A MAN WHO was expelled from school and his village before becoming an exiled bankrupt does not sound like an ideal role model for school pupils.
But the fascinating life of the Railway King George Hudson has particular significance for students at Queen Mary’s School, near Thirsk.
The independent school’s base in the Grade I listed Palladian country house at Baldersby Park was once the favourite home of the 19th century entrepreneur.
Hudson is famous for helping to create Britain’s modern railway network.
In doing so he became one of the country’s richest men of his time before losing it all.
His former home Baldersby Park is featured in the current BBC TV series, Railways: The Making of a Nation.
Presenter Liz McIvor is filmed being shown round the school by Hudson’s biographer and local historian Robert Beaumont. The writer has now shared his experiences of working with the film crew in a talk to pupils, parents and staff, bringing to life the Railway King’s career and the relevance of the school.
Mr Beaumont said: “Baldersby Park was George Hudson’s much loved home; it was his favourite.
“He lived there for almost 10 years between 1845 and 1854 and although he owned other properties, he loved it the most and took refuge there when his career collapsed.
“It broke his heart when everything went wrong for him and he had to sell it in 1854.”
Hudson was a farmer’s son from Howsham, near York, and as a 15-year-old was expelled from school.
Despite this, he rose to fame as the railways caught the nation’s interest and he became the richest man of his time.
Now his story is being heard by pupils who go to school in rooms which were once Hudson’s favourite home. Carole Cameron, the headteacher of Queen Mary’s, said: “George Hudson is a major character in our industrial history and is incredibly interesting on many levels, particularly his links with Baldersby Park.
“His life shows how you can overcome humble beginnings, that Yorkshire grit and focus can achieve great things, but that honesty and integrity really matter.”
“On a personal level, he was very much a family man, with three sons and a daughter, and the value of a strong family community is something which underpins the ethos of Queen Mary’s today.”
Hudson moved in the highest circles of society and even counted the likes of Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington amongst his friends.
However, his career later collapsed, he was branded a fraudster and fled to France. Hudson’s life is captured in Mr Beaumont’s book – The Railway King: A Biography of George Hudson which is published by Hodder Headline. Baldersby Park House was built in the early 18th century by Sir William Robinson to the designs of Colen Campbell.
It was the first villa built in England in the Palladian style. In 1845 Lord de Grey sold Newby Park to the railway magnate Hudson who rebuilt the house as Baldersby Park, providing it with a northern front in a Jacobethan style, while retaining its Georgian south front.
During the war Baldersby Park was used by the Royal Canadian Air Force. During this time a boisterous aircrew were said to have lit a bonfire in the entrance destroying a large section of timber panelling.
It has also been the home of another school. Skellfield School, founded at Ripon in 1877 and which moved to Baldersby Park at Topcliffe, near Thirsk, in the 1920s.