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Posted By Robert. Stephenson

The editor of "Rocket" apologies - in the last edition of the Robert Stephenson Trust newsletter it was stated that Robert Stephenson once lived at 35 Gloucester Street -this should have read 34 GLOUCESTER SQUARE, London.

Posted By Robert. Stephenson

Robert Stephenson’s employee, Edwin Clark, explained how the bow string girder lent itself to a double roadway: ‘the top being used for railway purposes while the  suspended platform at the springing of the arches forms a road for public traffic. The thrust of the arches is restricted by the  horizontal ties of wrought iron, so that any settlement in the piers  may not disturb the equilibrium of the arches'.


Settlement was expected and because of the quicksand and floodtides Robert Stephenson supervised the initial operations. personally superintending the driving of the first pile on 24 April 1846. When the Newcastle & Berwick Railway Act was passed in July 1845 one of the clauses bound the company to begin the bridge within nine months and to have it complete by 31 July 1849. Working therefore to a tight schedule the contracts were let in July and August 1846. Hawks & Crawshay the iron manufacturers were under strict instructions: ‘No deviation from any of the provisions of this Contract Specification or Drawings will be permitted unless with Sanction in writing of the Company's Principal Engineer.'


Posted By Robert. Stephenson

During the initial months, Robert Stephenson conducted tests of different cast mixes at the manufactory with a view of ascertaining the best iron for the arch and transverse girders. He considered these experiments to be the most extensive as well as the most accurate series then existing. Heavy casting then began in 1847 and each of the six 125 foot girders were temporarily erected at the manufacturers works and tested before removal and all the detached parts received a separate test previously to their final trial. Anticipating temperature variations, provision was made for the expansion and contraction of the iron superstructures by fixing the girders firmly to the first, middle and fifth piers and making them free to move on the second and fourth, as well as on both abutments.


On the 7 June 1849 George Hawks, supervised by John Hosking the manufacturing supervisor, inserted the last cotter pin in the tension chain. George Hawks passed along the lower deck in a carriage on 2 August and by the 15 August the first public train used the bridge. The Gateshead Observer stated: 'The system of longitudinal and vertical bracing introduced by the engineer is worthy of notice, inasmuch as it not only accomplishes the primary object of stability in the fabric, but, at the same time, by its graceful arrangement, heightens the beauty of the structure'. As Thomas Harrison was the assistant engineer for all the structures on the Newcastle & Berwick Railway he was constantly seen on site and felt the need to dispel any misunderstanding as to his Chief’s role. In a letter dated 14 March 1846 he wrote: ‘The plans have been prepared under my direction :- the designs are not mine but my friend Mr. Robert Stephenson's'.


Queen Victoria officially opened the bridge on 28 September 1849 and requested to visit Newcastle again the following year on completion of the railway, when Robert Stephenson intended to retire. Consequently on 30 July 1850 he was entertained at a grand banquet in the Central Station’s main concourse.  In his speech he stated how he had: 'taken a deep and anxious interest in those great works which now formed so conspicuous a feature in the town in which we are now assembled'.  Behind the tables were three large paintings depicting Robert Stephenson’s most famous structures, one being executed by a relative John Storey. Storey’s topographical watercolour of 1862, particularly emphasises the impressive structures spanning the urban landscape.


Victoria Haworth, Robert Stephenson Trust

Posted By Robert. Stephenson

The Illingworth mss., 1816-1880, are the papers of Richard Stonhewer Illingworth, 1797-1884, businessman. Career: born 1797, son of Richard Stonhewer Illingworth, -1847; April 1812-March 1815, army pay department in Lisbon; March 1815- April 22, 1817, commissariat department; March 1819-December 1822, pay office, Whitehall; December 1822 engaged by Jones, Powles, Hurry & Co. (Herring, Graham, Powles Co.) as commercial manager in Bogota; and later for thirty-two years director of St. John del Rey Mining Co. The papers deal with personnel matters, finances, the returns on cocoa, cotton, sugar, and tobacco, and the mining of coal, copper, emeralds, gold, lead, salt, and silver.

During the first part of the second decade of the nineteenth century, the Colombian Mining Association proposed to recommence working the gold and silver mines in Spanish America and to concentrate on the mineral wealth of Colombia. Thomas Richardson of the Association and partner of the Stephenson Company in Newcastle offered the post of engineer to Robert Stephenson, the son of George Stephenson. Leases were obtained from the Colombian government for the mines of Santa Ana and La Manta. In October 1825 operations began on the mines, but soon the Governor of Honda became angry with the conduct of the miners, as proper care had not been taken in England to select sober, steady men.

In the collection are one hundred and fifteen letters from Robert Stephenson to Illingworth mostly written from Mariquita, Colombia, between September 1824 and November 1828 on the management of mining affairs in Colombia, mining laws in general and how they could be adapted to conditions in Colombia. Fourteen letters were written by Stephenson to Illingworth between 1848 and 1858 when both men were living in England which deal with news of their native country. Among the papers are also fifteen diaries of Illingworth, kept between 1816 and 1842, on the location of mines, including small sketches and positions of mines, reports, an informative and vivid description of a journey on land and aboard the Bongo boats giving a clear idea of the life, people, geographical position, and conditions in Colombia in 1829, a list of the staff and miners with comments on their work and character, supplies required, calculations and cost of mines, detailed mining information on selection and treatment of ores, and an account of a journey to the United States. Another important item is a thirty-nine-page report to the Board of Directors of the Colombian Mining Association. Of interest is also a detailed and descriptive itinerary of a journey from Mariquita to Arma in August 1826 written by Ed Walker.

Collection size: 226 items

Posted By Robert. Stephenson

The second bridge over the River Nene at Sutton was erected in the autumn of 1850 after improvements were made to the Nene below Wisbech. It was constructed cast and wrought iron and designed by Robert Stephenson. It was built about 100 feet south of the first bridge. The roads on either side were diverted to accommodate the bridge. When the railway between King’s Lynn and Sutton Bridge was built in 1864, the railway company bought the bridge and used the southern half for their line. This saved them the expense of building another bridge just for the railway.

The second bridge across the River Nene at Sutton Bridge built in 1850 was adapted in 1864 to take the railway
The second bridge built in 1850, which was adapted in 1864 to take the railway

However, improvements to the railway line included the building of a third bridge — the swing road and rail bridge we see today, although without the railway, which was removed after the railway line closed in 1959, and later dismantled.




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