1796 – 1865
John came from a very famous family – the Dixons of Cockfield in County Durham. A key early (1830) branch line of the S&DR runs below the Fell – the Haggerleases branch line – and the later ‘High line’ linking Bishop Auckland to Barnard Castle runs over the fell itself.
John’s grandfather George Dixon is credited with trying to promote a canal scheme locally in 1767 – a scheme that never came to fruition. George’s brother Jeremiah Dixon is famous for a number of reasons – one of which is that he surveyed the famous Mason-Dixon line in America that same year. Why not visit Cockfield during the festival and find out more about all of these people?
But John himself is important to the story of the S&DR as he is regarded by many as probably second in line to George Stephenson as the world’s first civil engineer – and a brilliant surveyor. The Dixons and Backhouse families were related by marriage – both Quaker families. John started out as an S&DR clerk on Jonathan Backhouse’s recommendation, but Stephenson then made him his assistant. He worked with him on the Liverpool to Manchester project, not returning to the S&DR till 1845, when he was a consulting engineer.
John died in Darlington on 10th October 1865.
Why not join one of the walks run by the Friends and find out about the history of the Fell and the railways?
Trish Pemberton, Chair of the Friends of the S&DR