Built in 1847 by George Hudson, known as the “Railway King”, Hudson built a complete town around the railway works for his employees, which was then known as “Hudson’s Town”. During the works’ operating period of 151 years, some 1,682 locomotives were built, along with 5,500 passenger vehicles, and in excess of 33,000 goods wagons. The railway workers of Stratford in 1862 also founded the Stratford Co-operative Society, which later became part of the flourishing London Co-operative Society.
With the coming of the Northern and Eastern Railway to Stratford and Broxbourne in 1840, the Lea Valley’s industrial revolution began slowly to move northwards up the valley, providing employment for the region. New housing estates soon followed, such as the huge Warner Estate in Walthamstow, as the valley’s population increased dramatically. From 1851 to 1911 the population of the Boroughs of Leyton and Walthamstow alone at the southern end of the valley had both each increased by 120,000.
Over the years the rivalry between railway companies has always been competitive, with each company trying to be better than the other, and in 1888 one of Stratford’s rival works, Crewe, of the London and North-Western Railway, built an 0-6-0 locomotive in twenty-five and a half-hours, which was then a British record.
Not to be outdone, the challenge was taken up by Holden, and in December 1891, the time for the construction of an 0-6-0 locomotive was reduced to nine hours and forty-seven minutes, which is still a world record today. Not only did he reduce the time of construction, but also gave the engine a coat of grey paint, and sent it straight into regular service. What’s even more remarkable is that the locomotive covered some 36,000 miles before returning for another coat of paint and a service. Following 43 years of service, and covering 1,127,750 miles, regrettably the locomotive was scrapped in 1935.
Sadly, today, nothing is left of the works built in 1847 by the railway entrepreneur George Hudson. The original station and town that he also created have all but disappeared with the construction of a modern new station.
Soon the Channel Tunnel Eurostar trains will be arriving at Stratford, marking another landmark in its great history, with the possibility of the Olympic Games coming to Stratford in 2012.
These are just some of the many achievements associated with Stratford and its works which played a pivotal role in the development of the Lea Valley.