George Stephenson (1781-1848)
George Stephenson was born in Wylam, Northumberland. He spent his early days working in coal mines, where he recognised a need for the development of early steam locomotives.
To make extra money to study at night school– he was illiterate until the age of 18 - he mended shoes and taught himself to mend clocks
He is most famously known for building the world’s first public passenger railway between Stockton and Darlington and for developing engines including ‘Locomotion’ and ‘Rocket.’ The railway track width he used for his metal rails of 4 ft 81/2 inches became known as the Standard, or Stephenson gauge, and is the most widely used railway track gauge in the world.
He went on to oversee the building of the North Midland Railway line (opened 1840), which runs through Chesterfield. During this time he founded the Clay Cross Company producing coal, iron ore and limestone.
George spent last 10 years of his life living in Chesterfield at Tapton House. He also pursued his hobby of gardening and growing exotic plants and vegetables and to grow straight cucumbers he had glass cucumber straighteners made at one of his factories. When he died in 1848 he was buried beside his second wife, Elizabeth, by the altar inside the town’s Holy Trinity Church.