In 1839, he set up his own works near New Cross: the Hatcham Ironworks. He also had a large house built for his family and a terrace of cottages for his workers built on the site.
In the 1840s, England created two patented inventions: a traversing screw jack and a wool weaving machine. He soon began working to build railway locomotives. The first locomotive delivered from Hatcham was a 2-2-2 to the Dundee, Perth and Aberdeen Railway in 1849. In 1851 he took part on the Great Exhibition where his patented screw jack and another 2-2-2 locomotive were shown; the locomotive won a Gold Medal. George England and Co. then produced a steady number of locomotives for customers including the Somerset and Dorset Railway, the Great Western Railway, and the London and North Western Railway.
In 1860, England met Robert Francis Fairlie, an engineer who had recently returned from India, where he had been a locomotive superintendent. Fairlie starting working at George England and Co. as a consulting engineer. He also began courting England's 17-year old daughter Eliza Anne Englan. England disapproved of this relationship and forbade the couple from seeing each other. This prompted them to elope to Spain in 1861, returning in January 1862. England then sued Fairlie for perjury, stating that Fairlie had sworn a false affidavit that George England, had consented to the marriage, which was not true. The resulting Central Criminal Court case, reported in The Times of 8 April 1862, caused much public interest. Under cross-examination by Sergeant Ballantyne (who appeared for Fairlie), England was forced to admit that he had run away with his present wife, the mother of Eliza, and that he had a wife living at that time. He had lived with this lady several years but could not marry her until his wife died. By a quirk of English law, at that time, a child born out of wedlock was considered nobody’s child. In law she was nothing to do with England and could marry whom she pleased. There was no case to answer and therefore a verdict of not guilty was returned.
Strike and retirement
In 1865, all 250 employees of the Ironworks went on strike to dispute England's harsh working practices, especially the circumstances under which an employee could be dismissed. Even though the workers were persuaded to return, the company lost several important orders, which significantly weakened the business. England was searching for business for the Hatcham Ironworks. When Fairlie approached him in 1868 with an order from the Ffestiniog Railway to build one of his patented Double Fairlie locomotives, England went into business with his son-in-law.
That year, England retired from the business, with Fairlie taking it over and renaming it the Fairlie Steam Engine and Carriage Company. After his retirement, England survived another nearly two decades until his death in 1885.
- Quine, Dan (2013). The George England locomotives of the Ffestiniog Railway. London: Flexiscale.
- William Grahame Hood (2001). George England and the Hatcham Iron works: Retracing the work of George England pioneer locomotive engineer. The Reliance Foundry.
- John Ransom (Summer 1991). Sensation in Court. No.133. Ffestiniog Railway Magazine (FR Society). pp. page 2..