Stephenson Works

In 1823 George Stephenson along with his son Robert, Edward Pease and Michael Longridge (the owner of The Bedlington Iron and Engine Works), opened the world's first purpose built locomotive works on Forth Banks, Newcastle upon Tyne. It was founded as part of their construction of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Robert, at the age of 19, was the Managing Partner.

The famous locomotives "Locomotion" and "Rocket" were built here and the works subsequently exported locomotives to developing railways all over the world - often the first to be seen in those countries.

Part of these historic works has been rescued from near dereliction and is now open to the public.

Robert Stephenson's Engineering works, one of the most important 19th century industrial buildings in the world. It was designed and built by Stephenson and was working by 1837. The design was strongly influenced by greenhouse design and included many features which were innovative in an industrial building of the time. The central pitch of the roof was glass, with its supporting cast iron pillars also functioning as downpipes to take away rain water. The entire west wall was glass, supported by seven brick pillars.

There was also a two storey office building, built circa 1820-40, with an unusual stone staircase, of a type commonly found in Edinburgh.

The Stephenson Quarter comprises: A1 original office (listed building 10034) 1823-1827, A2 a dog-leg yard 1827, A3 an open yard 1823, later a forge and carpenter's shop later a fitting and turning shop 1859, A4 a yard 1823, later a warehouse (engine wrights fitting up shop) with pattern maker's shop above 1837, A5 part of the original 1823 buildings, 1837-8 a boring mill, 1847-8 a lathe shop with a stationary engine, A6 a yard and blacksmith's shop 1837-8, wheelsmiths shop in 1896, A7 a yard, 1837 a coppersmith's shop, 1896 a plumber's shop, A8 an open yard, 1859 engine house, A9 coppersmith's shop, A10 smith's shop, A11 fitting shop 1867, locomotive erecting shop 1896, machine and fitting shops on upper floors, A12 frame shop, tender shop and saw mill 1846-1850, A13 frame shop 1847, A14 warehouse, A15 square chimney base/furnace 1838, A16 smith's shops 1830s, A17 warehouse extension, oil engine showroom 1859-1894 with paint room above, A19 yard 1830s with railway lines, turntables and wheelpits, B1 20 South Street 1847-1859, B2 boiler shop 1838- 1845 {ref. numbers taken from PLB report of 2001}.

The Rocket was built here. The firm also built the first locomotive (Locomotion) for the worlds first public railway - The stockton and Darlington Line 1825. Works moved to Darlington in 1902 but returned to Newcastle in 1937 when they took over Hawthorn Leslies loco division and became Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd.

Archaeological excavations in 2017 recorded the Smith's Shops or Workshops of Stephenson's Engine Works (OS map of 1862) and the High Smithy (OS map of 1896). The remains included substantial walls, column bases, brick floors, a culvert and a complicated multi-phase system of brick flues, which probably carried waste gases from ovens or furnaces to external vents. The flue system is shown on Goad's Fire Insurance Plan of 1896. Excavations by the Archaeological Practice in August 2017 recorded a locomotive turntable base (HER 17589), a brick-lined stone-capped culvert, a railway line running south-east to north-west with four rails representing part of a set of points, set on wooden sleepers, and a 10m length of railway line for a travelling crane, with iron rails and wooden sleepers. 20 South Street is the only complete building still standing from the works and is Listed Grade 2.

Source: Sitelines.

December 2023

South Street, No. 20.

The former offices are in a domestic style with stone plinth, first floor and sill bands, and eaves cornice. All brick openings have outward splay. Chamfered projecting plain stone surround with cornice to double leaf 4 panel door and plain overlight in 7th bay; wider double door with 4 flush panels and plain overlight in 3rd bay; flush door and plain overlight inserted in former window opening in 5th bay. first floor band. Sashes with fine glazing bars have sill bands and wedge stone lintels. Stone eaves gutter cornice.

Interior of 8 bays is domestic in layout with 6 panel doors in the two main upstairs rooms to the east - formerly the Managing Director's room and the Boardroom and 4 panel doors in the Drawing Office with a large chimney piece in the MD's room and slightly smaller ones in the remaining offices. Some C20 features including a chimney piece and office fittings, and wall hatches. The stair opposite the main door in a rounded projection into the boiler shed, is of c. 1840 character with winding stone steps which had decorative cast-iron balusters with narrow mahogany handrail. It leads to a long corridor which opens into a further office, behind this domestic building, inserted as first floor timber-framed projection over boiler shed, supported on iron columns of the shed which have curved braces to the roof beam. It is glazed above the dado. At the north end of the rear office a large list is inserted.

Source: Historic England.

The Boiler Shop.

Former engine manufactory of Robert Stephenson & Company, now live music venue. Boiler/plate shop and administrative offices c.1849-59 as part of the Stephenson Company Factory.

EXTERIOR: Boiler shed red brick; offices hard white brick with tooled ashlar dressings; Welsh slate roof with glazed skylight strips. Former offices are on South Street front at NE of site, with former boiler shed an irregular L-plan around them with full length double span N-S roofs at west. East elevation to South Street has former boiler shed to left, former offices at right: 1 and 2 storeys, 4 and 8 windows. At left, former boiler shed has wide loading door and vehicle entrance below reused large bellied iron beam, made up of riveted sections and with central hole as in a pivoting beam, inserted below heads of 4 round-arched brick windows all now blocked. The boiler shed has 2 parallel ranges, the eastern range of 13 bays, the western of 17, supported on the west by the large glazed brick wall, and internally on tapered round cast-iron columns with curved longitudinal bracing to beams. The eastern roof has strutted king posts, the western has queen posts with small king posts resting on the collar.

HISTORY: The large boiler/plate shop and offices retain many of their original features.

Source: Sitelines.

South Street, Fitting Shop (Machine & Pattern).

Former Robert Stephenson & Co. fitting shop. Built c. 1867-80 on the site of a former dwelling house, yard, shade and carpenters' shop c. 1826 to the south; the north occupied by RS & Co. as a tender shop, sawmill and frame shop 1847; then rebuilt c. 1849-59 as a painters shop and engine shop, tender shop and yard, with the frame shop retained. Further alterations c. 1867. Later machine and pattern departments, now builders merchant's warehouse.

EXTERIOR: Brick with ashlar dressings; corrugated alloy roof. Rear wall clad in C20 brick and corrugated metal below and painted render above. 3 builds. 2 storeys, the first high. 3:8:16 windows. Right 16 bays of ground floor is first build; second build is the left 11 bays; third build is the first floor of the right 16 bays. Windows have fine glazing bars and flat stone sills; those on ground floor have round-arched brick heads, and on first floor have wedge stone lintels in left 11 bays, segmental brick arches in right 15 bays. First floor band. Vehicle entrance at left has painted iron posts and beam supporting overlight with 4 panels of 16 painted panes under high wide metal beam resting on post at left and quoins at right. First opening above has glazing bars, second is blocked and third has a boarded loading door. Next 8 bays have left quoins to full height, and ground floor windows have 2 top panes, most with 4:2:4 below, the central pair a pivoting light. 6th and 8th windows are taller, reaching first floor band, and have 6 panes in lowest part. First second and fourth first floor windows have 6 panes and others are blocked. Butt join at right, set further right on upper floor, to right 15 bays which have full height ground floor windows and sill band to first floor windows which have 20 panes, the central panels pivoting in some. C20 doors inserted in left end window beside vehicle arch and below windows 3 and 4, probably replacing earlier door, of right 15 bays. 4 rain water pipes have lowest sections recessed in brickwork. Vehicle arch has central cast iron round posts with two tiers of flanges, the upper supporting a riveted bellied cast iron beam.

INTERIOR: Interior shows ground floor alterations including inserted partitions. First floor open to roof which is double span, with spine beam on tapered round cast iron piers with moulded ring below square abacus. South build at left has spine beam of large scantling supporting full-width tie beam of queen post trusses. A higher spine beam rests on the tie beams and on short posts from the lower beam, the tie beams clasped between the two spine beams. The north build roof is slightly raised, the cast iron piers supporting a deep steel spine girder and T-section steel queen post trusses. Electric lift inserted in SW corner of building.

HISTORY: An important survival of the pioneering Stephenson factory which made locomotive engines throughout the C19..

Source: Sitelines

South Street, No's 2-14, Erecting Shops.

Railway works, then building trade warehouse and showroom, now empty. 1823, 1827 with later C19 and C20 alterations, burnt 1934.

EXTERIOR: Brick, rendered and painted brick, partly steel clad, with slate and steel sheet roofs. Single storey and two storey. Main entrance on Orchard Street has late C20 double-gabled facade with modern windows. To left, a single storey brick range with a slate roof and 9 large windows with concrete lintels. Further blind brick ranges beyond with some blocked openings and a partly glazed roof. Blind north facade rendered and painted. South Street facade now rendered an painted, has large C20 access doorway to left with steel girder lintel and earlier cast iron lintel, now redundant above. Beyond to right, two small entrance doorways reached up two steps, with canopy. Beyond again to right, a two storey gabled section with various blocked doorways and an upper loft doorway flanked by two small windows. Beyond again, a blank wall topped by a continuous section of upper windows, then another large C20 access with steel lintel. Beyond a C20 casement with above round headed window retaining a fanlight, which may date from Stephenson's Works. Then a single, C20 casement on the ground floor and two similar windows above, a small timber-framed section with double doors below and a loft door above. Finally, the former office section, where Robert Stephenson had his office on the first floor (this has a C20 window, with a single door), and a further ground floor window beyond.

INTERIOR. The interior retains some sections of plain C19 timber roof structure, and the upper room used by Stephenson as an office is still identifiable, though none of its original features survive. Many of the surviving walls correspond with the walls visible on the surviving maps, but since so many are covered over it is very difficult to assess how many of the walls are likely to be original.

HISTORY: This building was used by George and Robert Stephenson as part of their original Railway Works, and thus possesses great historical significance as what is probably the world's first purpose-built locomotive factory. The 'Rocket' was built here is 1828-29. It has undergone considerable alteration, but originally it was in multiple use as a mill, fitting shops, furnaces, smithies, pattern shops etc. The earliest part of the building dates from c 1823, extended soon after in 1827: these are probably the earliest surviving parts of Stephenson's works. A severe fire in 1934 destroyed much of the upper structure.

Source: Sitelines

South Street, coppersmiths' shop.

Coppersmiths' shop and brass foundry, then builders merchant's storage, now empty, at South Street level, with offices attached to N; probable former house and storage at S on lower level to Hanover Street now disused. Offices for Robert Stephenson & Co, the western rooms probably pre-dating their first lease of 1 August 1823 with first floor bow window. Extended eastwards in 1825 to accommodate the newly formed company of George Stephenson & Son. Many original features destroyed by fire 1934 and the bow window was not replaced as found according to the lease. Coppersmiths' shop and brass foundry and storage below c1845 built by Amor Spoor and leased to Robert Stephenson & Co.

EXTERIOR: South elevation to Hanover Street English bond brick with ashlar plinth and dressings; W elevation of offices to South Street painted render, other elevations brick where visible but obscured by adjacent buildings; roofs Welsh slate to coppersmiths' shop. not visible to offices which have glazed roof light strips. Offices two storeys to South Street, coppersmiths' shop and house and storage below 4-3 storeys on south elevation to steep slope on Hanover Street. Offices 2 storeys, 2x6bays with gable end to South Street. Ground floor has boarded door at left, iron bars to window at right; upper floor has 2 windows with projecting painted stone sills, the left mullion and transom and the right blocked. Hipped roof. Interior of ground floor not inspected; plain wood stair to first floor, which has blocked fireplace at right on S wall with painted segmental lintel and inner brick piers flanking hearth; at left, blocked window. Roof has 6 king post trusses with diagonal struts; bell frame attached to second truss. Roof lined with boards above and below glazed strips. Entrance to coppersmiths' shop is to top floor, down short flight of steps from small wedge-shaped roofed yard on south side of former offices. Floor below has storage and covered passage to former Back Hanover Street.

INTERIOR: Interior of lowest level on S elevation to Hanover Street not inspected.

It has former house at left of 2 storeys, 2 windows, with wedge stone lintel to blocked door at right with projecting stone step; similar lintels and projecting stone sills to 2 windows at left, the left blocked and the right boarded; similar lintels and sills to 2 blocked first floor windows. To right of this the plinth steps up as the ground rises and there are 2 storeys with one window and blocked door at right, the ground floor window smaller than but similar to those at left, the first floor a small blocked window with round brick arch and projecting stone sill. To right of this a 2-storey high arch with rusticated quoins, voussoirs and keystone, formerly over Back Hanover Street which ran to the left through the building. 3 storeys to right of arch have blank ground floor. Floor above arch has small openings with round brick arches, projecting stone sills and wrought iron grids, interspersed with blocked loading doors. Above these, on left of arch, is a single small square opening. Top floor has 13 small square openings with wood-lined reveals. Eaves partly painted with stone gutter brackets. Right bays have cast iron plates of tie rods above round-headed windows. Interior of top floor shows wide ashlar corbels to chimney at west end, perhaps from former brass foundry; rubble inner leaf to east gable. Colonnade formerly open to yard has round tapered cast iron piers supporting long beam parallel to front Hanover Street frontage, and this beam supoports king post trusses. East part has queen post trusses resting on wallplates. Some large skylights in north roof slope. Lower floors not inspected.

HISTORY: Amor Spoor was builder and developer of the (listed grade II) warehouses dated 1841 and 1844 on the south side of Hanover Street, which are in the same brickwork and imposing style as this building; Seymour Bell portfolio 20 has an early Robert Stephenson & Co. document relating to lease dated.

Source: Sitelines

Robert Stephenson's Engine Works, furnace.

Chimney constructed from squared sandstone blocks of uniform size (0.9m x 0.4m). 5.3m high and 1.8m square in plan. The top course of sandstone blocks overhung the rest of the chimney. The north-east elevation had evidence of plastering or rendering.

Set back from the chimney to the west was a wall constructed from roughly coursed sandstone hewn into squared blocks. The south end of the wall had its top half built from brick. Within the wall was a blocked doorway. A plan of the works dating to 1837 shows a chimney within a larger structure and a substantial wall leading south from it. This wall formed the west elevation for the boiler shade and smith's shop and was the western boundary of Stephenson's Works. These structures are shown on nearly every plan since 1837. They were probably built between 1823 when R Stephenson and Co. took over the site and 1837.

Between 1839 and 1846 the chimney was incorporated into a building, which was an erecting shop in 1846. Between 1930 and 1941 the chimney was in open ground again. The door was probably inserted into the wall after R Stephenson and Co moved to Darlington in 1903. The Goad Insurance Plan of 1930 shows the door between the building housing the chimney and the building to the west. The door was probably blocked up around 1930.

Source: Sitelines

30th May 2023

South Street, No. 20.

The Boiler Shop.

4th November 2021

South Street, No. 20.

13th September 2008

One of the beam engines which powered the machinery in South Street Works. Built in 1823 One of the beam engines which powered the machinery in South Street Works. Built in 1823 Robert Stephensons Lathe The Boiler Shop The Boiler Shop The Boiler Shop The Boiler Shop The Boiler Shop

South Street, No. 20 and The Boiler Shop.

A visit as part of Heritage Open Days.

7th September 2007

South Street, No. 20.

13th June 2006

The Boiler Shop and South Street, No. 20.

16th January 2006

South Street, No. 20.

More Information:
Historical interest in South Street:
My other photos concerning George Stephenson:
My other photos around South Street:

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