Famous people from North East England
Surnames beginning with:
Durham’s Boro Hero
Footballer, born Framwellgate Moor, Camsell was a miner who played for Esh Winning, Tow Law Town and his home town of Durham City before signing for Middlesbrough in 1925. He is the club record scorer for ‘Boro’ with 325 goals in 419 appearances.
See also football and footballers
Middlesbrough-born TV and radio actress. Carling’s TV roles have included parts in the late 80s and early 90s series Boon with Neil Morrissey and Michael Elphick and the role of Phoebe for three series of the 1990s time travel comedy Goodnight Sweetheart alongside Nicholas Lyndhurst. She played Wendy in Jimmy Nail’s Crocodile Shoes II in 1996 and was a regular in the BBC hospital drama Casualty during the noughties. A notable film role for Carling was as Barbara Clough, wife of Brian Clough (played by Michael Sheen) in the 2009 film The Damned United.
Worms, Words and Wonderland
Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who was born in Daresbury, Cheshire but raised at Croft-on-Tees near Darlington where his father was the rector. He has strong family links to Sunderland and South Tyneside as well as the Darlington area and is best known as the author of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. The Jabberwocky wyvern-monster of his famous nonsense poem was inspired by the ‘worm’ legends of Croft and Wearside, while the Walrus and the Carpenter is thought to have been inspired by one of Dodgson’s visits to his relations in the Sunderland area. Dodgson was a close friend of the Liddell family of Oxford who also had strong connections to the region. Alice Liddell (1852-1934), the young daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford was befriended by Dodgson and provided the inspiration for the Alice stories which are both set on her birthday and dedicated to her. Alice’s grandfather was Henry Liddell, Rector of Easington in County Durham who was the brother of the powerful County Durham coal owner Thomas Liddell of Ravensworth near Gateshead.
Wearside Cup Hero
Horatio ‘Raich’ Carter, Sunderland-born footballer. He was Sunderland AFC’s club captain and a prolific goal scorer for his home-town club. Captain of the 1937 cup-winning team, he scored 118 goals in 245 appearances for Sunderland.
See also football and footballers
circa 43AD – circa 69AD
The First Named Northerner
Cartimandua was the Queen of the Brigantes, an ancient British tribe that dominated most of what is now Northern England at the time of the Roman Conquest. She has the distinction of being the first individual from our region to be mentioned in history. Her rule was centred on a great fortress at Stanwick which is about two miles south of the River Tees half way between Barnard Castle and Darlington. The Roman army under Claudius invaded Britain in 43AD and made peace with Cartimandua who agreed to recognise Roman rule. A British chieftain called Caractacus from southern Britain rebelled and headed north but Cartimandua betrayed him and the Romans took him prisoner. Civil war ensued amongst the Brigantes exasperated by Cartimandua’s divorce of her husband Venutius, who was a consort not a king. Cartimandua now favoured a new lover, Velloctacus, who had been Venutius’ armour bearer. Venutius rebelled in 56 AD but was crushed by the Romans. He rose again in 69AD, forcing the Romans to rescue Cartimandua but her subsequent fate is unknown. The Romans finally crushed the Brigantes in battle in 71 AD and began their subjugation of the north.
Darlingtonian to Evertonian
Born in Darlington, Catterick was one of the most successful managers of Everton Football Club, winning two league titles and an FA Cup for the Merseyside club.
Raised in Guisborough near Middlesbrough, Champion is a jump jockey who won the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti. The film Champions about his battle with cancer prior to his great win was based on his book.
Manager of Slade and Hendrix
Musician, born Heaton, Newcastle. Bass player in The Animals. Record producer and manager of Slade and Jimi Hendrix.
Saviour of the Spanish Ibex
Sunderland-born naturalist. Like many Victorian naturalists his interest in conservation developed from an interest in hunting and collecting. Chapman saved the Spanish Ibex – a distinct and unusual wild goat – from extinction and established the Sabi Game Reserve (now part of the Kruger National Park) in South Africa.
Sid Chaplin OBE
Writer of novels, TV screenplays and poetry. Born in Bolckow Street in Shildon, County Durham, Chaplin’s works are set in the North East. He was one of the scriptwriters for TV’s When the Boat Comes In. Novels include The Day of the Sardine. Alan Plater’s Close the Coalhouse Door was based on Chaplin’s stories.
Sir Bobby Charlton CBE
World Cup Hero
Ashington-born footballer and member of 1966 England World cup winning team. Long-term career association with Manchester United. Younger brother of Jack Charlton.
Jack Charlton OBE
World Cup Hero
Ashington-born footballer with Leeds United and England, football manager and broadcaster. Member of 1966 England World cup winning team. Managed Middlesbrough, Newcastle United and the Republic of Ireland national team.
See also the Charlton surname
Born Cheryl Tweedy in Newcastle upon Tyne and later through marriage called Cherly Cole and then Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, she is now simply referred to as ‘Cheryl’. A household name as a successful singer, dancer and TV personality, Cheryl was raised in Newcastle and rose to fame as part of the pop group Girls Aloud. A recent appearance in 2016 on the family roots TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? demonstrated her family’s Tyneside seafaring roots on her father’s side and Durham mining roots on her mother’s side of the family.
See also the Tweedy surname
Dr William Reid Clanny
Safety Lamp Inventor
Sunderland-based Irish physician and inventor who developed the Clanny safety lamp in 1812 in response to the tragedy of the Felling mining disaster of that year. George Stephenson who also developed a safety lamp acknowledged Clanny’s work and Humphy Davy invented a safety lamp a short time after his visit to Sunderland in 1815.
Architect and TV presenter, born in Sunderland and raised in nearby Washington. Presenter The Restoration Man and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.
Tyneside Rowing Hero
Dunston-born professional rower and boat builder. The biggest sporting hero of nineteenth century Tyneside. Began life as a pitman at Jarrow, aged 15, then changed career, became a boat-builder, a pioneering boat designer and oarsman. Harry won the Thames Regatta in 1845 in the coxed fours with his three brothers (one as cox) and his uncle, Ned Hawks. Their boat, The Lord Ravensworth had been built by Harry. In 1862 a testimonial concert was held at Balmbra’s Music Hall in Newcastle to celebrate Harry Clasper at which songwriter Geordie Ridley made the first public performance of The Blaydon Races especially written for the day. On Harry Clasper’s death in 1870, a staggering 130,000 crammed onto the riverside and Tyne bridges to watch as his coffin was carried on board a steam tug to Derwenthaugh. He is buried at St Mary’s, Whickham where a memorial stands. In 2015 a stage production called Hadaway Harry about Clasper’s life by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood went on tour.
See also the Clasper surname
Antiquarian Town Clerk
Very wealthy and powerful Newcastle town clerk and backer of Newcastle town developer Richard Grainger without whom the Grainger town plans would not have seen fruition. Also a famed and knowledgeable antiquarian who did much to preserve and protect the best sections of Hadrian’s Wall. He was the most significant conservationist in the protection of the Roman wall. Two of Clayton’s uncles on his mother Dorothy’s side were Jamaican plantation owners and his father, Nathan Clayton, also a town clerk and solicitor had been a mortgagee of two of the Jamaican estates. John Clayton inherited part of the family fortune and family home ‘The Chesters’ in the Tyne Valley from his elder brother, Nathan Clayton the Younger.
See also the Clayton surname
‘Vera Stanhope’ creator
Author born in Herefordshire and raised in Devon, Cleeves resides in Whitley Bay and is noted as the creator of the fictional detective Vera Stanhope, in the novels set in Northumberland that have been dramatized for television in the TV series Vera.
Mustard has been known in England for centuries but the distinct style of English mustard has its roots in Durham City where a new method of extracting the full flavour from mustard seeds was developed in 1720 by a local woman called Mrs Clements on a site not far from Durham Cathedral. She often visited London to sell her product and King George I became an important customer. Her business rapidly grew with mustard shipped in containers supplied by a Gateshead pottery company. Durham became synonymous with mustard making and Durham people came to be known as knock-kneed from the alleged grinding of mustard between their knees. In Durham the business was taken over by Mrs Clements’ son in law Joseph Ainsley, but rival companies like Keen and Sons of London soon caught on to the new methods. The Ainsley, Balmborough and Simpson families of Durham were subsequently involved in making Durham’s mustard but the industry ceased in the city at the end of the nineteenth century by which time English mustard making had passed into the hands of Colmans of Norwich.
Brian Clough OBE
Football Managing Legend
Colourful and outspoken Middlesbrough-born footballer and football manager. Played for amateurs Billingham Synthonia and then professional for Boro and Sunderland, scoring 204 goals in 222 appearances for Boro and 61 goals in 74 appearances for Sunderland where injury ended his career. He became manager of Hartlepool United then Derby County who became league champions under his management. A brief spell at Brighton and an even briefer spell at Leeds United followed (which became the subject of the movie The Damned United). Subsequently, as manager of Nottingham Forest, Clough’s honours included another league championship, four league cups, two European cups and a European Super Cup.
Charles and Robert Colling
1751-1836 and 1749-1820
Breeders of the Durham Ox
The cattle breeding brothers of neighbouring farms at Ketton Hall and Brampton north of Darlington were noted for their development and improvement of Shorthorn Cattle and in particular for breeding the famed Durham Ox at Ketton Farm also sometimes locally known as The Ketton Ox. The ox, a castrated bull, born in 1796 had reached such an astonishing weight and size that it went on a tour of Britain after first being exhibited in Darlington in 1799. It was painted for the first time in 1801 by an artist called George Cuit and by John Boultbee in 1802 when it was touring around London. At that time it weighed 171 stone, though it may have peaked at around 270 stone at one point. Unfortunately the beast suffered a hip injury in 1807 and being unable to recover was slaughtered later that year. Several pubs and inns are named after the ox.
Key political and sometimes controversial figure of the late 2010s and 2020s. Born in Durham and educated at Durham School, Cummings’ grandfather had established the Cummings Sports shop in the city’s market place, while the Klute nightclub near the city’s Elvet Bridge, where Dominic occasionally worked as doorman, was under the ownership of his uncle. After graduation from Oxford University, Cummings worked in Russia. Back in the UK, from the early 2000s he worked in an advisory capacity for senior members of the Conservative party and successfully led the campaign against the North East Regional Assembly in the referendum of 2004. He is best known for his influence in ‘masterminding’ the leave campaign in the Brexit referendum of 2016, regarding the UK’s European Union membership. In 2019 Cummings became the chief adviser to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. During the Covid pandemic in 2020 he was the subject of much media attention and scrutiny after leaving his London home despite strict lockdown regulations with his family and driving to his parent’s home in Durham from where he subsequently made a day visit to Barnard Castle to apparently test his eyesight. After leaving his post as Johnson’s adviser in November 2020, Cummings became one of the fiercest critics of the Prime Minister.
Vice Admiral Lord Cuthbert Collingwood
Nelson’s Second in Command
Newcastle-born Royal Navy vice admiral who was second in command to his friend, Admiral Horatio Nelson, at Trafalgar and took charge at the battle following Nelson’s death. Collingwood was the son of a Newcastle quayside merchant, also called Cuthbert and the family lived in the Newcastle street called Side. Collingwood senior was not a landed gentleman but was connected to the landed Collingwood family of Northumberland. Following an education at Newcastle’s Royal Grammar School, Collingwood junior joined the navy at the age of 12 at the beginning of what would be a distinguished career. He was present at the Battle of Bunker Hill in the American Revolutionary War in 1775 and during the French Revolutionary Wars was a captain at the Battle of the Glorious First of June (1794) and Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797). Collingwood became a Vice Admiral in 1804 and his part in the Battle of Trafalgar of 1805, in which not a single British ship was lost, cannot be overstated. Some historians have argued that he played an equal role with Nelson in the victory. Collingwood died at sea near Minorca in 1810 and was later buried at St Paul’s Cathedral. A grand monument (built 1845-1849) commemorates Collingwood at Tynemouth. The column was designed by John Dobson (see) and is topped with a sculpture of Collingwood himself by John Graham Lough. Collingwood is also recalled in the name of Newcastle’s Collingwood Street and in the names of towns in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Paul Collingwood MBE
County Cricket Captain
Shotley Bridge-born cricketer who was a captain of Durham County Cricket Club and and England cricket captain. A Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2007.
See also the Collingwood surname
First £1,000 Footballer
Sunderland-born footballer who became the first ever £1,000 footballer when transferred from Sunderland to Middlesbrough in 1905.
See also the Common surname
Writer, novelist, socialist and Newcastle-born author of the autobiographical Kiddar’s Luck about growing up on Tyneside. He was born in Heaton, the son of an engine driver and developed a passion for writing and speaking on socialist matters as a young man. He moved to London in 1928 and eventually found work on the Adelphi magazine, progressing to Assistant Editor. A friend of George Orwell, in his later years Common lived in the Buckinghamshire town of Newport Pagnell.
Captain James Cook
The Great Explorer
World-famous explorer, navigator and cartographer, perhaps the greatest explorer in history who extended the known limits of the world. He was born at Marton near Middlesbrough and began his maritime career down the coast at Whitby. Cook mapped the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. He set sail as captain of the Endeavour in 1769 discovering eastern Australia which he named New South Wales. On second voyage setting out from England in 1772 the ship sailed close to the Antarctic Coast. On a third voyage Cook lost his life on the island of Hawaii following a scuffle with the natives.
Hebburn Comedy Creator
Comedian and television writer born in Hebburn and educated at South Tyneside College. Formerly in the merchant navy he became a stand up comedian in 2005. He is the creator and co-writer of the sit-com Hebburn based on his home town.
South Shields-born TV and theatre actor, whose family moved to Coventry when he was six years old. Cook has appeared in numerous TV dramas and theatre roles over the years and is particularly noted for historical dramas.
Dame Catherine Cookson DBE
Popular novelist whose sales topped 100 million. Born Catherine McMullen in Leam Lane, Tyne Dock near South Shields and brought up in East Jarrow, her novels are set in and around South Tyneside. In 1929 she moved to the south coast to manage a laundry and married Hastings schoolteacher Tom Cookson. Her first novel, Kate Hannigan was published in 1950. With more than 100 novels to her name she became Britain’s most widely read novelist. Her work includes The Fifteen Streets, The Mallen novels and the Kate Hannigan series. In her later life she returned to the North East, residing in Jesmond and Corbridge.
Katherine Copeland MBE
Olympic gold medallist rower. Born in Ashington, Northumberland, Copeland learned to row at Yarm School, Teesside and is a member of the Tees Rowing Club in Stockton-on-Tees. She won the Olympic Gold medal in the Women’s lightweight double sculls in the 2012 London Olympics with rowing partner Sophie Hosking (a Durham University graduate).
Celebrated coal miner artist from Spennymoor whose works depict scenes of streets and people from working class County Durham. A miner from the age of 14, Cornish grew up near Spennymoor’s old iron works. He became a full time artist in 1966 and was a member of the ‘Spennymoor Settlement’ arts community whose members also included the Shildon playwright Sid Chaplin. Cornish was exhibiting in London by 1947 and his works are still highly sought by collectors.
Mary Ann Cotton
Multi-murderess from County Durham responsible for the deaths of up to 21 people, mostly members of her own family who she poisoned to claim insurance money. She married several times and moved home on a number of occasions throughout the region, one of the reasons why her murderous activities took so long to be found out. She was hanged at Durham Jail.
Rock singer with Whitesnake, and Deep Purple born Satburn-by-the-Sea. Whitesnake band members included fellow-Teessider Micky Moody. Notable hits co-written by Coverdale and delivered with his vocal talents include Is this Love, Fool for Your Loving and Here I Go Again.
See also the Coverdale surname
Chronicle Editor and Garibaldi’s Friend
A radical Liberal politician, journalist and Newcastle MP and a friend of Garibaldi, born at Stella Hall, Blaydon. Cowen was the son of Sir Joseph Cowen who had also been a Newcastle MP. Cowen junior was a champion of the miners and working classes and often emulated them in his ways, with his strong North East accent and sense of dress. Cowen was one of the most influential and forthright politicians of his age, noted as a rough but gifted orator, an anti-slavery campaigner, a supporter of Irish nationalism, of Jewish emancipation and votes for working men and women. He often opposed major aspects of his own party’s politics. He was known as the ‘Blaydon Brick’ (his father owned a brick business) and was involved in smuggling letters and documents hidden in bricks to radical individuals who he supported abroad. The younger Cowen was well-connected to radical and revolutionary politicians in Europe, some of whom came to visit him at Blaydon. His friends included the Italian revolutionaries Mazzini, Orsini and the famed Italian nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi as well as the French socialists Louis Blanc and Ledru-Rollin and the Russian socialists and revolutionaries Herzin and Bakunin. Cowen was the editor and from 1859, the sole owner of The Newcastle Daily Chronicle. Established in 1858 as a successor to the Newcastle Chronicle (1764) this newspaper would later become The Evening Chronicle. Cowen also played a part in establishing the Tyne Theatre and Opera House in 1867. On his death in 1900 Cowen was described by The New York Times as “…a friend to every conspirator from Moscow to Madrid.” There is a bronze statue of Cowen, in Newcastle’s Fenkle Street just off Westgate Road.
See also the Cowen surname
Sir Tom Cowie OBE
Sunderland-born motor dealer who established the Cowie Group which later became the Arriva Group of which he was Life President. Cowie was the chairman of Sunderland Football Club from 1980 to 1986. Cowie’s father, also called Tom, owned a bicycle business. The younger Cowie established a motorcycle dealing business in 1948 which expanded across the UK and had moved into dealing in cars in the early 1960s by which time it was T. Cowie PLC. Bus operation was a major part of the business in the 1980s. Cowie left the company in 1993 but remained Life President even after it was renamed Arriva in 1998. Cowie was a great supporter of the University of Sunderland and is remembered in the name of the University’s Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s.
David Scott Cowper
Record-breaking yachtsman born in Newcastle upon Tyne, Cowper was the first to sail solo around the world in both directions and achieved both in world record-breaking time. A chartered surveyor by profession, Newcastle is still Scott Cowper’s home when he is not embarked on adventures across the oceans of the globe. In the 1970s he took part in around Britain and trans-Atlantic races and then in 1980, he sailed single-handed all the way around the globe in record time heading east from Cape Horn around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin on the respective tips of South America, Africa and Australia. It was completed in 225 days. In 1982 he completed the same feat in the more difficult opposite direction against the westerly winds in 237 days which was also a record time. In 1984-85 Cowper became the first man to sail round the globe in a motorboat – a converted lifeboat. In 1986 he departed from Newcastle on the same boat through the North West Passage along the west coast of Greenland and around the ice-ridden northern coast of Canada, where the boat was brought to a standstill by ice and left for two years. Eventually completing the passage the boat continued via the Bering Strait and Cape of Good Hope before finally returning to Newcastle, at the end of a journey that had begun four years and two months earlier. Cowper was the first person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed via the North West Passage.
TV Presenter Top Gear and Tyne Tees
The first news presenter for Tyne Tees Television (1959) and one of the first presenters of BBC’s Top Gear motoring programme. Coyne was born in South Shields and educated in Sunderland. He had performed as an actor with South Shields’ Westovian theatre and also worked in radio as a presenter for BBC’s Children’s Hour and as the voice of Geordie gamekeeper, Gordon Armstrong in the BBC Radio 4 soap drama, The Archers.
Butterflies and Brighton Belles
Actress, born Sacriston, County Durham. Educated Yarm Grammar School, Darlington High School and Durham High School. Her TV roles include Nanny, Butterflies, Brighton Belles, And Mother Makes Five and Not in Front of the Children.
Steve Cram MBE
Gateshead-born athlete and TV sports presenter. An Olympic medallist, world champion and former Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, Cram is known as the ‘Jarrow Arrow’. He was the first man to run 1500 metres under 3 minutes and 30 seconds. A Gold medallist in the 1983 World Championships at 1500 metres and Silver medallist in the same event at the 1984 Olympic Games, Cram is one of the best-known faces in British sport.
Nail Your Colours to the Mast
Sailor and Sunderland-born hero of the Battle of Camperdown (1797) the phrase ‘nailing your colours to the mast’ is said to commemorate his heroic act. Part of the mast of the Admiral Duncan’s flagship Venerable was shot down during the naval battle and as the falling of the flag signified surrender Crawford climbed the remaining mast and nailed on the flag amidst much gun fire, and was shot through the cheek. He became a national hero overnight but ended his life in poverty.
‘Bold as Brass’ mayor of London
Born in Stockton-on-Tees, where his father (Hercules Crosby) was a notable burgess, Brass Crosby was a famous Lord Mayor of London (1770-71). He is partly remembered for his imprisonment after he had (in his capacity as London’s chief magistrate) released a printer who had dared to publish the proceedings of parliament. Crosby was subsequently released from prison following protests and his actions played an important part in ensuring that parliamentary debates are published – still to this day. It brought an end to parliamentary secrecy and facilitated the later evolution of the Hansard publication in which parliamentary debates are published. Crosby is also remembered for his fierce opposition to the activities of the Press Gangs, who were employed by the Admirality in impressing men into naval service. Crosby refused to issue warrants enabling press gang activity in London. Interestingly, Stockton itself, like London, was one of many ports that suffered at the hands of the press gangs where a press gang raid was witnessed in an account of the Methodist preacher, John Wesley in 1759. Crosby is often considered, though it is unsubstantiated, to have given rise to the saying ‘Bold as Brass’.
Saint Cuddy of Northumbria
Northumbrian saint, monk and hermit associated with Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands. He is the virtual patron saint of North East England. Buried in Durham Cathedral, he was noted for working many miracles, both during his life and after his death. In the region he is often known affectionately known as ‘Cuddy’. Cuddy’s Ducks is a name given to the Eider Ducks found on the Northumberland coast that are associated with the saint. Born somewhere in the hill country to the north of the River Tweed (then part of Northumbria) he worked as a shepherd boy and saw a vision of the death of St Aidan which prompted him to enter the monastery of Melrose as a monk. For a time he was a guest master at Ripon monastery before returning to Melrose where he became prior. He became a hermit on the island of Inner Farne and served as Bishop of Lindisfarne for a time before returning to Inner Farne as a hermit up until the end of his life. After his death a cult grew up around him and the community of monks who guarded his remains and relics. Their travels took them around the north in an attempt to escape the raids of the Vikings and they settled for a considerable time at Conecaster (Chester-le-Street) before their successors eventually settled at Durham in 995AD. There is something slightly enigmatic about Cuthbert compared to other northern saints of the era. We know he had a strong affinity to nature and was reputedly athletic and very pious but much of the love and affection that the region has for him may have developed in the stories and miracles that became associated with him following his death.
See also our North East surnames page
The surnames Charlton and Collingwood are