Famous people from North East England of the past and present
Surnames beginning with:
Folk singer and songwriter born South Bank, Teesside. Especially noted for his protest songs in the traditional mould of political folk singing. Garbutt has Irish roots and his noted songs include The Troubles about the political situation in Northern Ireland.
Football’s Great, Gazza
Gifted England, Newcastle United and Middlesbrough footballer known as ‘Gazza’ who was born at Dunston near Gateshead. Noted as much for his comic antics on and off the pitch and for his personal problems as for his extraordinary football skills.
Sedgefield-born actor, comedian, screenwriter and novelist. Gatiss is the writer, co-creator and producer of the TV drama ‘Sherlock’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch in which Gatiss appears in the role of Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft. Raised in School Aycliffe, where his father worked in a psychiatric hospital opposite their home, Gatiss was educated in Heighington and Newton Aycliffe. He has many TV acting credits and is a comedy actor as part of the League of Gentleman team. Screenwriter for Dr Who.
1935 – 2001
Geordie Folk Songs
Low Fell-born singer songwriter and scriptwriter. Wrote songs and music for Alan Plater’s Close the Coal House Door. Writer of alternative lyrics to Geordie folk song Dance Ti’ Thy Daddy as theme tune for TV series When the Boat Comes In.
Godric of Finchale
Pirate, Saint and Hermit
Often known as St Godric, Godric of Finchale was a former sea pirate and pedlar who became a hermit. He was born in Walpole, Norfolk and spent much of his early life at sea. He is said to have encountered a magical vision of St Cuthbert on a visit to Lindisfarne and decided to pursue the life of a hermit, residing for a time at Wolsingham in Weardale. He persuaded the Bishop of Durham, Ranulf Flambard to grant him land on the banks of the River Wear at Finchale north of Durham City. Here he would stand for long periods naked in the river with the water up to his neck and beat himself with bushes as a kind of penance. He lived to the grand age of 105 so it did not seem to do him any harm. A monastery affiliated to Durham was built at Finchale after Godric’s death.
Sunderland-born publisher, writer, historian and international brigade soldier. As a young man and Communist he fought against the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War where he was wounded. In the 1950s Graham began publishing and writing books on North East history mostly focused on Northumberland and Tyneside. His 387 titles included books on castles, and publications on Roman forts and Hadrian’s Wall brought to life with the illustrations of Robert Embleton, as well as reprints of historic books. Though his works were mostly scholarly, yet accessible, his best seller as a publisher was the light-hearted Larn Yersel’ Geordie by Scott Dobson.
Grainger Town Man
The son of a Quayside porter, Grainger was a Newcastle builder who transformed the landscape and central focus of Newcastle upon Tyne with developments that included Eldon Square, Blackett Street, Leazes Terrace, Leazes Crescent, Leazes Place, Grey Street, Grainger Street and Clayton Street. Saved from virtual bankruptcy by Newcastle Town Clerk, John Clayton, Grainger never reaped the financial rewards to match the scale of his developments and retired as a man of relatively modest means.
Inventor of the lifeboat born in Richmond, North Yorkshire and raised in South Shields. Fellow lifeboat designer William Wouldhave (1751-1821) of North Shields should also be acknowledged and should probably receive much of the credit.
The Monuments Men
Northumberland architect who worked alongside his father John Green (1787-1852). Their work includes Newcastle Theatre Royal, Grey’s Monument and Penshaw Monument.
Big Fish from a Grand County
Actor, TV presenter and extreme fisherman, born Dudley Northumberland. Acting career includes roles in Soldier Soldier, Wire in the Blood, Casualty and Grantchester as well as a TV presenter of Extreme Fishing and Tales from Northumberland which highlights the wonderful features of his home county. In the 1990s he was a Number One selling singing artist in a duo with fellow actor Jerome Flynn.
Canon William Greenwell
Noted antiquarian, archaeologist, Durham Cathedral canon and angler from Lanchester in County Durham. Though he was a highly esteemed and respected antiquarian he is perhaps best-known as the I nventor of the Greenwell’s Glory fishing fly.
Charles Grey (the Second Earl Grey)
Tea Man Prime Minster
Northumberland-born British Prime Minister and Whig party member. Remembered for Earl Grey Tea (his favourite kind of tea), for the Great Reform Act of 1832 and by the famous monument in Newcastle city centre. Grey’s Reform Bill was a major step in democracy, it gave MPs to large towns like Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds that previously had no parliamentary representation and abolished Rotten Boroughs’, such as Old Sarum in Wiltshire, where virtually no one lived and two mps were elected by the owner of a ‘green mound and a well’.
Poet, Anglo-Saxon scholar fluent in Old English, biker, one time Hell’s Angel. A writer and expert on North East dialect. Born in Middlesex, in his later years he lived in Seaham and worked at the University of Northumbria’s Centre for Northern Studies. Widely published as a poet, in the North East he is principally known for his work on the region’s dialect. Publications include: North East Dialect: Survey and Word List, A Dictionary of North East Dialect, Pitmatic : The Talk of the North East Coalfield.
Actor born Thornaby-on-Tees, the son of a Teesside steelworker. Movie appearances include Gandhi, Withnail and I, The Naked Gun Two and Half, The History Boys, Pirates of the Caribbean and as Victor Dursley in the Harry Potter films. Countless TV roles including Pie in the Sky.
59 Rounds and Lost
Yorkshire-born champion boxer, Derby winning racehorse owner, Durham coal owner, Pontefract MP and father to 24 children. Lived near Durham Cathedral in Durham City and at Cocken, County Durham. As a boxer he once went 59 rounds with Henry ‘the Game Chicken’ Pearce and lost.
Goal Guy Gurney
Footballer born Silksworth, Sunderland, Gurney is the all time highest goalscorer for his home town club with 204 goals in 348 appearances.
Steam locomotive engineer born in Wylam, Northumberland and based in Shildon in County Durham. Assisted the Stephensons with the building of Locomotion Number One (1825) and developed the Royal George locomotive (1827). Constructed the Sans Pareil locomotive for the Rainhill Trials which competed against Stephenson’s Rocket. The Sans Pareil can be seen in the National Railway Museum in Shildon.
Hadaway and Write
North Shields-born TV scriptwriter and playwright. Scriptwriter for some episodes of When the Boat Comes In. Worked extensively with Amber Films and Newcastle’s Live Theatre Company with many well-known North East actors performing his scripts. Noted for his Prison Plays edited by Val McLane.
Emperor of Rome
Born near Seville in what is now Spain but then part of the Roman Empire, Hadrian whose full name was Publius Aelius Hadrianus became Emperor of Rome in 117AD. Pons Aelius (Bridge Aelius), the Roman fort at Newcastle upon Tyne which formed part of Hadrian’s Wall’s defences commemorated Hadrian’s family name. The year 122AD is given as the date at which Hadrian’s Wall was commenced by the Romans to Hadrian”s orders in the hope of containing and delimiting the northern frontier of his Empire. The Roman wall may have already been planned before this date but it was in 122AD that Hadrian visited Britain. We cannot be certain he ever visited the frontier zone in which the famous wall that bears his name was built or that he even stepped foot within the land we now call North East England, but Hadrian has left an indelible mark on the region’s history.
Many roles to play
Gateshead-born actress who grew up in the Wrekenton and Leam Lane area. As a youngster she appeared in Byker Grove with later TV work as an adult including major roles in Coronation Street, Eastenders, Waterloo Road and Peak Practice. She was the winner of the second series of Strictly Come Dancing.
Sir John Hall
Making the MetroCentre
North Seaton, Ashington-born businessman and former Chairman Newcastle United. Principally known for building the MetroCentre shopping mall through his company Cameron Hall Developments. The son of a miner, Hall started out as a mining surveyor. When owner of Newcastle United he appointed Kevin Keegan as a manager which was a major turning point in the club’s fortunes. He is the Life President of Newcastle United FC.
Billy Elliot’s Tale
English playwright and screenwriter from Newcastle best known for the movie Billy Elliot (2000). The story was partly inspired by baritone singer Thomas Allen (see also) and the A.J Cronin novel The Stars Look Down.
Wallsend-born actress. Best-known for playing Val Pollard in the TV soap Emmerdale. Played the mother of Duncan (Declan Donnelly) in Byker Grove. Movie appearances in Purely Belter and Billy Elliot.
Footballer and manager of England, Sunderland, the Netherlands and PSV Eindhoven. Born Saltburn-by-the-Sea, he made 143 appearances for Middlesbrough as a footballer.
Sunderland-born Bantamweight and Featherweight boxing champion. Has a sports centre in Sunderland named after him. Held the European and Commonwealth featherweight titles.
Sir Henry Havelock
Hero of Lucknow
Sunderland-born Major General and son of a wealthy shipbuilder. Considered a hero for his part in the recovery of Cawnpore during the Indian Mutiny. Havelock recaptured Lucknow but died of dysentery while it came under siege. Towns in the USA, Canada and New Zealand are named after Havelock as well as dozens of streets and pubs in Britain. Today the Indian Mutiny is seen as the avoidable result of British ignorance and disrespect for Indian traditions.
Happiness and Hilarity
Much-loved Newcastle-born stand-up comedian, actor and musician. Educated St Cuthbert’s Grammar School, Newcastle and Newcastle College of Arts. A keyboard player, he performed as a musician with Lindisfarne and Goldie. TV roles included appearances in Catherine Cookson’s Black Velvet Gown, Spender and Auf Wiedersehen Pet.
Acting the Part
Actor and Comedian. Became a household name playing Dennis Patterson in Auf Wiedersehen Pet also appeared in The World Cup a Captain’s Tale about the extraordinary world cup winning achievement of amateur football side West Auckland. Actor with Newcastle’s Live Theatre. TV roles in Benidorm, Waterloo Road, Boys from the Bush.
Painter, woodcarver and illustrator born near Richmond, North Yorkshire and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Puffing Billy Billy
Railway engineer of Wylam who built the Puffing Billy locomotive. Born Newburn near Newcastle upon Tyne.
Charles Napier Hemy
Newcastle-born marine artist. Associate of The Royal Academy. His most renowned marine paintings are part of the Tate Collection.
Thomas Madawaska Hemy
Born on a ship between England and Australia. Later residing in Newcastle upon Tyne. Marine artist and younger brother of the more accomplished Charles Napier Hemy. Thomas is principally known for his 1895 painting of Sunderland v Aston Villa, the oldest painting of association football which hangs in Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
Uniting the Miners
English trade unionist, born Pelton near Chester-le-Street in County Durham. Established ‘The Colliers of the United Association of Durham and Northumberland’ trade union.
It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet
Sunderland-born writer and vet (real name Alf Wight) famous for his semi-autobiographical novels about the life of a Yorkshire vet. Although his life and story is most closely associated with Yorkshire he retained a close connection with his birthplace as a keen supporter of Sunderland football club. TV and film versions of Wight’s work include All Creatures Great and Small and It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet.
Songs and Stars
Famed German-born composer and astronomer who was a resident of Sunderland in the 1760s. Head of the Durham Militia band 1760–61.
Richard Oliver Heslop
Newcastle-born historian, writer of Geordie songs and Northumberland/Tyneside dialect expert. Joint owner of an iron merchants and engineering business in Newcastle’s Sandhill. His two volume dialect dictionary entitled Northumberland Words was published in the 1890s. It was initially serialised in the Chronicle newspaper.
The Higgs Boson Particle
Newcastle-born (Elswick) Nobel Prize Laureate theoretical physicist of ‘Higgs Boson’ particle fame. A boson is a kind of subatomic particle which can overlap – occupying the same point in space as each other. When bosons clump together they form a field (the Higgs Field). Without this field there would be no mass and no atoms. The particles are named from Higgs because he predicted their existence and they became an important aspect of theoretical physics, eventually proven by the Large Hadron Collider (particle collider) near Geneva in Switzerland in 2012-13.
Woman of Wisdom
Hild or Hilda, an influential Northumbrian saint who resided at Hartlepool and later Whitby was abbess of the monasteries at both place, being the second abbess of Hartlepool and the founding abbess of Whitby. Brought up at the court of King Edwin of Northumbria, Hild was noted for her wisdom and the Kings of Northumbria sought her advice.
Wearside Woman TV Star
Sunderland-born actress, Waterloo Road, Bread, Playing the Field, The Syndicate and Cathy Matthews in Coronation Street as well as several other TV credits and a role in the movie Brassed Off. Educated Monkwearmouth School and RADA. Although she is extremely proud of her North East roots, Hill is perhaps best-known for playing the role of Aveline in the Liverpool sit-com Bread. She was formerly married to the actor Sean Bean.
Rev John Hodgson
A Man of History
Clergyman at Heworth, antiquarian, mine safety campaigner and author of the classic history of Northumberland. Presided over the funerals of the Felling mining disaster victims in 1812. Hodgson came up with the name of the village of Wrekenton, now part of Tyneside and named from the local Roman road called the Wrekendike.
Inventor of the Eighties
Durham born and Houghton-le-Spring raised record producer, songwriter, musician and singer. He was the singer with Buggles whose video Video Killed the Radio Star was the first video shown on MTV. Horn has been called ‘The man who invented the eighties’.
1945 – 1995
Run for Home
Singer-songwriter and founder of North East rock group Lindisfarne. Born Benwell, Newcastle. Fog on the Tyne, Meet me on the Corner, Lady Eleanor and Run for Home are among the band’s classic songs.
Cardinal Basil Hume
Roman Catholic cardinal and bishop, who as Archbishop of Westminster was head of the Catholic church in England and Wales. Born Newcastle upon Tyne. A prominent statue can be seen of Hume at Newcastle’s Catholic cathedral near the Central Station.
Sir George Burton Hunter
Sunderland-born shipbuilder. Started as a shipbuilding apprentice to his Wearside cousin William Pile. After a partnership with Sunderland shipbuilder C.P Austin, Hunter moved to Tyneside forming a partnership with the widow of Wallsend shipbuilder Charles S. Swan to form the famed Swan Hunter shipbuilders.
King Ida of Bernicia
Lived 6th century AD
Founder of a Kingdom
The first king of Bernicia, the North East based kingdom that would later merge with Deira to become the Kingdom of Northumbria. Ida, a pagan, was an Angle whose people hailed from an area now on the borders of Denmark and Germany. He captured the Celtic coastal fortress of Din Guarie (Bamburgh) from the native Britons in 547AD and made it his capital. He has sometimes been referred to by historians as Ida the Flameberarer.
Monty Python Man
Comedian, actor, songwriter of Monty Python fame. He was born at Harton, South Shields to which his mother had been evacuated from the North West during the Second World War. Always Look on The Bright Side of Life.
The surnames Graham, Hall, Hedley, Hepburn, Hodgson and Hume