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Birthplace of the locomotive

Birthplace of the locomotive

painting of George Stephenson's family

This famous painting of the Stephenson family, showing some of George's early achievements, now hangs in Chesterfield Museum. It was commissioned by Robert Stephenson and painted after George's death. It depicts a fictional meeting between his parents (standing, background) and his first wife Fanny (seated, left), the mother of Robert, and a daughter (standing, left) who died in infancy. Fanny died from tuberculosis in 1805, shortly after her daughter. Following their deaths, Stephenson left the North East for a while to work in Scotland, leaving Robert in the charge of a housekeeper.

In the foreground is Elizabeth, George's second wife. She was a farmer's daughter, and George's first love, but they had been forbidden to marry because of George's lowly status. Elizabeth vowed never to marry another, and kept her promise, eventually marrying George twenty years later.

One of the turning points of Stephenson's career was his appointment at the age of 31 as an enginewright based at Killingworth Colliery, but working at a number of different pits. This gave him a salary of £100 per year, and the time and opportunity to develop his interest in locomotives. It also meant that he had money to provide Robert with the education he never had.


Last updated on 11 March 2016