Sunday, 18 September 2016

George Stephenson Birthplace

If I ever went on Mastermind, my specialist subject would be Negative TripAdvisor Reviews of NT Properties. It's a niche topic, I grant you, but I love them - the property was shut, my dog wasn't allowed in, it rained etc.

George Stephenson's Birthplace, however, is an exception. It has a small number of negative comments and they all say the same thing; it's hard to find the place and there's only one room open to the public.

George Stephenson's Birthplace

The first of those complaints was debunked early on. "It's REALLY hard to find this place," I warned the Scone Sidekick. "We're probably going to get lost and then you're going to get annoyed with me, but let's definitely not have an argument about it." We had just started having an argument about me saying that we were going to have an argument when we drove around a corner and saw a sign saying 'George Stephenson's Birthplace', so we parked, followed another sign saying 'George Stephenson's Birthplace' and walked along until we found it. And I'm not exactly Sir Ranulph Fiennes when it comes to map-reading, if you know what I mean.

The second complaint is more justified - there is admittedly only one room in the house open to the public. However, George's family only lived in one room, so it is authentic.


George Stephenson Birthplace Interior

However, there's no space for explaining George's achievements, so I learned nothing about him from the property itself. It's probably just as well though, as I subsequently discovered that his life was incredibly sad in places, so I'd have been sobbing my eyes out:

  • George Stephenson was born in 1781
  • His parents were illiterate and so was he until he was 18
  • He worked in a nearby coal mine as an engine man, paying to study at night 
  • He met a girl called Betty Hindmarsh, but her dad refused to let them marry as George wasn't good enough for her 
  • He married a woman called Frances and their son Robert was born in 1803
  • A baby daughter followed in 1805 but she died aged 3 weeks - George's wife then died of consumption in 1806
  • George went to find work in Scotland, leaving Robert with a local woman
  • He returned, probably because his father was blinded in a mining accident
  • In 1811 he offered to fix a pumping engine at a pit and was so successful that he was promoted and became an expert in steam-powered machinery
  • He invented the 'Geordie Lamp', a safety lamp for miners, which was similar to Humphry Davy's Davy lamp - people (including Davy) couldn't believe that an uneducated man could invent something so useful and George was accused of copying
  • This is partly why Robert was educated privately, to give him the credibility that George lacked
  • In 1814, George designed his first steam locomotive, the Bl├╝cher, for transporting coal at a local pit
  • He then set up a company with Robert and two other men to build the Stockton and Darlington Railway - it opened in 1825
  • They then built the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, with Robert's design for the actual train winning the competition - this was called Rocket
  • George spent the rest of his life building railroads in the UK and advising people from the US and other countries on how to build theirs
  • He married Betty Hindmarsh in 1820 - his increased wealth probably made her dad a bit more supportive this time
  • George died in 1848

The tea room behind GSB is tiny, but it seems to be a big favourite with the local dogs, many of whom had taken their owners out for a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon. I don't think the scones were homemade but it was tasty and I enjoyed it. 

George Stephenson Birthplace Scone

It's amazing to think that a man that achieved so much in engineering started life in such a small place with no education. It's a lovely little spot.

George Stephenson's Birthplace: 5 out of 5
Scone: 3 out of 5
Information on George: 1 out of 5

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