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George Stephenson (1781 to 1848)

Phil McDonald from Defeye Creative pays tribute to one of the country's most influential industrial innovators... and who happened to reside in Chesterfield.

Adorning our cover this edition is George Stephenson, an illustration created by Phil McDonald from Defeye Creative, and in honour of one of the area's most famous residents. Stephenson, born on 9 June 1781, was a British civil and mechanical engineer, known as the "Father of Railways", he's a great example of the Victorian desire for improvement in the industrial world.

An early success, Stephenson designed the miner's safety lamp, a lamp that would burn in a gaseous atmosphere without causing an explosion.

A rail pioneer, Stephenson's railway work was amongst some of the most important developments and inventions of the 19th century and key to the Industrial Revolution. He (and his son Robert) built the Locomotion No. 1, the first steam locomotive to carry passengers on a public rail line, the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825.

Stephenson's chosen rail gauge, sometimes called 'Stephenson gauge', was the basis for the 4 feet 8 1⁄2 inches (1,435 mm) standard gauge used by most of the world's railways. Stephenson's Rocket was an early steam locomotive, built for and winning, the Rainhill Trials held by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in October 1829.

Stephenson also built the first public inter-city railway line in the world to use locomotives, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which opened in 1830.

George Stephenson moved widely around the country pursuing his career in rail, living at Alton Grange (now part of Ravenstone) in Leicestershire until 1838, when he moved to Tapton House in Derbyshire.

Perhaps not so well known is Stephenson's, cucumber straightener. A keen fruit grower, he ordered blown glass cylinders to be made for his garden at Tapton House, where he spent the last ten years of his life. The elongated glass funnel was placed over the cucumber at an early stage to encourage the fruit to grow straight.

Stephenson is buried in the grounds of the Holy Trinity Church, on Newbold Road. A plain memorial slab is positioned in the floor of the sanctuary and the stained glass window at the east end of the church was erected by his son Robert Stephenson.

E: FB @defeyecreative

Words Paul Chapman Illustration: Phil McDonald, Defeye Creative


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