Famous people from North East England
Surnames beginning with:
Auf Wiedersehen, Oz
Real name James Bradford. Newcastle-born actor, producer, singer and shipbuilder’s son who rose to prominence after he was cast in the part of Geordie brickie, ‘Oz’ Osbourne in the comedy drama series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983-2004). Nail created and co-wrote with Ian La Frenais, the Tyneside-based police drama series Spender (1991-1993) in which he played the starring role. Additional script writing for Spender came from Nail’s sister, Val McLane. Nail also wrote and starred in the series Crocodile Shoes (1994) about a country and western singer with songs for the series written by Paddy McAloon. Nail’s hits as a singer-songwriter include Crocodile Shoes, Ain’t no Doubt and the Tyne inspired song Big River. A cover of the Rose Royce song Love Don’t Live Here Anymore was another hit for Nail.
The Neville Barons
Durham Barons with Anglo-Saxon Roots
The Neville family were one of the most powerful English baronial families of the Middle Ages and were descended from Uhtred, an Anglo-Saxon Northumbrian noble of the ancient line of Bamburgh, who was himself a descendant of King Malcolm II of Scotland.
- In the twelfth century, Uhtred’s son, Dolfin, held the family seat of Staindrop near Raby in Teesdale.
- Dolfin’s son, Maldred was the father of Robert Fitzmeldred who married Isabel De Neville, a Norman aristocrat whose family were named from a place in France.
- Robert and Isabel’s son, Geoffrey Neville, adopted his mother’s surname because a Norman surname was more prestigious than an English one.
- Geoffrey’s son, Robert Neville was noted for supporting Henry III during Simon De Montfort’s rebellion of 1263-64.
- Robert’s grandson was Ranulf Neville, who was, the 1st Baron Neville (1262-1331).
- Ranulf’s eldest son was Robert Neville, ‘the Peacock of the North’ who was slain in battle at Berwick by the fearsome Scottish noble, James ‘The Black Douglas’ in 1319.
- The Peacock’s younger brother was Ralph Neville (1291-1367) who was captured by Douglas but ransomed and released. Ralph became the 2nd baron Neville and successfully commanded the English forces at the Battle of Neville’s Cross near Durham in 1346. For the honour he became the first layman to be buried in Durham Cathedral.
- Ralph’s son, John Neville, the 3rd baron Neville (1337-1388) fought alongside his father at Neville’s Cross. He was appointed Governor of Aquitaine and in 1378 he converted the family seat of Raby into Raby Castle. When John died at Newcastle in 1388 he was buried in line with his wishes at Durham Cathedral. His tomb was mutilated by Scots during the Civil War in the 1640s.
- John’s sister, Margaret Neville was the wife of Henry Percy, the first Earl of Northumberland and was the mother to Harry Hotspur Percy (see).
- John Neville’s son and successor was Ralph Neville (1364-1425) the first Earl of Westmorland, who despite the title was still based at Raby Castle in County Durham.
The Neville Earls
Powerful County Durham Family
Ralph Neville (1364-1425) of Raby Castle features in Shakespeare’s Henry V. He was appointed Earl of Westmorland in 1397 for his services to King Richard II and in addition to the existing lands centred on Raby, he gained the Honour of Richmond with extensive lands in North Yorkshire. Ralph married twice, firstly to Margaret Stafford, daughter of the Earl of Stafford and then, after her death, to Joan Beaufort daughter of John of Gaunt. Through this marriage Ralph supported the royal claims of his brother in law, Henry Bollingbroke, Duke of Lancaster. In 1399 Richard II was deposed and Bollingbroke became Henry IV. Later, when the Percys rose against Henry, Neville supported the king and defeated the Percys at Topcliffe in Yorkshire. Neville had several children from his two marriages and this caused a rift in the family.
- Sir John Neville, Ralph’s eldest son, by Margaret, died before Ralph so the Raby inheritance went to Sir John’s son, Ralph the 2nd Earl of Westmorland (1406-1484). However this Ralph struggled to assert his rights to the Neville lands centred on Middleham Castle in Wensleydale in North Yorkshire which were claimed by the Beaufort side of the family (See Cecily Neville).
- Ralph, who was married to Elizabeth Percy, daughter of Hotspur had no surviving children and was succeeded by his nephew, Ralph Neville, the 3rd Earl (1456-99) who is buried at Brancepeth.
- Ralph Neville the 4th Earl of Westmorland (1498-1549) was present at the Field of Cloth of Gold with King Henry VIII.
- Henry Neville. the 5th Earl of Westmorland (1525-1563) took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace.
- Charles Neville, the Sixth Earl of Westmorland (1542-1601) was the last Earl of Westmorland. In 1569 he led the failed Rising of the North against Queen Elizabeth I supported by Henry, the 7th Earl Percy of Northumberland. Unlike the unfortunate Percy, Charles escaped capture and execution and fled to Holland where he died in 1601. The Neville lands of Brancepeth and Raby were confiscated and in 1626 Raby was purchased by the Vane family. Raby’s present owner, Lord Barnard is descended from members of both the Neville and Vane family lines.
Cecily ‘Rose of Raby’ Neville
Mother of Kings, Aunt to the Kingmaker
Cecily Neville, daughter of Ralph Neville, the first Earl of Westmorland and Joan Beaufort was born at Raby Castle in 1415 and was known as ‘The Rose of Raby’. At the age of nine she was betrothed to Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York and they married in 1429. She gave birth to the future kings, Edward IV in 1442 and Richard III in 1452. It was around this time that Cecily’s nephew, Richard Neville (1428-1471) a grandson of Ralph, started his rise to power. Richard came to be known as ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’ and was the most powerful figure in the Wars of the Roses. His father, also called Richard, was the son of Ralph Neville who through marriage had become the Earl of Salisbury, a title that would also pass to his son. The ‘kingmaker’ himself married Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick and through her became Earl of Warwick in addition to holding the Salisbury title. From his Yorkshire base at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale he was the wealthiest and soon the most powerful man in the land. Initially supporting the Yorkists he deposed Henry VI and secured the coronation of Cecily’s son as King Edward IV. He subsequently fell out with King Edward in 1470 and the king was ousted. Warwick then placed Henry VI back on the throne but Warwick was killed in battle near London in 1471. Edward was restored as king and continued to reign until his death in 1483. The king’s two sons, the uncrowned Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, were imprisoned in the Tower of London where they subsequently died. Their uncle, Richard (Cecily’s son) was crowned Richard III with Ann Neville (Warwick’s daughter) as his wife and queen. Richard’s reign was short, ending in death and defeat to Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field in 1485. In 1487 King Henry VII married Elizabeth of York, a granddaughter of Cecily Neville and in 1491 Elizabeth gave birth to the future King Henry VIII. It is remarkable that Cecily, the Rose of Raby, who died in 1495, lived through all these remarkable events in her family’s story.
Mike Neville MBE
Geordie Legend Anchor Man
Willington Quay-born TV anchorman for BBC Look North and Tyne Tees Television. The face of North East television news and North East regional magazine programmes for four decades. As a young man he had worked in repertory theatre for Newcastle Playhouse. He joined the new station Tyne Tees Television in 1962 briefly presenting their North East Newsview programme in 1964 before moving to BBC Look North. During his time at the BBC he and fellow presenter George House were noted for their humorous Geordie sketches including recordings of Scott Dobson’s Larn Yersel’ Geordie. Neville returned to Tyne Tees to present North East Tonight in 1996 up until his retirement in 2005.
See also the Neville surname
Scarborough to Spurs
Former Durham Light Infantryman and Scarborough-born football manager who won three FA Cups, two League Cups, one UEFA Cup, one European Cup Winners’ Cup and one league title as manager of Tottenham Hotspur.
Comedian and actor from Cramlington, Northumberland especially noted for the spontaneity of his random observation stand-up comedy and for his mad cap contributions to comedy panel shows. He was a member of the youth theatre at Newcastle’s People’s Theatre in Heaton and studied performing arts at Newcastle College.
See also the Noble surname
Bruce Oldfield OBE
Man of Fashion
Fashion designer, Bruce Oldfield was born in Hammersmith, London to a Jamaican father but was taken into the care of Barnardo’s and fostered by a family in the village of Hett near Spennymoor where he lived for 12 years along with four other foster children. His foster mother, Violet Masters to whom he dedicated his autobiography Rootless worked as a seamstress to make ends meet. As a teenager Oldfield moved back into Barnardo’s Care and was educated in Ripon furthering his education at St Martin’s School of Art in London. Oldfield’s clients as a fashion designer have included Joan Collins, Jerry Hall, Diana Princess of Wales, Melanie Griffith, Sienna Miller and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
David Olusoga OBE
Historian, writer and engaging TV presenter. Born in Lagos, Nigeria to a British mother and Nigerian father, Professor Olusoga was brought up in Gateshead from the age of five and resided in St Cuthbert’s village close to the Tyne. David is one of Britain’s most talented historians, often tackling subjects featuring the history of race and identity in Britain as well as more general social history often told through the stories of seemingly ordinary individuals. His TV work includes The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire; Black and British: A Forgotten History; The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files and co-presenting Civilisations with Mary Beard and Simon Schama. David is the presenter of A House Through Time (2018 and 2019) in which the second series focused on a house in Ravensworth Terrace in the Summerhill area of Newcastle (the one time home of zoologist, Joshua Alder). David has described himself as a ‘Nigerian Geordie’.
King of the North
A king of Northumbria and later a saint. The son of Æthelfrith of Bamburgh, a king of Bernicia (northern Northumbria), Oswald converted to Christianity following victory over the Welsh king Cadwallon at the Battle of Heavenfield near Hexham in 634AD. He prayed to the Christian god for victory before battle to test out the faith. Oswald, who had lived in exile on the Scottish island of Iona as a boy employed an Irish missionary called Aidan (St Aidan) from Iona to convert the Northumbrians who were mostly pagan. Aidan chose Lindisfarne as a Christian centre. Oswald became Bretwalda or ‘overking’ of all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England. He was killed in battle in the midlands fighting Penda, King of Mercia at a place that came to be called Oswestry. Oswald’s head is buried in Durham Cathedral and St. Cuthbert is often depicted holding it.
Inventor of Lucozade
William Owen was a Newcastle chemist based in the city’s Barras Bridge area who invented Lucozade in 1927. It was at his Newcastle chemist shop that Owen developed the drink, which he originally called Glucozade, to help heal people recovering from sickness such as colds and flu. He had experimented for several years to develop an energy drink for this purpose. Glucozade was renamed Lucozade in 1929 and bought by the Beecham’s company in 1938. In the 1980s it was re-branded as a sports drink.
Bob Paisley OBE
Liverpool Legend, Hetton Heart
Hetton-le-Hole born footballer and manager. Born into a mining family, Paisley played for Eppleton Junior School and Hetton FC. He worked briefly as a miner before becoming a bricklayer. He was rejected by boyhood heroes Sunderland for being too small and signed for Bishop Auckland, playing in the FA Amateur cup final for the Bishops at Roker Park. Paisley signed professional for Liverpool in 1939 and served alongside Liverpudlians in the war. When his playing career ended in 1954 he stayed on as physio and then reserve coach, becoming manager in 1974. Paisley’s extraordinary achievements as Liverpool manager include six league championships, three league cups, three European cups and one UEFA cup. A memorial can be seen to Paisley in his home town of Hetton.
Sir Charles Mark Palmer
1822 – 1907
Shipbuilder, entrepreneur, MP for North Durham and Baronet, born South Shields. Palmer was the son of a Tyneside ship owner and worked as a lad in Marseilles where work was found for him by his father. Palmer had an eye for business which saw him progress into colliery management then colliery ownership and then shipbuilding. He established a shipyard at Jarrow which saw the then village develop into a major industrial town. Palmer was noted for building The John Bowes which was the first iron screw collier ship. In the 1930s the closure of Palmer’s shipyard during an era of economic decline had a major impact on the town of Jarrow and resulted in the Jarrow ‘hunger march’ to London.
Woman of Words
Women’s fiction author. Born Eaglescliffe near Stockton-on-Tees, her titles (currently 15) have all been best sellers including the 2005 novel Husbands which sold a quarter of a million copies.
Born in Sunderland, Parfitt is an Academy Award-winning film producer, actor and the co-founder of Trademark Films. He was the Chairman of BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television) from 2008 to 2010
Sir Charles Algernon Parsons
Tyneside engineer who invented the compound steam turbine and the famed vessel Turbinia which was by far the fastest ship in the world at the time (it is preserved in Newcastle’s Discovery Museum). Telescopes, optics and searchlights were amongst other areas of Parsons ‘ expertise. Parsons was the son of the Earl of Rosse, a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and his father was a noted astronomer. Though born in London and educated at Cambridge business and industry brought Charles to Newcastle where he worked for W.G Armstrong’s engineering works and then for Clarke Chapman and Co before forming his own Tyneside company in 1889 for the manufacture of turbo generators. The first power station in the world to use such generators was at Newcastle’s Forth Banks. Facilitating the mass generation of electrical power arguably makes Parsons ‘the man who invented the twentieth century’.
Saltburn to Space
A British-American engineer and former NASA Astronaut. Dr. Patrick was born at Saltburn-by-the-Sea but raised in London and New York.
Railway Maker Quaker
Quaker businessman and railway pioneer from Darlington who was the man behind the development of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The son of a Darlington woollen manufacturer, Pease wished to facilitate the movement of coal from south Durham to the River Tees for shipment, considering first a canal, then a horse-drawn railway and then opting for a steam railway through his own foresight and the influence of George Stephenson who he employed. Pease ensured that the line from the south Durham coalfield to Stockton-on-Tees passed through his hometown of Darlington.
The Maker of Middlesbrough
Darlington businessman and railway pioneer, the son of Edward Pease and founder of the town of Middlesbrough. In 1829 Joseph Pease was the head of a group of Quaker businessmen who purchased the land of a farm called Middlesbrough near the River Tees where around 25 people lived and worked. Here he intended to develop a port called ‘Port Darlington’ to which the Stockton and Darlington Railway was extended for the shipment of coal. A planned town was built on the site – which became the town of Middlesbrough.
The Percy Barons
The Percy family of Northumberland are most closely associated with Alnwick and Warkworth and were for centuries arguably the most powerful family in the North in the Middle Ages. Only the Nevilles of Durham and Yorkshire could match them in political stature. Taking their name from a place in France these powerful barons arrived with William the Conqueror and were initially granted lands in Yorkshire.
- In 1309 Henry Percy (1273-1314) purchased Alnwick Castle from Anthony Bek (see also), the Bishop of Durham and the Percy association with Northumberland began.
- Henry was succeeded by his son, Henry Percy (1299-1352) who acquired Warkworth in 1328. This Henry fought at the Battle of Hallidon Hill near Berwick and at the Battle of Neville’s Cross near Durham.
- His son, the third Henry Percy (1321-1368) was a Warden of the Marches and played an important role defending the border from the Scots.
- Defending the Scottish border was a role continued by Henry’s son the fourth baron Henry Percy who was appointed Earl of Northumberland in 1377.
The Percy Earls
Rebels, Plotters, People of Power
Henry Percy the 4th baron Percy (1341-1408) was born at Alnwick and appointed the First Earl of Northumberland in 1377 by King Richard II, a title that should not be confused with ‘Earls of Northumbria’ of Anglo-Saxon times. Percy was a serial rebel and plotted against King Richard, supporting Henry Bollingbroke who became Henry IV. Percy and his son Harry Hotspur Percy (see) subsequently led rebellions against Henry IV. Hotspur died in battle in 1403 and the earl himself was killed in battle at Bramham Moor in 1408.
- Henry Percy, the 2nd Earl of Northumberland (1393-1455) born at Alnwick was the son of Harry Hotspur. He was involved in disputes with the Neville family.
- His son, Henry Percy, the 3rd Earl of Northumberland (1421-1461) was, like his father, involved in feuds with the Nevilles, he died at the Battle of Towton in 1461.
- Henry Percy, the 4th Earl of Northumberland (1449-1489) commanded a wing in support of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 but his troops did not commit and there is a suspicion of treason.
- Henry Percy, the 5th Earl of Northumberland (1477-1527) who was born at Alnwick, fought for King Henry VIII in France at the Siege of Thérouanne and the Battle of the Spurs.
- Henry Percy, the 6th Earl of Northumberland (1502-1537) was betrothed to Anne Boleyn as a young man but his father would not give permission for the marriage. He instead married Lady Mary Talbot but they had no children.
- The 6th earl’s brother, Thomas Percy was executed at Tyburn for his part in the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion against Henry VIII. Thomas was the father of Thomas, the seventh earl.
- Thomas Percy, the 7th Earl of Northumberland (1528-1572), was a catholic sympathiser who was beheaded at York for his part in colluding with the Nevilles in the Rising of the North against Elizabeth I in 1569.
- Henry Percy, the 8th Earl of Northumberland (1532-1585) was born at Newburn on Tyne. He was an MP for Morpeth and the Governor of Tynemouth Castle.
- Henry Percy, the 9th Earl of Northumberland (1564-1632) was born at Tynemouth. In 1605 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for seventeen years, largely because a distant relative and associate called Thomas Percy had been one of the chief instigators of the Gunpowder Plot.
- Algernon Percy, the 10th Earl of Northumberland (1602-1668) fought for the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War.
- Joceline Percy, of Alnwick, the 11th Earl of Northumberland (1644-1670) was the son of Algernon. Joceline had no sons but his daughter Elizabeth Seymour, Duchess of Somerset was heir to the family estates.
- Elizabeth’s son, Algernon Seymour was the father to another Elizabeth Seymour who married Henry Smithson (1714-1786). He adopted the name Percy and was given the title First Duke of Northumberland. The present Duke of Northumberland Lord Ralph Percy (born 1956) is descended from this line.
Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy
Henry ‘Harry Hotspur’ Percy was a nobleman and rebel from Northumberland who was immortalised by Shakespeare in Henry IV part I. The son of the First Earl of Northumberland, Hotspur was born at either Alnwick or Warkworth in Northumberland and was called ‘Hotspur’ because of his temperament and desire for battle. He played an important role in defending England from the Scots. Hotspur rebelled against the reigning monarch Henry IV and died in battle at Shrewsbury fighting against him. Lands in the Tottenham marshes area of London that belonged to his descendants are said to have given their name to the football club there.
See also, the Percy surname
England football international goalkeeper born in Washington, Tyne and Wear. His senior career began with his home town city of Sunderland including a spell on loan to Darlington. Pickford joined Merseyside club Everton in 2017 the same year in which he made his international debut for England. His 50 appearances for England include the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship (held in 2021) in which England were losing finalists to Italy. He was also the ever-present goalkeeper in England’s World Cup football campaign in Qatar in 2022.
Alan Plater CBE
Close the Coalhouse Door
Jarrow-born writer, playwright and screenwriter. His work includes the Beiderbecke Trilogy and the musical Close the Coalhouse Door – a collaboration with songwriter Alex Glasgow. Other TV credits include Dalziel and Pascoe, Z-Cars and Selwyn Froggitt.
Lieutenant Colonel James Porter
Brewer of the Dog
Inventor of Newcastle Brown Ale, Lieutenant Colonel Porter was a third generation brewer born in Burton on Trent who became the Managing Director of the Newcastle Brewery in Newcastle upon Tyne. He served in the military in Staffordshire and moved to Newcastle upon Tyne after World War One, introducing Newcastle Brown Ale in 1927. The brewing of Newcastle ‘Broon’ also sometimes known as ‘Dog’ moved to Tadcaster in Yorkshire in 2010.
Burnley Boy with Hetton roots
Born in 1920 in Hetton-le-Hole, the same town where a year previously, another football manager, Bob Paisley had been born. As the manager of Burnley Football Club Potts won the league title and Anglo-Scottish Cup.
Follow the Geordie Boys
Keyboard player with The Animals and later a solo musician and singer. Born at Fatfield near Washington and raised and educated in Jarrow. Following The Animals, Price formed his own band the Alan Price Set and collaborated with R&B jazz singer and musician Georgie Fame. Notable work by Price includes the music score for the film O Lucky Man and the score for the musical Andy Capp. His Jarrow Song about the Jarrow March begins with the lyrics: “My name is Geordie McIntyre…” and the chorus includes the line“Come on Follow the Geordie Boys, they’ll fill your heart with joy…”
Bishop Hugh Pudsey
French name Hugh Du Puiset, popularly known to historians as Bishop Pudsey. He was an ultra-powerful Prince Bishop of Durham in addition to being the Earl of Northumberland, Chief Justiciar of England and the Regent of the North. Pudsey was the instigator of the Boldon Buke (Durham’s version of the Domesday Book) and issued the charters establishing the boroughs of Gateshead and Sunderland. He set in motion early urban in the North East.
See also our North East surnames page