George Garbutt (1791-1859)
George Garbutt was from Sunderland and a local historian and freemason
West Dudley Digges was the grandson of a baron but his expectations of inheritance were dashed as a teenager. He made his debut on 29 November 1749 as Jaffeir in Venice Preserv’d at Thomas Sheridan’s Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin where he was billed as “a Gentleman lately arrived from England, who never yet appeared on any Stage.” It was customary for performers to be publicised in this way, as a ‘gentleman’ or ‘lady’ for their first performances until they had gained the approbation of the public. At his debut he displayed the sprezzatura for which he became famous. The stage manager, Benjamin Victor, wrote to Colley Cibber: “I stood by him at his first entrance in Jaffier, and observed that not a single nerve seemed disordered – the audience saluted him with peals of applause – he went through the part with great spirit, and gave manifest proofs of a genius for the stage.” In his history of the Irish stage, Robert Hitchcock, conveyed the remarkable impact that Digges made on his debut:
Few candidates for theatrical fame ever entered the lists with greater expectations, or excited general curiosity more than Mr Digges. His family connections, and many singular circumstances which marked his entrance into life, were so well known to the fashionable world, that his first entre on the stage engaged the attention of the politest circles.
The actor and playwright John O’Keeffe, who knew him in Dublin, described Digges as “excellent in tragedy, comedy, and opera” and he quickly became a favourite of Dublin audiences, remaining with Sheridan in Dublin for five years. Digges immediately came to the attention of Garrick in London who noted in a letter to his friend, Somerset Draper in June 1750: “I have made some enquiry after Digges … I wish I had him at a moderate, or even almost any price” but Digges would continue to perform in Ireland, Scotland and the north of England for twenty-eight years before ever setting foot on a London stage.
The Whitby collector of customs Francis Gibson was a poet, playwright and fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
William Hutchinson authored early histories of the Counties of Durham and Cumberland, topographies of Northumberland and the Lake District, plus novels, plays and the much reprinted "Spirit of Masonry" which saw five editions in his lifetime.
Stephen Kemble was one of the greatest provincial theatre managers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
William Henry Lambton was the MP for Durham and installed as provincial Grand Master of Durham in 1788.
Charlotte Lowes was a strolling player who worked across the north of England and left a valuable memoir of her career.
Newcastle-born William Newton exemplifies the new local builder-architect that catered to élite coal-rich clients
Well-known composer to George III, William Shield started his musical career as the Durham theatre company’s band leader
Robert Tannahill was a Scottish laboring class poet from Paisley, near Glasgow, known as the 'Weaver Poet'
James Tate was a teacher and man of the church who was close friends with northern actors.
William Taylor was a prolific critic and scholar based in Norwich.
She was known as 'Miss Wallis of Bath' but Jane Wallis actually hailed from the north.
Dr Tipping Brown was a distinguished freemason and influential literary figure during a significant period of Sunderland's development.
James Murray was a leading political radical in Newcastle upon Tyne during the turbulent 1770s.
Publisher of the Bible in Arabic, Thomas Bewick's Memoirs and the first volume of the journal of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne Archaeologia Aeliana: Sarah Hodgson also edited the Newcastle Chronicle for over twenty years.
The Dublin-born actor, abolitionist and freemason James Field Stanfield spent most of his career performing in theatres in the north of England.
As a political radical, Thomas Spence was the proponent of the only political ideology, "Spencerianism", to have ever been outlawed in Britain.
Anne Slack was Britain's first modern English-language grammarian, an entrepreneur in her own right, and wife of Newcastle printer, Thomas Slack.
Joseph Ritson was an antiquary and historian of "the common people", a friend to actors who passed through his home town of Stockton, and the man who made Robin Hood a champion of the poor.
The Yorkshire company under Tate Wilkinson’s management from 1766 to 1806 had the best-known circuit in the North.
The novelist and playwright Thomas Holcroft was a strolling player in the north of England in the 1770s and performed with the Durham company.
Ann Allan of Blackwell Grange was a prominent local philanthropist and friend to local personalities.
Antiquary and printer George Allan was an influential cultural figure in the Northeast
Robert Anderson, known as the ‘Bard of Cumberland' was an English labouring class poet who wrote in Cumbrian dialect.
Susanna Blamire, posthumously dubbed the ‘Muse of Cumberland’ has been called "unquestionably the best female writer of her age”
Rowland Burdon was a Newcastle Banker, one time Mayor of Stockton and the first Durham MP not to have been an aristocrat.
Samuel Butler managed one of the most successful northern theatre circuits of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.