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George Hudson: The Railway King (Hardback)

A New Biography

Photographic Books Transport

By Matthew Wells
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 288
Illustrations: 20 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399057462
Published: 30th July 2024


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George Hudson was the greatest British railway entrepreneur of the 19th century. In 1848, he controlled over 1,000 miles of railway and, when it came to railway promotion, it seemed he could do no wrong. However, in early 1849 it came to light that some of his business methods had been less than ethical and he was forced to relinquish the chairmanship of each of his companies. His fall from grace was spectacular and his detractors, of whom there were many, were quick to denounce him as a fraudster, a charlatan and a crook. Even today, when the name George Hudson is mentioned, these same insults are often levelled at him.

This new biography takes a fresh look at Hudson’s extraordinary life, from his humble beginnings as a farmer’s boy, to becoming Lord Mayor of York before catching the railway bug. He was MP for Sunderland between 1845 and 1859. After his fall from grace, Hudson endured a 20-year court battle with the York and North Midland Railway (subsequently the North Eastern Railway) for outstanding debts.

Hudson made many mistakes in creating his railway empire, but did he deserve all the vitriol that still accompanies his reputation? In seeking to answer this question, Matthew Wells looks at the evidence, including what was said about Hudson during his lifetime and what Hudson himself had to say about the actions he took.

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About Matthew Wells

Matthew Wells has had a number of articles published in the family history and railway press. He has self-published a number of books, including The Trial of Joseph Dale in 2019. The same year he also edited a new version of Lydia Helen Burton’s long lost novel Bertha Darley, which was first published in 1858. Matthew first learnt about Hudson whilst at school and was instrumental in the restoration of his grave at Scrayingham church in North Yorkshire in 2019.

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