Heritage Locations

Robert Stephenson Works, Newcastle

The first factory in the world for building locomotives, first built in 1823 and listed Grade II.

Robert Stephenson

Period of construction:
1800 - 1849

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:

20 South Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3

NE1 3

Nearest Town:
Newcastle upon Tyne

Heritage Centre:

In 1823 George Stephenson along with four other people - his son Robert, the Quaker businessman Edward Pease, Pease's cousin Thomas Richardson and Michael Longridge who managed Bedlington Iron Works - opened the world's first purpose built locomotive factory at South Street on Forth Banks, Newcastle upon Tyne. Robert, then aged 19, was the Managing Partner. It was at these works that 'Locomotion' was built in 1825 for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. In 1829 Rocket' was built there for the Rainhill Trials. Between 1828 and 1830 Robert developed an economically viable prototype in 'Northumbrian' and 'Planet' which remained the basis for all future steam locomotive development.

Locomotives built at these works were exported to developing railways all over the world and were often the first locomotives to be seen and used in those countries. Stationary engines for collieries, marine engines, bridges and even a steam driven chain ferry were all constructed here. At Robert's death in 1859 the firm was the largest employer on Tyneside. By the early 1890s the works had expanded to occupy all available land on Forth Banks and it became necessary to seek a fresh site. Suitable land for a new and enlarged works was found at Springfield, on the north-east side of Darlington, which opened in 1902. The old works in Newcastle finally closed in 1904.

While some of the locomotive shops were acquired by their Forth Banks neighbours, R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie, the bulk of the site passed to George and Jobling, motor engineers. They were engaged in importing Ford chassis and building bespoke bodies for them. George (of George and Jobling) was one of the first 100 pioneer aviators and during the First World War aeroplanes were constructed on site.


Bailey, Michael, Robert Stephenson: The Eminent Engineer, Ashgate, ISBN-10: 0754636798 (2003)

Biddle, Gordon, Britain's Historic Railway Buildings, Oxford University Press, ISBN-10: 0198662475 (2003)

Biddle, Gordon & Nock, O.S.
, The Railway Heritage of Britain : 150 years of railway architecture and engineering, Studio Editions, ISBN-10: 1851705953 (1990)

Biddle, Gordon and Simmons, J., The Oxford Companion to British Railway History, Oxford, ISBN 0 19 211697 5 (1997)

Bonavia, Michael,
Historic Railway Sites in Britain, Hale, ISBN 0 7090 3156 4 (1987)

Pole, William, The Life of Robert Stephenson Vol. 1, BiblioBazarr, ISBN-10: 1103667831 (2009)

Rolt, L. T. C., George and Robert Stephenson,  Penguin, ISBN-10: 0140220631 (1978)

Ross, David, George and Robert Stephenson: A Passion for Success, History Press, ISBN-10: 0752452770 (2010)

Simmons, J., The Railways of Britain, Macmillan, ISBN 0 333 40766 0 (1961-86)

Simmons, J.
The Victorian Railway, Thames & Hudson, ISBN 0 500 25110X (1991)

Smiles, Samuel, The Life of George Stephenson and of His Son Robert Stephenson: Comprising Also a History of the Invention and Introduction of the Railway Locomotive, BiblioBazaar, ISBN-10: 114326178X (2010)

Opening Times:
Contact the Robert Stephenson Trust at the website above.

How To Find:
By Road: The parts of Stephenson's South Street Works which have been restored and preserved are the former office block and the former boiler and plate shop. South Street is off Forth Street the B 6333 between Central Station and th river Tyne.


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