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Northern Inventions

Episode 6 of 10

Melvyn Bragg celebrates the inventions and the inventiveness of the North of England, and the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

Episode Six features George Stephenson, one of the many northern inventors who helped launch the Industrial Revolution. Melvyn Bragg believes the Industrial Revolution is the greatest Revolution the world has ever seen - and its heart lies in the North of England. In this programme he pays tribute to the men who nurtured that great revolution. The inventors and engineers - often from very humble beginnings - whose discoveries would shape the world to this day. One of the greatest was the north east's George Stephenson, whose Rocket locomotive heralded the age of the railways. The programme starts with the writer Frank Cottrell Boyce - who ( in collaboration with Danny Boyle ) put the Industrial Revolution centre stage at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony. Melvyn met him at Rainhill near Liverpool where Rocket took part in a famous trial. Of course, Stephenson wasn't the only great inventor of the period - the great machines of the cotton industry can also be claimed by the north - the genius of Samuel Crompton and his Spinning Mule is celebrated. The façade of Sheffield Town Hall is emblazoned with scenes of industry, but why wonders Melvyn are the achievements of these great men not celebrated more? Why aren't they as much a part of our national mythology as Tudor Monarchs?

Frank Cottrell Boyce
Professor Hannah Barker, University of Manchester
Professor Robert Colls, De Montfort University
Matthew Watson, Bolton Museum
Professor Richard Horrocks, University of Bolton

Producer: Faith Lawrence.

Available now

28 minutes

Professor Rob Colls and Melvyn Bragg

Professor Rob Colls and Melvyn Bragg

The first purpose built locomotive works on Forth Banks, now ‘The Boiler Shop’

Melvyn Bragg and Professor Hannah Barker

Melvyn Bragg and Professor Hannah Barker

Quarry Bank Mill, Styal

Kim Streets, Chief Executive, Museums Sheffield

Kim Streets, Chief Executive, Museums Sheffield

Sheffield Town Hall

Frank Cottrell Boyce and Melvyn Bragg

Frank Cottrell Boyce and Melvyn Bragg
Rainhill Station


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