George Stephenson’s Birthplace, Wylam, England


This evening, I am focusing on George Stephenson (1781-1848)  who was one of the principal figures in the engineering sector during the Industrial Revolution in England.

Key facts and information:

  • Born into a poor, coal mining family who occupied just one room of the above house which is located about nine miles west of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
  • His parents were illiterate. George did not commence his education until age 17. He paid for lessons from earnings as an engineman at a coal mine.
  • Worked as a brakeman, controlling colliery winding gear.
  • Became expert in steam-driven machinery.
  • Invented a miner’s safety lamp.
  • Designed his first steam locomotive in 1814, for use at Killingworth Colliery.
  • Improved design of cast iron rails to carry steam locomotives.
  • Was involved in the design of the Stockton to Darlington Railway which opened in 1825 with wagons pulled by his engine, Locomotion.
  • Built first public, inter-city railway to use steam locomotives. This was the Liverpool and Manchester which opened in 1830 using Stephenson designed the ‘Rocket’ locomotive.
  • Stephenson’s rail gauge of 4 ft 1/2 inches became the industry standard, worldwide.
  • Became first President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, in 1847.
  • Died age 67 from pleurisy.
  • Son, Robert was born 1803. He worked closely with his father on railways and was a noted bridge builder.

The above birthplace is operated by the National Trust and is open to the public.