mines Inspection Act of 1850 passed he was appointed President of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers. He campaigned for a College of Science in Newcastle which came about after his death. Later this became the University of Newcastle.

He married Maria Lindsay of Alnwick in 1827 and they had four sons and three daughters. All four of his sons made names for themselves in the coal industry and the youngest became chairman of Hetton Collieries and a baronet.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Traditionally on New Year’s Day, I post about how well I have done in all my metrics on writing for the year, and review the books I’ve read. I am going to save that for a few days as I am taking a few days vacation from the grind of writing. I’ve prepped these Biographies as set them and forget them, so I can concentrate on the really important things at the end of the year, Bowl Games 🙂

Robert Stephenson
October 16 1803-October 12 1859


Alongside his father George, Robert is one of the founding fathers of the locomotive age. Born at Willington Quay, east of Newcastle Upon Tyne, the only son of George Stephenson. At the time, George was working as a brakesman on a stationary colliery engine. In 1804 the family moved to a cottage in West Moor. In 1805 Robert had a sister for a short few weeks. Then in 1806 Robert’s mother Fanny died of Tuberculosis, and George’s sister Nelly moved in to care for Robert.

George had received no formal education and he was determined to get such for Robert. George had Robert reading books at a young age that were well above his level, and Robert was learning to read technical drawings. Studying together, both father and son learned and improved their education. They built a sundial and hung it above their door, so that the cottage became known as the Dial Cottage and is still preserved as a monument to them. In 1812 George was promoted to enginewright at Killingworth Colliery. With such better wages, Robert was sent to a primary school run by the Rutters in Longbenton until he was eleven. Then Robert was able to go to a private academy, Doctor Bruce’s in Newcastle. While there he became a reading member at the Literary and Philosophical Society. He may have had much less of an education then today’s engineers receive, but for the times, he was on the cutting edge.

When finished with the Bruce Academy he apprenticed to Nicholas Wood at the Killingworth Colliery and also a period at the University of Edinburgh where Robert met George Parker Bidder. Robert started to work with his father on railway projects, the first for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. In 1823 he set up in partnership with his father, Michael Longridge and Edward Pease to build locomotives situating the company out of Newcastle. Robert Stephenson and Company founded in 1823 was the first company to manufacture railway engines. The first trains built were called Locomotion No. 1, Hope, Diligence, and Black Diamond. Locomotion was used for the opening of the Stockton and Darlington line.

In 1824 Robert went to South America for there years as an engineer in the Colombian Gold mines. He might have had a falling out with his father at the time. He returned in 1827 to get down to the work of building the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. His father was in Liverpool working at the railway, so Robert took charge at the company in Newcastle. To build a locomotive for the Rainhill Triails, they produced Rocket (DWW-The Stephenson Rocket is famous!) The Stephenson company won the trials and with the opening of the Railway, they began to build for other railways as well. It was necessary to extend the Newcastle facilities.

In 1829, Robert married Frances Sanderson in London. They lived in Newcastle. She died in 1842 and they did not have any children. In 1830 Robert designed Planet, which was much more advanced then Rocket. Once again there was friction between the father and son, but Robert’s new design was much more powerful than the previous one. In 1833 Robert was given the chief post for the London and Birmingham Railway. Now Robert moved to London to live. The new railway was completed in 1838 and Robert was responsible for the tunnel under Primrose Hill. To get trains from Euston Station to Chalk Farm, Stephenson devised a system to draw the trains up by rope near The Roundhouse. Still in use toady as an Arts Centre. It cost £5.5 million to build the railway, over six times what it cost to build the L&MR.

In 1838 Robert was summoned to Tuscany to build the Leopolda railway. From this he laid the ground work for the Faentina railway. All these railways also needed bridges, and Robert was known for this as well. His father had built the Gaunless Bridge. For the London to Scotland branch of the railways, bridges over the Tyne and Tweed were designed by Robert. The High Level Bridge at Newcastle upon Tyne, the Royal Border Bridge over the Tweed and the Britannia Bridge across he Menai Strait on the line to Edinburgh was designed by Stephenson. A design based on his Conwy railway bridge. Expensive to build but also used in Canada and twice in Egypt. He did suffer failures, though. The Dee bridge, where he employed girders that were too long, collapsed and five people were killed.

So well known in the field, Robert’s advice was sought all over the world. Such countries as France, Spain, Egypt (consulting on the feasibility of the Suez Canal), Switzerland. He built the Alexandria to Cairo railway from 1851 to 1853. He also served in Parliament for Whitby from 1847 until his death. He was President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1855. George had died in 1848 and Robert died in 1859. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Queen Victoria allowed his cortege to pass through Hyde Park and 3000 tickets were sold to spectators. He had accumulated nearly £400,000 to leave in his will. He was one of the leading engineers of the age.

Previous Notables (Click to see the Blog):

George III George IV Georgiana Cavendish
William IV Lady Hester Stanhope Lady Caroline Lamb
Princess Charlotte Queen Charlotte Charles James Fox
Queen Adelaide Dorothea Jordan Jane Austen
Maria Fitzherbert Lord Byron John Keats
Princess Caroline Percy Bysshe Shelley Cassandra Austen
Edmund Kean Thomas Clarkson Sir John Moore
John Burgoyne William Wilberforce Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Sarah Siddons Josiah Wedgwood Emma Hamilton
Hannah More John Phillip Kemble John Jervis, Earl St. Vincent
Ann Hatton Stephen Kemble Mary Robinson
Harriet Mellon Zachary Macaulay George Elphinstone
Thomas Babington George Romney Mary Moser
Ozias Humphry William Hayley Daniel Mendoza
Edward Pellew Angelica Kauffman Sir William Hamilton
David Garrick Pownoll Bastard Pellew Charles Arbuthnot
William Upcott William Huskisson Dominic Serres
Sir George Barlow Scrope Davies Charles Francis Greville
George Stubbs Fanny Kemble Thomas Warton
William Mason Thomas Troubridge Charles Stanhope
Robert Fulke Greville Gentleman John Jackson Ann Radcliffe
Edward ‘Golden Ball’ Hughes John Opie Adam Walker
John Ireland Henry Pierrepoint

There will be many other notables coming, a full and changing list can be found here on the blog as I keep adding to it. The list so far is:

General Sir Robert Arbuthnot
Harriet Fane Arbuthnot
Richard Harding Evans
Joseph Antonio Emidy
John Ireland
William Gifford
John Wolcot (Peter Pindar)
Amelia Opie
Sir Joseph Banks
Richard Porson
Eva Marie Veigel
Edward Gibbon
James Smithson
William Cowper
Richard Cumberland
Richard Cosway
Jacob Phillipp Hackert
Maria Foote
Sir George Warren
John Thomas Serres
Wellington (the Military man)
Horatio Nelson
William Vincent
Cuthbert Collingwood
Admiral Sir Graham Moore
Admiral Sir William Sydney Smith
Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville
Viscount Hood
Thomas Hope
Colin Mccaulay
Baroness de Calabrella
Thomas Babington Macaulay
Napoleon Bonaparte
Admiral Israel Pellew
General Banastre Tarleton
Henry Paget
Francis Leggatt Chantrey
Stapleton Cotton
Sir Charles Grey
Thomas Picton
Thomas Lawrence
James Northcote
Thomas Gainsborough
James Gillray
Sir Joshua Reynolds
George Stubbs
Joseph Priestley
William Aubrey de Vere Beauclerk 9th Duke of St. Albans
Hugh Percy, 3rd Duke of Northumberland
Horace Walpole
John Thomas ‘Antiquity’ Smith
Thomas Coutts
William Blake
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Sir Marc Brunel
Marquis of Stafford George Leveson-Gower
George Stephenson
Nicholas Wood
George Parker Bidder
Edward Pease
Thomas Telford
Joseph Locke
Mary Shelley
Paul III Anton, Prince Esterházy
Thomas Egerton, 2nd Earl of Wilton
Henry Herbert Southey
John Nash
Matthew Gregory Lewis
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Thomas Hope
William Beechey
Henry Holland
Sir Walter Scott
Lord Elgin
Henry Moyes
Jeffery Wyatville
Hester Thrale
William Windham
Madame de Stael
James Boswell
Edward Eliot
George Combe
William Harrison Ainsworth
Sir Harry Smith
Thomas Cochrane
Warren Hastings
Edmund Burke
Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond
Juana Maria de Los Dolores de Leon (Lady Smith)
Duke of Argyll, George William Campbell (1766-1839)
Lord Barrymore, Richard Barry (1769-1794)
Lord Bedford, Francis Russell (1765-1802)
Mr. G. Dawson Damer (1788-1856)
Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish (1748-1811)
Lord Foley, Thomas Foley (1780-1833)
Colonel George Hanger (c.1751-1824)
Lord Hertford, Francis Seymour-Ingram (1743-1822)
Lord Yarmouth, Francis Charles Seymour-Ingram (1777-1842)
Earl of Jersey, George Bussey Villiers (1735-1805)
Sir John , John Lade (1759-1838)
Duke of Norfolk, Charles Howard (1746-1815)
Duke of York , Frederick Augustus Hanover (1763-1827)
Louis Philippe Joseph, Duc de Chartres, acceded 1785 as Duc d’ Orleans (1747-1793)
Louis Philippe, Duc de Chartres, acceded 1793 as Duc d’ Orleans (1773-1850)
Captain John (Jack) Willett Payne (1752-1803)
Duke of Queensberry, William Douglas (1724-1810)
Duke of Rutland, John Henry Manners(1778-1857)
Lord Sefton, William Philip Molyneux (1772-1838)
Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour (1759-1801)
Sir Lumley St. George Skeffington Baronet (1771 – 1850)
Lord Worcester, Henry Somerset (1766-1835)
Lord Worcester, Henry Somerset (1792-1853)
Hon. Frederick Gerald aka “Poodle” Byng

The Dandy Club
        Beau Brummell
        William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley
        Henry Mildmay

Patronesses of Almacks
        Emily Lamb, Lady Cowper
        Amelia Stewart, Viscountess Castlereagh
        Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey
        Maria Molyneux, Countess of Sefton
        Mrs. Drummond Burrell
        Dorothea Lieven, Countess de Lieven, wife of the Russian Ambassador
        Countess Esterhazy, wife of the Austrian Ambassador

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