Previous Talk

The Bedlington Iron & Engine Works

A very interesting and sometimes humorous presentation this week was by Mr Barry Mead who was a Heritage Consultant for Wansbeck District Council, a Museum Curator, Local Historian and an Archaeologist before that.

Barry talked the time period 1736 when William Thomlinson signed 99 year lease for 50 acres of land on the Bebside bank of the River Blyth. Here he set up slitting mills, utilizing water power to work bellows, hammers etc. then known as Bebside Mill. A Locomotive Works opened on the Bebside bank of the river. The ups and downs were discussed and the pioneering work by John Birkenshaw, principal agent of the Works, took out a patent on malleable iron rail. It was first used on the wagon way linking the Ironworks to Glebe (later Barrington) Colliery. A quote from him was “Light has at length shone from the north and I pronounce it is my candid opinion the malleable iron rail road at Bedlington works is by far the best I have ever seen”. This rail material was used all over the world and many countries used the loco’s from Bedlington on their first railway networks. Bedlington rail was used in the construction of Russia’s first railway line (between Tsarskoe Selo and Pavlovsk), opened by Tsar Nicholas I on 30th October 1837.

The first loco built here was called “Michael Longridge” and was the first of about 150. The first passenger train to leave Kings Cross (1852) was hauled by a Bedlington loco. Bedlington engines, “De Snelheid” and “Bayard”, hauled the first trains in Holland and Italy respectively. Bedlington locos were delivered to various railway companies around Britain and also to Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Persia. The Prince Albert is believed to have been the last locomotive built at the Works.

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