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Posted By Robert. Stephenson

The Illingworth mss held in the Lilly Library, Indiana Univercity, 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.

Posted By Robert. Stephenson

The Leicester & Swannington railway was built in 1832. Designed to carry coal from the local pits but it also carried passengers. William Sherwin bought up sites strategically placed along the line on which booking offices could be built.

On the Bagworth self-acting incline, where the weight of the loaded wagons bound for Leicester pulled the lighter returning empties up the slope, the passengers had to disembark, walk the length of the incline and then rejoin the train for the remainder of their journey.

Although first class carriages were quickly introduced, most passengers were carried standing in uncovered high-sided goods wagons on mixed freight and passenger services. This was the normal practice throughout the early railway network and continued until 1887 when, following a circular from the Board of Trade, mixed goods and passenger working was progressively abandoned.

Passengers tickets were issued in the form of octagonal brass tokens stamped with a number and the name of the issuing station. The guard on the train was equipped with a belt carrying leather pouches, one for each station on the line: at the end of the passenger's journey his token was collected by the guard and placed in its appropriate pouch. Details of the journey would be recorded and the tokens returned to the issuing station for re-use.

When the line opened the cost was one and a quarter old pennies per mile. For the first class passenger, and one would guess that there were precious few from Swannington, the fare was two and a half old pennies per mile. First class passengers, who were allowed to book in advance, were issued with paper tickets, their name and the name of the station being entered by the booking clerk.

Leicester & Swannington Railway Company travel tokens,

Posted By Robert. Stephenson

Exhibition.  A wide variety of venues have been used for the exhibition ranging from museums to schools to village halls. It is estimated that 50,000 people have attended the exhibition. This figure is considered successful, whilst falling short of the original target mainly due to the failure to secure exhibition space at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry.


Talks.  The popularity of “The Art of Robert Stephenson” (AoRS) talk and requests for further follow up necessitated the development of further topics, which were delivered on numerous occasions, enabling the deployment of the “pop up” exhibition.


Walks.  Throughout 2011 the project manager undertook Newcastle City Guide training and was able to deliver a number of “AoRS” related walks. A programme of walks was delivered during 2012 and these have proved popular resulting in the diary schedule for walks stretching into 2013, as a legacy of the project.


Children’s activities.  Involvement of children in the programme was considered an important element of the project and 2000 young people have taken part in a variety of “hands on” activities ranging from the “Semaphore signal” to the “Bridges to schools” project.


Concerts.  Two music concerts were promoted during the project, one held in Darlington and one held in Morpeth. This resulted in exposing Robert Stephenson to a wider the constituent audience. 


Internet Activities.  The Trust’s website was redesigned as part of the programme, a “blog” and a “Facebook” group formed. The web site receives about 10 “hits” per day and the “blog” has had 250,000 visits since its launch.

The development of the website also included an interactive tour of the works which also features in the touring exhibition. 


Publications. A Stephenson Trail document was published in association with The Institution of Civil Engineers and widely distributed to the public and schools.. The Elizabeth Bidder diary was also published electronically as part of the project.  Copies of letters sent by Robert Stephenson during his time in south America were obtained with the objective of transcribing and publishing.  

Posted By Robert. Stephenson

2009 to 2012 Summary




Bring Robert Stephenson to the attention of a wider public by promotion, information and education.


Inspire a new generation of engineers through his achievements and makes today’s generation aware of his achievements.


Promote awareness of the achievements of Robert Stephenson, his companies, partnerships and other interests together with the development of the railways, particularly in the north-east of England.


Introduction.  The objectives were achieved by a number of inter-linked strands which gave the opportunity to the Robert Stephenson Trust to expand its delivery of its core objectives though a traveling exhibition and associated activities.


READ ON..................

Posted By Robert. Stephenson

Press and Media: The project has achieved good media coverage with items appearing in all local newspapers and a number of items broadcast on local radio.


Partners. It was necessary to develop partnerships with many organizations to deliver the project at the multitude of venues.  HLF, Newcastle City Council and Institution of Civil Engineers have supported the project both materially and financially throughout.


Volunteers. The personnel involved were mainly Robert Stephenson Trust “Friends” and Trustees also supported by the Institution of Civil Engineers education volunteers and “Engineering Ambassadors” In total about 265 “volunteer days” were involved with an estimated value of £42,750.


Finance. As well as volunteers times a great deal was achieved through “work in kind” The estimated project cost was £15,000 and the outturn is slightly less.


Legacy. The project has enabled the Trust to broaden its culture, having previously been a museum based organization. A number of partnerships have been developed and the programme of exhibitions, talks, walks, electronic publishing and children’s activities will continue, funded from the Trust’s existing resources.


Conclusion. The failure of the Trust to renew the tenancy of the Stephenson’s Works was of great disappointment to the Trustees. The project has enabled the Trust to continue to pursue its aims of widening knowledge of Robert Stephenson, inspire a new generation of engineers and promote awareness of railway development. Whilst the Trust has continued to try and secure new museum premises throughout the 3 years of the project, a widening of the culture of the Trust has occurred.


It is already established that many of the initiatives included in the project will continue as part of the established programme of the Trust. Overall the audience feedback has been positive as is demonstrated by the continued interest in activities related to the subject.



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