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Where's everyone from?
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Re: Where's everyone from?
Jul 29, 2006, 17:05
Durham, England

quite a lovely place really and despite the protestations of York & Lincoln home of the best cathedral in England

also home to the great 7th century saint Cuthbert, and also for St Bede, famed for his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

Literary connections continue through to the present day. Barnard Castle is home to children’s author Anne Fine, whose best known book was made into the hit film ‘Mrs Doubtfire’. Pat Barker, who set up home in Durham City, won the 1995 Booker Prize with ‘Ghost Road’, and Denise Robertson, writer and television agony aunt, has strong Seaham links.

William Shaw’s Academy at Bowes was immortalised by 19th century novelist Charles Dickens, who visited the County and used the institution as the basis for his notorious Dotheboys Hall in ‘Nicholas Nickleby’. Troubled poet Lord Byron married Anne Isabella Milbanke in 1815 at Seaham Hall, recently renovated to form an award-winning hotel and spa.

The late Sid Chaplin, a writer noted for his vivid portrayals of life in mining communities, was born in Shildon in 1916.

Children’s television enthusiasts will be interested to know that Anne Wood, creator of the cuddly Teletubbies, grew up in Spennymoor.

Those with an eye for folk songs will appreciate that Bobby Shafto came from the Spennymoor area - Whitworth Hall was the family home for 300 years. Also part of local musical and folk legend is the Lambton Worm, a serpent said to terrify the people of the County in days of yore.

Seaham produced much-feted international opera singer Sir Thomas Allen, who still returns to perform in his native county. Former Shadows guitarist Bruce Welch comes from Chester-le-Street, and Paddy McAloon, from Witton Gilbert, was the driving force behind pop band Prefab Sprout, who recorded the album ‘Langley Park to Memphis’.

Langley Park was the birthplace of Sir Bobby Robson, who might not have gone as far as Memphis but after a career taking in Ipswich Town, the England manager’s job, Barcelona, Sporting Lisbon, Porto, PSV Eindhoven and eventually Newcastle United he is certainly well travelled.

Durham has produced plenty of other sporting stars, including great post-war Test cricketer Colin Milburn, who first played the game for Chester-le-Street Cricket Club. The town also produced footballer Bryan Robson, who went on to captain his country and play for Manchester United, and Chris Waddle is a Tow Law lad made good in a career which saw him represent his country and play for clubs including Newcastle United and Marseille. Former England rugby union star Rob Andrew was educated at Barnard Castle.

When it comes to the Silver Screen, the County is proud of its links with celebrated comic Stan Laurel, who went to school in Bishop Auckland. Stan went on, of course, to team up with Oliver Hardy to create one of the greatest partnerships in the early years of film and Bishop Auckland has a loyal group of enthusiasts who stage regular events in his memory.

One of the best-known character actors to have come out of the County is Alun Armstrong, from Annfield Plain, who is acclaimed for roles in the social history television drama ‘Our Friends In The North’ and Napoleonic war drama ‘The Duellists’ directed by North-East film-maker Sir Ridley Scott.

From the world of fashion comes internationally renowned designer Bruce Oldfield, who was educated at Spennymoor Grammar School.

Timothy Hackworth’s contribution to the development of the railways has already been touched upon and County Durham folk have made an impact in all manner of endeavours. Cockfield was the birthplace of Jeremiah Dixon, who with Charles Mason surveyed the Mason-Dixon Line in the USA and gave his name to ‘Dixie’.

The County has strong environmental credentials: the Wear Valley is home to campaigner and television celebrity Professor David Bellamy and not far from Bowes, on the Durham-Cumbria border, lives Polar explorer and environmental campaigner Robert Swan.

On the political front there have been plenty of important figures with connections to the County, few more significant than the great 20th century MP Manny Shinwell and Prime Minister Anthony Eden. And, of course, Prime Minister Tony Blair is the MP for Sedgefield.

On a more sombre note one of Britain’s most infamous murderers came from the County. Born near Durham City, Mary Ann Cotton is reputed to have poisoned 17 friends and family, including many of her children and several husbands. She was hanged in 1873.
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