Famous people from North East England of the past and present
Surnames beginning with:
Father of Teesside Chemicals
Known as the ‘Father of the Teesside Chemical Industry’, Sadler was a London-trained chemist and member of a notable Worcestershire family. In 1869 he set up the Sadler and Company chemical works on Cargo Fleet Road near Middlesbrough, close to an alkali works established by William James in 1860. Sadler’s works were involved in the process of distilling tar and manufacturing synthetic aniline and alzarine dyes. Sadler was the Mayor of Middlesbrough on three occasions and served as the town’s Conservative MP.
William Bell Scott
Edinburgh-born painter with strong links to the region. Master of the School of Art in Newcastle he rose to prominence for his Pre-Raphaelite work and was one of the first artists to paint industrial scenes in this style. His painting Iron and Coal (1855-1860) depicts a dramatic Tyneside industrial scene that includes life-size portraits of workers in the setting. It is the final painting of a series of eight large pictures at Northumberland’s Wallington Hall depicting the history of North East England starting with the building of Hadrian’s Wall.
John Scott, 1st Lord Eldon
Eldon the Eloper
Born in the Sandgate area of Newcastle’s quayside, Scott’s father was a member of the coal fitter’s guild. Young Scott studied at Newcastle Grammar School and Oxford University, initially hoping to pursue a church career but later opted for law. He is best-known for eloping to Scotland as a young man, to marry his lover, Bessie Surtees. She was the daughter of the wealthy Newcastle banker Aubone Surtees who lived in Sandhill in a house known today as Bessie Surtees House. Aubone objected to their marriage so with the assistance of a friend, Scott climbed a ladder to Bessie’s window and carried her off to Scotland for marriage. The Scott family’s business and political career progressed with some help from the notorious Andrew Stoney Bowes of Gibside (See Mary Eleanor Bowes). Scott entered parliament in 1782, representing a seat in Hertfordshire and entered the House of Lords in 1799 being appointed Lord Chancellor in 1801. His title, Lord Eldon, was from Eldon near Bishop Auckland. Eldon Square in Newcastle upon Tyne is named in honour of John Scott. Scott’s elder brother William Scott, Lord Stowell (1745-1836) was a noted judge of the time. Born in Heworth near Gateshead he was educated, like his younger brother, at the Royal Grammar School and at Oxford University. Stowell is recalled in the name of Newcastle’s Stowell Street.
Sir Ridley Scott
Mega Movie Maker
South Shields-born film director whose memorable movies include Blade Runner, Gladiator, Thelma and Louise, Blackhawk Down and Alien. On a smaller scale he is also remembered for directing the 1973 Hovis bread commercial with its nostalgic feel of cloth-caps and northern English street scene (though actually filmed in picturesque Shaftesbury in Dorset). Although he was born in South Shields, Scott had a much-travelled young life as the son of an army colonel in the Royal Engineers and was mostly raised at Hartburn in Stockton-on-Tees with an education at Hartlepool College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. Famously, Scott was inspired to create the futuristic city skyline in the opening scene of the movie Blade Runner by the chemical works of Wilton on Teesside and there is a striking resemblance.
Movie Director and Producer
Born in Tynemouth, Scott was the younger brother of fellow director Ridley Scott. Schooled in Stockton-on-Tees he furthered his education at Hartlepool College of Art, Sunderland Art School and the Royal College of Art. As a director Scott’s movies have included Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Enemy of the State, True Romance and Unstoppable.
Mr Newcastle United
Newcastle United footballer born Kelloe, County Durham. Seymour scored 73 goals for Newcastle in 242 appearances. Later he became the Newcastle United manager taking them to two successive FA Cup final victories in 1951 and 1952. Later, he was a director of the club before eventually becoming the club chairman.
Silver Buckles on His Knee
Durham MP who lived at Whitworth Hall near Spennymoor. He is immortalised in the song Bonny Bobby Shafto which was used as an election ditty. It is believed that Mary Bellasis of nearby Brancepeth Castle was the one who lamented Shafto’s departure to sea and vainly hoped he would return to marry her. The Shaftos were a family of Northumberland origin who took their name from Shaftoe Crags near Morpeth.
Alan Shearer CBE
Newcastle Football Legend
Newcastle-born footballer, sports presenter and England international. Born and educated in Gosforth, Shearer is the son of a sheet metal worker. As a lad he played for Wallsend Boys Club whose greats have also included Peter Beardsley and Steve Bruce. His professional career started at Southampton and then took him onto Blackburn Rovers where he was part of the team that won the Premier League in 1994-95 when he was the league’s top scorer. Shearer joined Newcastle United in 1996 and they became Premier League runners up. He is the all-time highest scorer for Newcastle United just ahead of Jackie Milburn with 206 goals in 404 appearances for the Magpies. As an international he scored 30 goals for England in 63 appearances.
Renowned furniture designer of the Georgian era born in Stockton-on-Tees. In Stockton he was apprenticed to a cabinet maker before setting up on his own. He moved to London in 1790 where he taught cabinet design and architecture and in the following year published the four volume work The Cabinet Maker’s and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book. Sheraton’s work was widely adopted by the furniture artisans of the era and furniture described as ‘Sheraton’ is in fact furniture of the period built to the design and style of his instruction rather than furniture personally built by him. The family name of Sheraton is thought to ultimately derive from the village of Sheraton to the north of Stockton-on-Tees.
Auld Lang Syne?
Swalwell-born composer, the principal violinist at the opera house in Covent Garden, London and ‘Master of the Kings Musick’. As a young man Shield was an apprentice shipbuilder and studied music alongside fellow Tyneside composer Charles Avison (see also). It has often been claimed that Robbie Burns took the tune for Auld Lang Syne from part of William Shield’s opera Rosina, however it is thought that both Burns and Shield borrowed the tune from an old folk song of which Shield’s excerpt is the first known published version.
John Simpson Kirkpatrick
Oz and Kiwi Hero
South Shields-born First World War hero for Australia and New Zealand who worked with donkeys as a young lad on South Shields’ beach. After deserting from the British navy at Newcastle in New South Wales he settled in Australia taking his mother’s maiden name of Simpson. Later, he joined the Anzac forces and took part in the Gallipoli peninsula campaign in 1915, losing his life to Turkish sniper fire. His heroic efforts as an army stretcher-bearer on the battlefield there are well-known in Australia and New Zealand. He carried around 300 wounded men to safety from the constant fire of the dangerous battlefield with the assistance of a donkey that he found close by.
Wayne Sleep OBE
A choreographer, director, actor and dancer with the Royal Ballet and other dance companies, Sleep is one of Britain’s most successful and best-known dancers despite being only 5 ft 2 inches in height at his peak. Though born in Plymouth, his family moved to Hartlepool (The ‘Old Hartlepool’ Headland) when he was around two or three years old and he would grow up there for the next ten years. He was a choir boy at Hartlepool’s historic medieval church of St Hilda (founded by the De Bruce family). He began taking dance lessons while living in Hartlepool and his career progressed from there. He joined the Royal Ballet School in 1961 and became a member of the Royal Ballet in 1966. In addition to his talent for dancing, Sleep has appeared as a celebrity in numerous TV programmes throughout his career.
T. Dan Smith
Wallsend-born politician and businessman whose full name was Thomas Daniel Smith. Nicknamed ‘Mr Newcastle’ he usually went by the name T. Dan Smith. The son of a Communist Durham miner Smith became leader of Newcastle City Council in 1959 and in the sixties embarked on a modernisation and regeneration scheme for the city with a plan to make Newcastle the ‘Brasilia of the North’. He became implicated in a cash for contracts bribery scandal involving the architect John Poulson and was sentenced to prison in 1974. Smith was the inspiration for the character Austin Donohue, played by Alun Armstrong in the TV version of Our Friends in the North.
The Andy Capp Man
Real name Reginald Smyth, the Hartlepool-born cartoonist who created Andy Capp. The Andy Capp cartoon strip appeared in The Daily Mirror newspaper from 1957 and portrayed cloth-capped Andy, a lazy working class northern man and his long-suffering wife, Flo. So well-known is Smythe’s creation that Andy Capp has often been used as a term to personify the working class culture of Northern England. At one time it was not unusual to hear about the North’s attempts to throw off its ‘Andy Capp image’ yet the cartoon strip appeared in hundreds of newspapers across the world demonstrating its universal themes. In 1982, an Andy Capp musical was produced with music by Tyneside songwriter Alan Price, with Tom Courtenay in the starring role.
Marathon champion, Olympic medallist and healthy eating campaigner born in Bishop Auckland and raised in Ferryhill. The biggest year of his career was 1984 when he won both the Houston and London marathons and claimed the marathon bronze in the Los Angeles Olympics. He is the only runner from Britain to have won an Olympic marathon medal for more than half a century and is one of only six British athletes to have won the London Marathon since its inception in 1981.
English revolutionary and social theorist born into poverty in Newcastle upon Tyne. He campaigned for common ownership of land, set out in his 1775 pamphlet ‘Property in Land Every One’s Right’. Spence wanted to abolish landlords and aristocracy, introduce universal suffrage along with ‘democratic parishes’ and rights for children. He also proposed a simplified phonetic system of English. The threatened enclosure of Newcastle Town Moor in 1771 and the witnessing of a farmer who carved himself a home free of landlords in the cliffs of Marsden near South Shields are among events that seem to have driven Spence and his radical ideas. Moving to London in 1787 he spent periods of time in prison for libel and high treason. He died in poverty.
Bishop William St Carileph
The first Prince Bishop of Durham and the builder of Durham Cathedral. William St Carileph (or St Calais) was a Frenchman appointed Bishop of Durham in 1081. He went into exile in Normandy in 1087 following his part in a rebellion against King William Rufus. Here he learned about new architectural developments. Pardoned, he returned to England in 1091 and was given the powers of a ‘Prince Bishop’. His predecessor Bishop Walcher, who was murdered at Gateshead in 1080, had held similar political powers as Earl of Northumbria in addition to being Bishop of Durham. St Carileph’s political powers were, however confined to Durham though he continued to be bishop for the whole region up to the Tweed. In 1093 Bishop Carileph commenced the building of Durham Cathedral, replacing the earlier Anglo-Saxon minster that had housed the remains of St Cuthbert.
Newsman died on the Titanic
William Thomas Stead, better known as W.T Stead was a newspaper editor and spiritualist born in Embleton, Northumberland, the son of a Congregational minister. Stead’s family moved to Tyneside shortly after his birth. As a young man working as a merchant’s clerk on the Newcastle quayside he began sending articles to the Darlington newspaper The Northern Echo eventually progressing to become the newspaper’s editor at the age of only 22. In 1880 he headed to London to become Assistant Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and then became its editor in 1883. A friend of the feminist Josephine Butler, Stead was noted for campaigns such as petitioning to raise the age of consent from 13 to 16 and for his shocking yet pioneering investigative journalism that exposed the horror of child prostitution. Stead drowned on board the Titanic travelling to a peace congress in the United States.
Born Robert Jeffrey Stelling in Hartlepool, Stelling is a sports television presenter for Sky Sports, a former sports news reader for TV AM and Eurosport and a former presenter for Channel 4’s Countdown. Educated at West Hartlepool Grammar School, Stelling worked as a journalist for local newspaper The Hartlepool Mail after leaving school and then as a Middlesbrough FC reporter on Radio Tees before moving to BBC Radio 2 in the 1980s. Noted for his exciting and passionate enthusiasm for football, Jeff has been named sports broadcaster of the year on a number of occasions by fellow sports journalists. He is the President of Hartlepool United Football Club.
Father of the Railways
World famous engineer known as the ‘Father of the Railways’ born Wylam on Tyne, Northumberland. Stephenson’s father worked on a pumping engine at Wylam Colliery and at the age of 17 George took on a similar role at Newburn Colliery using his earnings to pay for his education. In 1804 George moved to Westmoor near Killingworth (now North Tyneside) and in 1811 became the engine wright for Killingworth Colliery. In 1815 he independently developed a miners’ safety lamp ‘the Geordie Lamp’ that was successfully tested at Killingworth. Humphry Davy who developed a similar lamp at the same time found it hard to accept that the humble Stephenson could have mastered such a thing. Stephenson built his first locomotive Blücher at Killingworth in 1814 and adopted a 4 feet, 8 and half inch railway gauge that would become the standard railway gauge throughout much of the world. In the 1820s he was employed to build the 8 mile long Hetton Colliery Railway at Hetton-le-Hole utilising inclines and locomotives specially built by him. Hetton was the first ever railway purposely built for operation without animals. In 1825 the Quaker businessman Edward Pease employed Stephenson to build the 25 mile long Stockton and Darlington Railway along with its first locomotive, Locomotion Number One. Stephenson then rose to further prominence when employed to undertake the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
Civil Engineering Great
Tyneside railway and civil engineer. Born at Willington Quay and raised in Killingworth, he was the only son of George Stephenson. Robert Stephenson was apprenticed to the Killingworth Colliery Viewer and Manager Nicholas Wood before joining his father in the surveying of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in the 1820s. A locomotive building works was set up called Robert Stephenson & Co at Forth Banks in Newcastle upon Tyne and here stationary engines and the Locomotion Number One were built under Stephenson’s guidance. Three years followed working on the development of mines in Colombia followed by an exploration of the United States. Robert returned to assist his father with the surveying of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway late in 1827. The businessmen behind the railway had yet to decide whether to opt for stationary hauling engines or locomotives, but the success of Robert Stephenson’s Newcastle-built Rocket at the Rainhill locomotive trials in 1829 helped in the decision. In addition to building locomotives Stephenson was a noted civil engineer, building the Britannia Bridge across the Menai Straits in Wales and in the North East he constructed Newcastle’s High Level Bridge and the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick on Tweed. From the 1830s Stephenson headed the construction of the London and Birmingham Railway and moved to London. He was the MP for Whitby from 1847 up until his death in 1859 which occurred only a few days after that of fellow civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Stephenson is buried in Westminster Abbey.
Charles William Vane Stewart
The third Marquess of Londonderry. A powerful aristocratic County Durham coal owner with many coal mines in eastern Durham and Wearside to his name. His equestrian statue can be seen in the market place in Durham City. Londonderry was the founder of the town of Seaham Harbour, built for the shipment of coal which he claimed would put the port of Sunderland out of business. Uncompromising in his attitudes to workers’ rights Londonderry was very much disliked by many of the miners who worked for him.
Dave A. Stewart
Sunderland-born musician, songwriter and record producer best-known for being one half of the duo Eurythmics. Born in Sunderland, where he was a pupil at Bede Grammar School, Stewart had a passion for music from a very young age and secured a record contract on Elton John’s label while still a teenager as part of a band called Longdancer. Moving to London in the late 1970s Stewart met up with Annie Lennox, a singer from Aberdeen and they formed a band called The Catch that subsequently became The Tourists along with Sunderland musician Peet Coombes. The Tourists had a hit with a cover of the Dusty Springfield song I Only Want to Be With You but disbanded in 1980. In that same year Stewart and Lennox teamed up again to form Eurythmics which became one of the most successful recording acts of the 80s. Stewart co-wrote the songs with Lennox who was the vocalist on their many hits which included Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Love is a Stranger, Who’s That Girl, Sex Crime (Nineteen Eighty Four), There Must be an Angel (Playing with my Heart), It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back), Right By Your Side, The Miracle of Love and When Tomorrow Comes. During this period Stewart also became a respected music producer working with a number of top music artists.
Born Gordon Sumner in Wallsend. Internationally renowned singer, actor and songwriter. The son of a milkman and hairdresser Sumner grew up close to the Wallsend shipyards and was schooled at St Cuthbert’s Grammar School in Newcastle. He helped his father on his milk round and worked for a time as a bus conductor and later trained as a teacher at what is now Northumbria University before becoming a teacher at Cramlington in Northumberland for a couple of years. He had a passion for music from a young age and played in a band as a jazz musician in Newcastle, often wearing a black and yellow sweater which earned him his nickname. After moving to London in 1977 he met up with American musician Stewart Copeland and formed The Police along with Andy Summers who joined the band later that year. With their reggae, punk and jazz influences and Sting as their lead singer they would grow into one of the most successful bands of the 1970s and 1980s with hits like Can’t Stand Losing You, Roxanne, Message in a Bottle and So Lonely. From 1984 Sting has embarked on an equally successful solo career as a singer and songwriter with hits including Englishman in New York, If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, It’s Probably Me and Shape of My Heart. As a solo artist and with The Police he has sold over 100 million records. In addition he has appeared in several movies as an actor with his first movie appearance being as the Ace Face, King of the Mods in the 1979 movie Quadrophenia.
Cup-Winning Football Legend
Cup-winning footballer with Newcastle United and cup-winning manager of Sunderland in 1973. The son of a miner, born at Mickley, near Prudhoe in Northumberland, he played for only two clubs with 261 appearances for Newcastle United over 13 years. Playing alongside greats like Jackie Milburn, Stokoe was in the team for the 1955 FA cup final team in their victory over Manchester City. After leaving Newcastle, Stokoe made 82 appearances for Bury before going into football management, managing six different clubs between 1961 and 1987 including three spells at Carlisle and two each at Bury and Blackpool with whom he won the Anglo-Italian cup in 1971. His managerial highlight came in 1973 when his second division Sunderland side defeated the then mighty Leeds United of the First Division 1-0 with a goal from Ian Porterfield. The memorable finale to the match came after the final whistle with Stokoe running across the pitch open-armed in hat and overcoat to congratulate double-saving hero goalkeeper, Jimmy Montgomery.
Dr Mirriam Stoppard OBE
Newcastle-born TV doctor, presenter and newspaper columnist. Born Mirriam Stern, to a Jewish family in Newcastle she was educated at the city’s Central High School and worked as a nurse at Newcastle General Hospital. She then trained as a doctor at Durham University’s King’s College campus in Newcastle (now Newcastle University). A familiar face on TV in the 1980s noted for giving health advice and advice for new mothers with babies.
Antiquarian and author of the classic history of County Durham Surtees was born in Durham and educated at Kepier School near Houghton-le-Spring and resided at Mainsforth near Sedgefield. Surtees’ History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham was published in four volumes between 1816 and 1840 (the last volume posthumously). At that time the county stretched from Gateshead, South Shields and Sunderland to Hartlepool and Stockton so this was a major undertaking. Surtees’ work was not completed before his death as Teesdale and Weardale were not covered in the volumes.
Sir Joseph Wilson Swan
Inventor of Electric Light Bulb
Sunderland-born inventor of the electric light bulb and a major pioneer in the field of photography. Born at Pallion Hall in Sunderland, Swan had a keen interest in science and became a partner in a chemists in Newcastle. He invented the first light bulb known as the incandescent electric lamp which he demonstrated at the Newcastle Chemical Society in December 1878 and then at Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society in February 1879. This occurred prior to a patent by the American inventor, Thomas Edison of a similar invention. The two men independently patented their work at around the same time and a business was formed called Ediswan for the manufacture of the electric light bulbs. Between 1869 and 1883 Swan lived in a house called Underhill (now a care home) at Kells Lane in Low Fell, Gateshead. When Swan resided there it became the first house in the world to be wired for electric lighting and the event is still commemorated by a plaque. In addition to his developments of electric light, Swan was also a major pioneer of practical photographic processes that enabled photography to become a popular pastime.
First Man to Walk to Both Poles
Explorer, renewable energy champion who was born and brought up in Teesdale near Barnard Castle and educated at Aysgarth School and Sedbergh School in Yorkshire and at St Chad’s College, Durham University. He is the first man to walk to both the South Pole and the North Pole. The expedition to the South Pole, followed in the footsteps of Captain Scott with Swan and his team walking 900 miles to the pole arriving in January 1986. The last 70 days of the trek were without radio communications or back up. In 1987 Swan assembled a team for an expedition to the North Pole, when the team reached the North Pole in May 1989 Swan became the first man to have walked to both the poles.
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Poet, playwright and novelist from a noted Northumbrian family, Swinburne was born in London but was passionate about his home county and maintained strong ties with the region. He often stayed at the family home in Capheaton, Northumberland and was friends with the Trevelyan family of Wallington and the Northumbrian painter, William Bell Scott. Notoriously, Swinburne was known for his sexual deviance and interest in sado-masochism and many rumours surrounded him which he seemed happy to sustain.
Symeon of Durham
died after 1129
Symeon of Durham was a chronicler, monk and historian who is a rich source for the history of the North East in the early Norman period. As a young man he had been a monk at the newly re-founded monasteries of Jarrow and Wearmouth and became a monk and eventually Preceptor of Durham Priory. He was an associate of the powerful bishops William of St Carileph and Ranulf Flambard. Symeon traces the continuity of the Community of St Cuthbert at Durham through the Viking and more recent Norman period often recalling posthumous miracles associated with the saint.
The surnames Scott, Shafto(e) and Stokoe