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Descendant of York ’Railway King’ George Hudson visits city to uncover ancestor’s legacy

A descendant of the magnate who made York a vital railway hub has travelled almost 4,000 miles to visit the National Railway Museum in York to uncover the story behind her ancestor’s controversial past.

A descendant of the magnate who made York a vital railway hub has travelled almost 4,000 miles to visit the National Railway Museum in York to uncover the story behind her ancestor’s controversial past.  

Nancy (Nan) Hudson, a fifth-generation descendant of railway investor George Hudson (1800-1871), travelled to York from her home in Toronto, Canada, to meet researchers and archivists at the National Railway Museum and discover more about the Hudson family legacy.  

George Hudson was one of the most mercurial figures in railway history and was responsible for persuading George Stephenson to route the rail line from Newcastle to London through York rather than bypassing it on the way to Leeds. As a result, York became a key part of Britain’s burgeoning rail network.  

Nan Hudson explained: ‘It was a deeply moving experience to visit York and the museum. Seeing historic portraits, objects and documents of the time up close was so insightful. I had no idea for instance about the petition signed by hundreds of investors begging George to take over the Eastern Counties Railway. 

‘There has been a George in the Hudson family for five generations now, so to be able to put together a picture of the person who played such a significant part in our family, and to see the city he loved, was just wonderful.”  

Ed Bartholomew, Senior Curator at the National Railway Museum, said: ‘George Hudson was one of the most controversial figures in the history of Britain’s railways. Known as the ‘Railway King’, in the 1840s he was responsible for financing, creating and controlling a major part of the railway network - but his unscrupulous business practices led to his downfall and he died in disgrace in 1871.

 ‘Yet Hudson’s legacy lives on. He made York a vital railway hub and, ultimately, that’s one of the main reasons why the National Railway Museum is located in the city today.’ 

Nan Hudson added: ‘I’ve wanted to delve into the family legacy for a while and now I’m in my sixties, and nearing retirement, I felt it was time to make a start.’ 

Of his significance, The Times newspaper said in his obituary: ‘There was a time when not to know him was to argue one’s self unknown.’ 

Find out more about George Hudson 

There are numerous sites around the city associated with George Hudson, including the statue of George Leeman, the Liberal MP who led an investigation into Hudson’s financial dealings. You can also visit George Hudson Street, which was renamed Railway Street in 1849 during Hudson’s fall from grace but regained its original name in 1971. 

You can also view a marble bust of George at the National Railway Museum in the Warehouse area, which captured him at the height of his fame.

Ends

For more information, please contact Aberfield Communications: 0113 880 0444 or email NRM@aberfield.com 

Notes to Editors 

National Railway Museum  

  • The National Railway Museum in York has the largest collection of railway objects in the world and attracts over 700,000 visitors per year. 
  • The National Railway Museum’s collection includes over 300 locomotives and rolling stock, 628 coins and medals, 4899 pieces of railway uniform and costume, railway equipment, documents, records, artwork and railway-related photographs. 
  • The National Railway Museum houses a world-class collection of Royal trains, which includes a collection of Royal carriages, from those used by Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II. 
  • The National Railway Museum’s vast art collection comprises 11,270 posters, 2,358 prints and drawings, 1052 paintings and 1,750,000 photographs, many of which have never been on public display. 
  • The National Railway Museum forms part of the Science Museum Group, along with the Science Museum in London, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, the National Media Museum in Bradford and the National Railway Museum in Shildon 

Admission to the National Railway Museum is free. For more information about the National Railway Museum please visit our website. Follow the National Railway Museum on Twitter or find us on Facebook.