Unlike the present day when preparations for significant anniversaries begin many months, perhaps even years in advance, the centenary of George Stephenson’s birth 8 June,1881) seems to have of rather crept up on everyone. The idea of celebrating the centenary was first mooted, in the Newcastle Chronicle towards the end of 1880 but it was March 1881, before any practical steps were taken, leaving just over two months to arrange an astonishing programme of events on Tyneside. Time off work, even without pay, was not common in the 1880s, so everything was planned to take place on a single day! The Directors of the North Eastern Railway and Newcastle corporation subsidised events in the north, with Edward Fletcher, NER Loco Supt., who had trained under George at Stephenson’s Forth Bank works in charge of the railway events.
In London, a banquet was planned, to coincide with one at Newcastle, while a “Festival” was organised at the Crystal Palace, as a fundraiser for the Railway Servants Orphanage at Derby.
This little book, also intended to raise money for the same cause, gave prominence to Stephenson’s early life. There was also a special Centenary Edition of Samuel Smiles biography.
For an account of the procession and exhibition of locomotives and other events on Tyneside, see:
For more on raising money for the Orphanage, see: