George Hudson (also known as the Railway King) was born in March 1800, the fifth son of a famer. At first he became an apprentice to a linen draper, Bell and Nicholson, in College Street and he was employed by the company in 1820. He married the owner’s daughter, Elizabeth Nicholson, in 1821.
He inherited a large sum of money in 1828 from a 30,000 pound legacy left to him from his great uncle, Matthew Bottrill. Hudson invested some of the money in the North Midland Railway and he became the chairman of the merged York and North Midland Railway in 1837. This the same year that he became the Lord Mayor of York, having entered local politics in the city in 1832, and he became the Lord Mayor on two further occasions. He also became a Deputy-Lieutenant for the county of Durham and a magistrate for the city of York.
The company which he chaired, York and North Midland Railway had a growing reputation and they employed George Stephenson as an engineer. By 1845 Hudson’s companies were running over 25% of the railways in Britain and the following year he became the MP for Sunderland, which he held until 1857.
An inquiry into Hudson’s financial affairs and bribing of MPs began in 1849 after allegations of inappropriate behaviour in rigging share prices. Hudson was arrested in 1865 and placed in York prison for three months. He received help to repay the debts which he had incurred and his friends raised money for an annual annuity for Hudson, but he died in December 1871.
Despite his fall from grace in the later years of his life, he is still noted for his contribution in developing the railways in the city. It is not clear if he actually said “make all the railways come to York” as has been suggested, but he did bring a great number, and his legacy is remembered in the city in numerous ways, including the road named after him, George Hudson Street.