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Grave of George Stephenson
Holy Trinity Church, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK
associated engineer
George Stephenson
date  17th August 1848
era  Victorian  |  category  Grave of Engineer  |  reference  SK381716
The 'Father of Railways' George Stephenson is buried in Holy Trinity Church, Chesterfield, in Derbyshire, not far from his residence at Tapton House. His second wife, who predeceased him, is also buried here. Constructed a little more than a decade before Stephensonís death, the Anglican church is now a listed building and remains a place of worship.
The present Holy Trinity Church on Newbold Road was designed by Thomas Johnson (1794-1865), and replaced an earlier building. It is constructed in plain Gothic style, of gritstone with a slate roof supported on timber trusses. The four-stage west tower includes angled buttresses, an arcaded parapet, corner turrets and lancet windows, and is flanked by porches. The nave is six-bay, with gable-capped buttresses and lancet windows. The clock and bell are original, the octagonal font and the pulpit date from 1838, and at first the wide nave contained box pews and a three-sided gallery.
George Stephensonís (1781-1848) second wife Elizabeth (1777-1845) worshipped here while they were living at nearby Tapton House (SK392721). She died three years before her husband and a memorial tablet to her is fixed to the south wall of the chancel.
After her death, Stephenson suffered intermittently with pleurisy for the rest of his life. Around the end of July 1848, he succumbed to another attack. Despite being nursed by his third wife and former housekeeper, Ellen (1808-65), and receiving medical attention from Dr Condell of Baslow, he died on 12th August. He was 67.
On 17th August 1848, his funeral took place at Holy Trinity Church and he was interred in a vault at the east end of the chancel, in front of the altar. His grave is covered by a stone slab, incised G:S 1848.
In light of Stephensonís fame, and the national rail network that stemmed largely from his efforts, it may seem surprising that his resting place was a parochial church. Sir Joshua Walmsley (1794-1871), among others, thought Westminster Abbey more appropriate. However, his son Robert Stephenson (1803-59) insisted that "the funeral should be as private as possible", presumably in line with his fatherís wishes. Robertís personal tribute was his continual public reference to "my late revered Father" in acknowledging Georgeís influence on his life and career.
Georgeís most recent will, dated 4th April 1848, bequeathed to Ellen all her "paraphernalia and wearing apparel", silver plate, jewellery, pictures, linen, china, "such portions of the furniture as she may select for her absolute use" and a lump sum of £1,000. She was also to receive £800 a year if she did not remarry or try to mortgage the money ó if she did the annuity would reduce to £100. In fact, she remained single.
The will also provided legacies of £1,000 each for his nephews George Robert Stephenson (1819-1905), Robert (b.1822) and James (b.1826), with smaller sums for his widowed sister Ann Nixon (1792-1860) and his nieces. Robert inherited everything else in his fatherís considerable estate.
Probably during the 1850s, Robert paid for stained glass to replace the plain glass in the three lancets of the east window as a lasting memorial to his father. The design features the entwined initials G and S.
In 1889, Samuel Rollinson (1827-91) designed several modifications to the churchís interior, including the addition of the organ chamber and removal of the gallery. The organ dates from around 1910, and was made by Blackett & Howden of Newcastle.
In 1938, the "unsympathetic" choir vestry was constructed, with a hipped roof and rectangular windows. In September 1977, the church was Grade II listed. In 1994, its interior was re-ordered to remove the pews and close off the west end of the nave.
Research: ECPK
"George and Robert Stephenson: A Passion for Success" by Davis Ross, The History Press, Stroud, 2010
"George Stephenson: The Remarkable Life of the Founder of the Railways" by Hunter Davies, revised edition, Sutton Publishing Limited, Stroud, 2004
"George Stephenson: The Engineer & His Letters" by W.O. Skeat, The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London, 1973
"Anecdotes, Reminiscences, and Conversations, of and with the Late George Stephenson, father of railways, characteristically illustrative of his adroitness, sarcasm, benevolence and intrepidity" by Thomas Summerside, Bemrose & sons, London, 1878
reference sources   Smiles3DNB

Grave of George Stephenson