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British Industrial History

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Matthew Kirtley

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1857. Railway engine 648 for the Midland Railway.
1863. Railway engine for the Midland Railway.

Matthew Kirtley (1813-1873)

1813 Born at Clough Dene, Tanfield, County Durham, the son of Henry Kirtley, an Overman, and his wife Margaret - see image of baptismal record. Note: The overman is a deputy to the viewer and involved more directly with the daily work of the pit. When a colliery has a number of pits under a viewer, there is an overman to each pit and he has responsibilities for daily and hands-on tasks, such as inspecting the pit's safety each day and recording the work performed for piece work systems. An overman would be an experienced miner who has been promoted on the basis of experience.[1]

Apprenticed under George Stephenson and Robert Stephenson and also trained under Timothy Hackworth

  • First Locomotive Superintendent of the Midland Railway
  • Initiated use of the brick-arch and deflector plate in fire-boxes enabling the burning of coal rather than the more expensive coke.
  • Enlargement of Derby Works
  • Provision of 2-2-2 and 2-4-0 classes for passenger work and the 0-6-0 class for freight.

1874 Obituary [2]

MATTHEW KIRTLEY was born on 6th February 1813 at Tanfield near Newcastle-on-Tyne, and up to the age of about thirteen was engaged under his father, who was a viewer in one of the collieries there.

He then obtained employment under Mr. George Stephenson on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, both in the shops and on the engines; after which he was for a short time on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

He was next engaged under Mr. Robert Stephenson at the London end of the London and Birmingham Railway, and was stationed at Watford, and drove the first locomotive which entered London.

About 1837 he was appointed to the position of locomotive foreman of the running shed at Hampton; and in 1839, on the opening of the Birmingham and Derby Railway, he was selected as the Locomotive Superintendent; on the amalgamation of this line with the North Midland and Midland Counties in 1844, he became Locomotive Superintendent of the new Midland Railway thus formed.

The engine-building and repairing shops at Derby and at the other principal stations on the Midland Railway were planned and their erection superintended by him; and the whole of the engines and rolling stock were built from his plans and under his direction.

He was one of the original Members of the Institution at its formation in 1847, and was also for several years a member of the Council.

He died on 24th May 1873, in the sixty-first year of his age, after suffering from illness for about a year.

Note: 'His father Henry Kirtley was neither a colliery owner or Viewer. He was a humble pitman promoted to the position of Overman before Matthew was born'[3]

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