Archibald Sturrock Esquire
Archibald Sturrock, a native of Dundee, became a prominent railway engineer with the Great Western Railway. A founder of the works at Swindon, he then rose to become the Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Northern Plant Works at Doncaster.
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Personal details and history
Date of birth
Place of birth
Name of spouse
Archibald John Fullerton (1846-1846): Caroline Christina Sophia (1848-1924): Gordon David (1850-1909): Georgina Ramsay (1852-1951):
Age at death:
Place of death:
57 Cadogan Place, London, England
Date of death:
Holy Trinity Churchyard, Sloane Square, London
Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers
Clubs / societies
5th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry - made Honorary Colonel on his retrial from the battalion:
Career and worklife
Railway Engineer - Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Northern Railway Company at Doncaster from 1850-1866:
Place of work
Great Northern Railway Company's Plant Works, Doncaster, England
Career to date:
It has been reported that Archibald Sturrock entered into an apprenticeship with the Dundee Foundry (owned by James Stirling), in 1832, '29 days before his 16th birthday.' This placement was to prove influential in shaping his future. While at Dundee Foundry, Archibald Sturrock was presented with an opportunity to become involved in working on a locomotive for the newly established Dundee / Newtyle railway. The main engines, the 'Earl of Airlie' and the 'Earl of Wharncliffe' had been built by the Carmichaels. A third engine was required in case of breakdown. The Directors agreed to purchase this third engine from the Dundee Foundry and the locomotive, named 'Trotter,' was delivered in March 1834. Working out of Dundee Foundry also gave Archibald Sturrock the chance to forge a friendship with Daniel Gooch, the future locomotive superintendent of the Great Western Railway. On completing his apprenticeship at Dundee Foundry in 1837, Sturrock left Scotland and worked a spell with William Fairbairn & Sons, mechanical and civil engineers in Manchester, before embarking on travel abroad. On his return, Sturrock is reported to have persuaded his former acquaintance, Daniel Gooch, to offer him a post in the locomotive department of the Great Western Railway. He became assistant locomotive superintendent with GWR and founder of its works at Swindon, before securing a position (on the recommendation of Brunel) with the Great Northern Railway, subsequently becoming locomotive engineer at Peterborough and, subsequently, locomotive superintendent at Doncaster. His tenure at Doncaster, between the years 1850-66, were much lauded.
Archibald Sturrock was born the fifth son of John Sturrock, merchant (later banker) and Christian Ramsay, in 1816. Educated in Dundee, Archibald Sturrock professed a wish to enter into an apprenticeship at Dundee Foundry. Reportedly, his father expressed his disdain at his son’s decision not to enter into a recognised profession as his brother, John, a writer in Dundee, or David, a surgeon with HEICS, or Robert, a flaxspinner at Ramsay Works; declaring – ‘you want to be a blacksmith?’
However, Archibald Sturrock’s chosen occupation was to merit him many plaudits.
In 1850 when Sturrock joined the GNR, there were 340 employees in the Locomotive Department and the locomotive mileage was 609,092. He oversaw the early development of Doncaster and witnessed the rise and progress of the great industrial works opened by the GNR Railway Co.
‘During his 16 years with the GNR, Sturrock designed over a dozen classes of both passenger and goods locomotives to meet the needs of the fast-growing railway, where the transport of coal and other minerals was as important to the profitability of the line as passenger traffic. Sturrock was accountable for around 40% of expenditure and he continually battled with the chairman and board to persuade them to purchase locomotives, wagons and carriages in time to meet the growing demands of the line.’
When he retired in 1866, the employees numbered 3,834 and the mileage was 4,873,113.
As the railway engineering plant at Doncaster grew, so too did the needs of its workforce. In 1852, to meet their spiritual and moral needs, the shareholders of the GNR were responsible for financing the establishment of St. James’ Church, Doncaster (aka the ‘Plant Church’), located a short distance from the GNR works. It was reported that:
‘The Church of St James, ‘ Doncaster, built by the Great Northern Railway Company for their work people at Doncaster, was consecrated on Friday by the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Ripon, Bishop of Lichfield. The petition of consecration, which set forth that the GNR Company had a large and extensive plant in the town at which nearly 2,000 workmen were employed who, together with their families, numbered nearly 5,000 persons for which no church accommodation existed.’
Curiously, the church of St James was built to a design (in conjunction with Lord Grimthorpe) by George Gilbert Scott, the very architect of the soon to be constructed Albert Institute in Dundee.
By 1860, a Volunteer Force was formed in Doncaster, incorporating the operatives and workmen employed at the Great Northern Works.
Archibald Sturrock, having become a prominent citizen in Doncaster enjoyed a long retirement, of 40 years duration, from industry, free to pursue the pastimes he enjoyed, hunting until he reached 73 years, shooting and fishing well into his 80s.
Sturrock’s family background was rooted in Forfarshire, his father having succeeded to the estate of Pitreuchie, about a mile out of Forfar. His siblings remained in Scotland but he, attracted by the new technology of steam and recognising that careers were to be made in railway enterprise, steered a path which took him to England and the heart of developments in railway engineering.
From innovative beginnings with the Dundee / Newtyle railway, Archibald Sturrock remained at the cutting edge of railway engineering throughout his working life.
The family circumstances and career of Archibald Sturrock have been carefully documented by one of his descendants, Tony Vernon, in the publication,
‘Archibald Sturrock: Pioneer Locomotive Engineer.’
- Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Births. (1816). 282/ 100 223. Scotlandspeople website.
- Dundee Courier. 4 February 1845. p.2. British Newspaper Archive via Findmy past website.
- Montrose, Arbroath & Brechin Review. 19 May 1854. British Newspaper Archive via Findmypast website.
- Census Records. Peterborough. (1851). Class: HO107; Piece: 1747; Folio: 358; Page: 30; GSU roll: 87702-87703. Ancestry website.
- Census Records. Doncaster. (1861). Class: RG 9; Piece: 3518; Folio: 90; Page: 21; GSU roll: 543145. Ancestry website.
- Sheffield Daily Telegraph. 4 January 1909. p.6. British Newspaper Archive via Findmypast website.
- Find A Grave Index via Ancestry website.
- Dundee Courier. 10 November 1868. p.2. British Newspaper Archive via Findmypast website.
- Dundee Courier. 6 March 1909. p.4. British Newspaper Archive via Findmypast website.
- Grace's Guide to British Industrial History website.
- Extract. Vernon, Tony. Archibald Sturrock: Pioneer Locomotive Engineer. (2007). Tempus Publishing.
- Gloucestershire Echo. 6 March 1909. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1861-62. p.214. National Library of Scotland website.
- St James Parish Records. Doncaster Archives. Ref P37. Accessed via The National Archives website.
- Sheffield Daily Telegraph. 18 October 1858. p.3. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Burnley Gazette. 9 January 1909. p.14. British Newspaper Archive website.
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