Stockton and Darlington Railway Company, 1821-1863
Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company, 1826-1845
Administrative / biographical background:
George Stephenson (1781 - 1848) was born in Wylam, Northumberland. He commenced work as a cow-herd in 1789 and passed through many colliery jobs, eventually becoming a brakesman at Black Callerton Colliery in 1801. In 1799 he began to attend night classes where he learned to read and write. He married Frances Henderson in 1802 and their son Robert was born the following year.
While Stephenson was engaged in colliery work he became interested in steam locomotion and in 1814 he built his first locomotive, "Blucher". In 1815, contemporaneously with Sir Humphry Davy, he invented a miner's safety lamp.
In 1821 Stephenson was appointed engineer to the Stockton and Darlington Railway which was opened in 1825. He was appointed engineer to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1824, but the following year the Bill for the railway was rejected by Parliament. A new bill was presented in 1826 and became law as, 7 Geo. IV, Cap. xlix, and Stephenson was reappointed engineer at a yearly salary of £1,000. After many difficulties, including the problem of how the railway was to cross Chat Moss, were overcome, Stephenson's diligence was rewarded when his locomotive "Rocket" won the Rainhill Trials in 1829 and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened in 1830.
Subsequently Stephenson was a consultant to the Belgian railway system, and in 1838 the London and Birmingham Railway, engineered by Stephenson and his son Robert was opened.
It is because of his connections with the Liverpool/Manchester Railway that the letters listed below have been collected and acquired by this library. The letters listed here are arranged in the order of their accession by this library.
There are doubts as to the extent of George Stephenson's literacy. Most of his letters were written by secretaries or his son Robert, but signed by George Stephenson himself. This is the case with all the letters listed below unless otherwise stated in the list.