Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Stephenson’s Cottage (NZ127651)

© Copyright Ken Brown and licensed for reuse 

On a quiet byway on the north bank of the River Tyne a few hundred yards east of Wylam, lies a lucky survival of North-East history. For, sitting sedately on a former waggonway out of the reach of motorised vehicles, can be found a modest cottage whose claim to fame is that it is the birthplace and childhood home of the ‘Father of the Railways’, George Stephenson.

It is nothing much to look at, made to seem all the more modest due to the fact that four families lived here at the time of the famous man’s birth – each crammed into a small apartment in the tiny two-storey abode. Humble beginnings indeed for the the little chap with the big future, who entered this world on 9th June 1781.

At the time of his birth, railways, of course, did not exist. But waggonways did, and young George must have been used to the horse-drawn affairs rumbling slowly past his window. In later years much larger and noisier items would have trundled before the family home – though George, by this time, was long gone, of course. Interesting, though, that it was largely due to his own efforts that the transformation was made possible…

We are told in an 1857 account that… The lower room in the west end of this house was the home of the Stephenson family, and there George Stephenson was born, the second of a family of six children ... The apartment is now, what it was then, an ordinary labourer’s dwelling; its walls are unplastered, its floor is of clay, and the bare rafters are exposed overhead.

Bizarrely, the cottage is now painted white. Until around the turn of the millennium it bore its original bare stone walls. Institutionalised vandalism?

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