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George Leeman

The Statue of George Leeman

Emerging from the railway station  and walking towards the city you can’t ignore the impressive statue of George Leeman standing outside the first arch in the city walls. Who was he?

Leeman was a successful lawyer and politician, but it was his impact on the railways that was his greatest legacy.  He played a significant part in the investigations into illegal share dealings that led to the downfall of his political opponent, George Hudson, the “Railway King” .

In 1849 he succeeded Hudson as Chairman of the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway and promoted the mergers which created the North Eastern Railway Company in 1854.  The North Eastern, with its headquarters in York, became one of the wealthiest railways in the country and he was chairman from 1874 to 1880. 

Born in York in 1809, articled to a York solicitor, Leeman established a very successful legal practice in 1835.  An Alderman of the city  for 28 years he was elected Lord Mayor on three occasions and was a Member of Parliament for York between 1865 and 1880.  In these roles he was a staunch defender of Yorks’ antiquities and pushed through the restoration of much of the city walls.

Outside York he was a prime mover in the development in the 1860’s of iron ore mining in Rosedale to supply the Teeside steel works.  At national level he was Chairman of the Railway Association of Great Britain and in 1875 at Darlington presided over the celebrations of the first fifty years of railways.

His contributions to the development of York were appropriately recognised in the statue of him carved by the York sculptor GW Milburn and paid for by public subscription.