Photo credit: Darlington Borough Art Collection
There are sufficient clues in this picture to identify the young man. The building on the right is the cottage at Wylam, County Durham, which was the birthplace of George Stephenson in 1781. To the left of the scene is the Brusselton Incline, which also has connections with the Stephenson family, and was eventually assimilated into the Stockton and Darlington Railway after it opened in 1825. So it is not surprising to find this portrait of a young George Stephenson at Darlington.
The Collection has commented: ‘'The work was catalogued by Darlington Borough Council in 1988 as ‘Portrait thought to be of Robert Stephenson’, and is listed as this in our records however these do not confirm the subject’s identity. If a public discussion is likely to provide evidence of the subject’s identify we would happy for one to take place.’
The Brusselton Incline was built between 1820-1825, so this picture cannot be earlier than that date, by which time George Stephenson was in his late 30s or early 40s, and if the young man is supposed to be George, his clothes look rather "Victorian" for 1825 - perhaps one of the costume experts might like to comment. Robert Stephenson seems more likely.