top of page


Stephenson's Works, Forth Banks

Last Updated:

25 Nov 2022


This is a


54.967325, -1.615196

Founded in 


Current status is


Designer (if known):


Much of the site has been repurposed as the Boiler Shop venue.

"Robert Stephenson's Engineering works, one of the most important 19th century industrial buildings in the world. It was designed and built by Stephenson and was working by 1837. The design was strongly influenced by greenhouse design and included many features which were innovative in an industrial building of the time. The central pitch of the roof was glass, with its supporting cast iron pillars also functioning as downpipes to take away rain water. The entire west wall was glass, supported by seven brick pillars. There was also a two storey office building, built circa 1820-40, with an unusual stone staircase, of a type commonly found in Edinburgh {1}.

The Rocket was built here. The firm also built the first locomotive (Locomotion) for the worlds first public railway - The Stockton and Darlington Line 1825. Works moved to Darlington in 1902 but returned to Newcastle in 1937 when they took over Hawthorn Leslies loco division and became Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd. Archaeological excavations in 2017 recorded the Smith's Shops or Workshops of Stephenson's Engine Works (OS map of 1862) and the High Smithy (OS map of 1896). The remains included substantial walls, column bases, brick floors, a culvert and a complicated multi-phase system of brick flues, which probably carried waste gases from ovens or furnaces to external vents. The flue system is shown on Goad's Fire Insurance Plan of 1896. Excavations by the Archaeological Practice in August 2017 recorded a locomotive turntable base (HER 17589), a brick-lined stone-capped culvert, a railway line running south-east to north-west with four rails representing part of a set of points, set on wooden sleepers, and a 10m length of railway line for a travelling crane, with iron rails and wooden sleepers. 20 South Street is the only complete building still standing from the works and is LISTED GRADE 2"

NEHL - Forth Banks - A ground zero. Stephenson’s Works was the first purpose built locomotive works in the world, dating 1823. The offices still exist, and many famous engines were built here for export across the world. There’s still a piece of track linking to Central over the road.

The vast array of locomotives built here including this example for the Viceroy of Egypt. Locomotion, Planet and Rocket were built here as well as many others for export. It truly is one of the most important sites in railway history.

Listing Description (if available)

The maps above illustrate the works at Forth Banks between the 1850s and 1890s. Though a lower resolution, the 1850s edition shows the works 30 years into its life, though the rails linking to Central Station don't appear. The site took up much of what you can see, enveloping the gas works and much of the neighbouring buildings.

The 1890s town plan provides further clarity. The track between the ending works and the station can clearly be seen, using a reverse siding to climb the gradient. Marine engines were also manufactured here for onwards use at Hebburn, as Stephenson's was eventually swallowed up by Hawthorns. They moved much of their locomotive works to Darlington.

The 1919 edition shows the works when most production had shifted to other areas of the North East. At this point, the portion of the site was operated by George & Jobling Motor Engineers, who constructed WWI aeroplanes and cars here. Hawthorns did return in 1937 for smaller engines.


The offices of the works still stand today.


A small piece of track can be seen just outside Central Station. This allowed locomotives to reach the reverse siding, to then traverse up the sharp gradient behind into the station sidings.


An illustration of South Street with the offices in the centre. Source unknown.

bottom of page