Durham City and
its neighbouring towns and villages have links with many
well known and innovative people that helped to put the
area firmly on the map of the rich and famous.
The city is particularly noted for its literary connections,
with one of the most famous female poets, Elizabeth
Barrett Browning, being born here.
After anonymously publishing a book of poetry and a translation
of Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, Elizabeth published The
Seraphim and Other Poems in 1838 under her own name.
Its success drew the attention of poet Robert Browning
and they fell in love, marrying in secret in 1846 before
moving to Italy, where they lived until her death in 1861.
Elizabeth’s most famous work is Aurora Leigh,
which was published in 1857.
Durham also has strong religious connections as the Cathedral
houses the shrine of the 7th century Saint Cuthbert and also St Bede, who is famed for his Ecclesiastical
History of the English People.
These days there remain a number of literary connections,
with nearby Barnard Castle being home to children’s
author Anne Fine, whose best-known book was made
into the hit Hollywood movie Mrs Doubtfire. In
addition, Pat Barker, who now lives in the city
of Durham, won the 1995 Booker Prize for Ghost
Even Charles Dickens has got a connection to the
area. He used the William Shaw Academy, located
on the outskirts of Durham at Bowes, as the basis for
the notorious Dotheboys Hall in Nicholas Nickleby.
If you’re interested in folk music then the name Bonnie Bobby Shafto may ring a bell, and you’ll
be interested to learn that he came from Spennymoor. His
former home, Whitworth Hall [map],
is now a luxury hotel.
Durham has also produced many sporting stars, including
test cricketer Colin Milburn, who first played
the game for Chester-le-Street Cricket Club. The town
was also the childhood home of footballer Bryan Robson,
and former England rugby union star Rob Andrew went to school at Barnard Castle.
As for the silver screen, comic Stan Laurel, from
the famous duo Laurel and Hardy, is the connection there
as he went to school in nearby Bishop Auckland.
Finally, Durham is also known as the birthplace of one
of Britain’s most infamous murderers, Mary Ann
Cotton, who was convicted of poisoning 17 friends
and family, including many of her children and several
husbands. She was hanged in 1873.