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Geordie Guide: Historical Geordies

Noo tha yoor heor at The Toon University yee might want te knaa a bit more aboot Geordies an stuff

Historical Geordies

If we were to list all the people from the North East who have made an impact historically, we would be here all day & your attention might start to waiver so on this page we have selected a few notable names who you might come across whilst in Newcastle.

You can find out more about famous Geordies from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (search by place).

Newcastle City Council have also produced a factsheet listing Famous People with North East Connections.

Our Special Collections houses a wide range of materials dating from the 15th to the 21st century.  There are many items that have a connection to the North East, ranging from the Gertrude Bell Archive to the recently acquired Bloodaxe Books Archive.  Items can be searched for on Library Search & images can be searched online at Collections Captured.

The Gertrude Bell Archive, Newcastle University. Archive Code: K_078

Across Campus...

 Lord William George Armstrong (1810-1900)

Born at Shieldfield in Newcastle upon Tyne, Lord Armstrong was a scientist, engineer, inventor and businessman.  His home in Rothbury, Cragside is a feat of engineering in itself being reportedly the first house in the world to be lit using hydroelectric power.

The Armstrong Building on campus was named after him after he had supported efforts for the building to be constructed.  


McKensie, P. (1983) W. G. Armstrong : the life and times of Sir William George Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Cragside S.l. : Longhirst Press      

Available at Robinson Books Level 4 (620.0092 ARM(Mac)

National Trust (1992) Cragside : Northumberland. London : National Trust      

Available at Robinson Books Level 4 (728.8 CRA)

Gertrude Bell (1868–1926)

Born in Co. Durham, Gertrude Bell was a writer, traveller, archaeologist, mountaineer & diplomatist. She travelled extensively through Europe as well as the Near & Middle East, her knowledge of which, proved to be invaluable for the British Government at the time.

The Gertrude Bell Archive is under the care of Special Collections at the Robinson Library.



Gordon, L. (1994) Gertrude Bell, 1869-1926. Newcastle upon Tyne :  British Council ; University of Newcastle upon Tyne.      Available at Robinson Books Level 4 (915.6 BEL(Gor)

Howell, G. (2006) Daughter of the desert : the remarkable life of Gertrude Bell. London : Macmillan.     Available at Robinson Books Level 4 915.6 BEL(How)

   Albany Hancock (1806–1873) & John Hancock (1808-1890)

Naturalists, ornithologists & zoologists, the Hancock brothers were born at Bridge End, Newcastle upon Tyne. Both brothers made a significant contribution to their areas of interest and the Hancock Museum (now Great North Museum: Hancock) was established in 1884 as a memorial to both of them as they were instrumental in getting the museum built.

Morton, S. & Griffin F (1990) Catalogue and notes on the archive collections in the Hancock Museum. 2nd edn. Newcastle upon Tyne : Hancock Museum.

     Available at Robinson Oversize Level 3 (069.52 MOR )

Gill, E.L. (1908) The Hancock Museum and its history. Newcastle-upon-Tyne : Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

     Available at GNM Hancock NHSN Rare Books and Archives (069.09428 GIL )

George Stephenson (1781-1848)

A railway engineer, inventor and also father of Robert Stephenson (see below.)   George Stephenson created the 'Geordie' Lamp in 1815 hoping to make mining work less perilous and left a considerable legacy on the railway industry not least because he created a railway gauge that is still used today as standard.

 Skeat, W.O. (c.1973) George Stephenson; the engineer and his letters. London : The Institution of Mechanical Engineers.      Available at Robinson Books Level 4 625.100924 STE(Ske)

Layson, J.F. (1881)  George Stephenson : the locomotive and the railway. London : Tyne Pub. Co., Ltd.       Available at Special Collections 19th Century (19th C. Coll. 620.92 STE(Lay) )

Sir Joseph Swan (1878-1914)

The Swan Centre draws its name from the famous North East chemist and inventor Sir Joseph Swan. Swan was born in Sunderland on 31st October 1828 and is best remembered for inventing the electric light bulb. His house (in Gateshead, England) was the first in the world to be lit by lightbulb.

Swan first demonstrated the light bulb at a lecture in Newcastle on 18th December 1878 and created the first electric light illumination in a public building whilst giving another lecture in 1880. The first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity was the Savoy Theatre in London in 1881



For more information, see our guide commemorating the centenary of Joseph Swan's death on 27th May 2014.

Clouth, D., & Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council. Department of Education. (1978). Joseph Swan, 1828-1914 : A pictorial account of a North Eastern scientist's life and work (Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council. Department of Education. Local studies series ; 8). Gateshead: Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council. Available at Research Reserve 621.3220924 SWA(Clo) and Special Collections Clarke 1733

Swan, M., & Swan, Kenneth Raydon. (1929). Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, F.R.S. : A memoir. London: Ernest Benn. Available at Research Reserve 509.2 SWA

Swan, M., & Swan, Kenneth Raydon. (1968). Sir Joseph Wilson Swan F.R.S. : Inventor and scientist. Newcastle upon Tyne: Oriel Press. Available at Research Reserve 509.2 SWA(Swa) and Special Collections Clarke 1731

Other notable names


Building a snowman at Cherryburn. Thomas Bewick (Special Collections: Bradshaw-Bewick collection)











Thomas Bewick (1753-1828)

An artist, author & wood-engraver, Thomas Bewick developed a more intricate method of engraving during the Eighteenth Century.  He is known for his scenes of rural life & natural history subjects.

Bain, I & Bewick, T. (1981) The watercolours and drawings of Thomas Bewick and his workshop apprentices. London : Gordon Fraser. Available at Robinson Books Level 4 769.924 BEW

Anderton, B (1916) Thomas Bewick, the Tyneside engraver. London : A. Moring.  Available at Robinson Books Level 4 761 BEW(And)


 Roman altars (photo) . ( ? - 1900), Chesters Roman Fort Museum, Northumberland, UK, Bridgeman EducationJohn Clayton (1792-1890)

Antiquarian and town clerk of Newcastle upon Tyne who worked with Richard Grainger & John Dobson during the redevelopment of Newcastle in the 1800s.  He also worked for the preservation of Hadrian's Wall including the Chesters Roman Fort.

Budge, E.A.W (1903) An account of the Roman antiquities preserved in the museum at Chesters, Northumberland. London : Gilbert & Rivington, Ltd.        Available at Robinson Books Level 4 (936.288104 BUD )


Wilkes, L. & Dodds, G. (1964) Tyneside classical : the Newcastle of Grainger, Dobson & Clayton London : J. Murray       Available at Robinson Books Level 4 (942.82 WIL)


John Dobson (1787–1865)

Architect, born in North Shields.  Along with Richard Grainger & John Clayton, he was responsible for much of the redevelopment of Newcastle in the 1800s.  His work includes the Grainger Market & Newcastle Central Station. 

Faulkner, T.E. (c.1987) John Dobson, Newcastle architect 1787-1865. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Tyne and Wear Museums Service.      Available at Robinson Books Level 4 724.2 DOB(Fau)

 Dobson, M.J. (1885) Memoir of John Dobson of Newcastle-on-Tyne : containing some account of the revival of architecture in the north of England, with a list of his works. London: Hamilton, Adams.      Available at Robinson Books Level 4 720.924 DOB(Dob)


Richard Grainger (1797–1861)

Builder and property speculator, born in High Friar Lane, Newcastle upon Tyne.  Working with John Dobson & John Clayton, he was responsible for redeveloping Newcastle's city centre.  His major projects include Blackett Street, old Eldon Square, Grey Street & the Grainger Market.

Grainger Town Project (2000) Grainger Town, Newcastle upon Tyne : investing in quality Newcastle upon Tyne, England : Grainger Town Project.   Available at Robinson Oversize Level 3 363.690942876 GRA

Grainger, R. & Newcastle upon Tyne & Carlisle Rail-road Company (1836) A proposal for concentrating the termini of the Newcastle and Carlisle, the Great North of England and proposed Edinburgh railways : and for providing spacious and eligible depots ... from these several railways to the town of Newcastle, submitted to the consideration of the respective companies, and to the proprietors of property interested in the same. Newcastle upon Tyne :  T. and J. Hodgson Available at Special Collections Friends (Friends 263 )


 Earl Grey (1764–1845)

Prime Minister of England & architect of the Great Reform Bill of 1832 which significantly changed the electoral system of England. Earl Grey tea is reportedly named after him.

Derry, J.W. (1992) Charles, Earl Grey : aristocratic reformer. Oxford, UK ; Cambridge, Mass., USA : B. Blackwell      Available at Robinson Books Level 4 941.073 GRE(Der)

Trevelyan, G.M. (1920) Lord Grey of the Reform bill : being the life of Charles, second Earl Grey. London : Longmans, Green      Available at Robinson Books Level 4 941.073 GRE(Tre)

 George Ridley (1835-1864)

Songwriter who composed the legendary 'Blaydon Races', which was first performed at Balmbra's Music Hall in the centre of Newcastle on 5 June 1862

Ridley, G & Harker, D. (1973) George Ridley : Gateshead poet and vocalist. Newcastle upon Tyne : Graham       Available at Special Collections Edwin Clarke Local (Clarke 562 )

Corvan, E & Ridley, G (1862?) Tyneside songs. Newcastle upon Tyne : Allan       Available at Special Collections Cowen (Cowen Tracts v.143 n.1 )


The High Level Bridge, c.1927 (oil on canvas) Dickey, Edward Montgomery O'Rorke (1894 - 1977), Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK Bridgeman Education Robert Stephenson (1803-1859)

Only son of George Stephenson, he worked with his father on a number of projects including the Rocket locomotive.  Other notable achievements were the High Level Bridge over the River Tyne and the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick.

Haworth, V. (2004) Robert Stephenson : engineer & scientist : the making of a prodigy, 1803-1859, including a chronology.  Newcastle upon Tyne, England : Rocket Press.    Available at Robinson Books Level 4 625.10092 STE(Haw)

Jamieson, M. (1970) The Railway Stephensons Newcastle upon Tyne : Oriel P.    Available at Special Collections Edwin Clarke Local (Clarke 1808)  

 Bessie Surtees (1754-1831)

Wife of John Scott, later Lord Eldon. She famously eloped with him in 1772 by climbing out of the window of her home on Newcastle's Sandhill.  'Bessie Surtees House' is actually two five-storey merchant's houses which houses an exhibition on the 1st floor as well as English Heritage's regional office.

 Graham, F. (1972) The Sandhill, Newcastle upon Tyne : Bessie Surtees House and the Red House : a history and guide. Newcastle upon Tyne : Graham.  Available at Special Collections Edwin Clarke Local (Clarke 463)