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- Pauline Murray (born 1958), lead-singer with punk-band Penetration (band) and solo artist during the '80s
- Gem Archer (born 1966), guitarist with the band Oasis
- Rowan Atkinson, (born in Consett in 1955), actor. Attended the Chorister School 1964–1966.
- Pat Barker, (born in Thornaby on Tees in 1943), novelist ('Regeneration' trilogy), now resident in Durham.
- Barnabe Barnes, (baptised 1571, died 1609), Elizabethan poet. Died in Durham.
- Tony Blair, (born 1953) former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Attended the Chorister School 1961–1966.
- Count Joseph Boruwlaski (1739–1837), celebrated dwarf, spent last years of his life in Durham.
- Rev. Edward Bradley (1827–1889). Studied at Durham University and took his nom de plume "Cuthbert Bede" from the names of two its colleges.
- Richard Caddel (1949–2003), poet. Lived in Durham from the 1970s and was co-director of the Basil Bunting poetry centre at Durham University library from 1988.
- George Camsell (1902–1966), international footballer, born in Framwellgate Moor.
- Paul Collingwood (born 1976), international cricketer. Born in Shotley Bridge, now resident in Durham.
- Sir Kingsley Dunham (1910–2001), Professor of Geology and later Professor Emeritus at the University of Durham, director of the British Geological Survey from 1967–75.
- John Bacchus Dykes (1823–1876), hymnologist, clergyman in Durham from 1849 to his death.
- John Meade Falkner (1858–1932), arms manufacturer and novelist. Lived in Durham from 1902, and became Honorary Reader in Paleography at the University of Durham, and Honorary Librarian to the Dean and Chapter Library of Durham Cathedral.
- James Fenton (born 1949), journalist and poet. Attended the Chorister School 1957–1962.
- Max Ferguson (born 1924), Canadian broadcaster, born in Durham.
- John Garth (1721–1810), composer. Lived in Durham for much of his life.
- Godric of Finchale (c. 1065–1170), popular medieval saint, briefly served as doorkeeper at St Giles Hospital in Durham before becoming a hermit.
- Andy Gomarsall (born 1974), International Rugby union player. Born in Durham.
- John Gully (1783–1863), prize fighter, racehorse owner and politician. Resident in Durham at time of his death.
- Warren Hawke, professional footballer
- Ian Hay, novelist (taught at Durham School)
- Trevor Horn, record producer and member of The Buggles and Art Of Noise, born in Durham 1949.
- Steve Howard, professional footballer
- Violet Hunt, novelist
- Paddy McAloon, musician, born in Durham in 1957
- Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad, philosopher and radio broadcaster
- Stephen Kemble of the famous British acting family, the Kemble family lived, worked and is buried in Durham.
- Lawrence of Durham, poet
- Sir John Grant McKenzie Laws, Lord Justice Laws, judge (attended the Chorister School)
- Thomas Morton, playwright.
- Graeme Nicholls, guitarist
- Stuart Parnaby, Birmingham City F.C footballer, born 1982 in Durham.
- William Pearson, watercolorist and topographer
- Anna Maria Porter, novelist
- Jane Porter, novelist
- Michael Ramsey, 100th Archbishop of Canterbury (once Bishop of Durham)
- Reginald of Durham, hagiographer
- Gordon Scurfield, biologist and author
- Peter Shoulder, musician, vocalist and guitarist of Winterville & The Union
- Christopher Smart, poet
- Joseph Spence, literary memoirist
- Anne Stevenson, Poet
- Mary Stewart (novelist and poet), born in Sunderland, graduated from Durham University and was a lecturer there in English Literature (author of 20 novels, including The Moonspinners, Madam Will You Talk, and the Merlin trilogy)
- Robert Surtees, historian and antiquarian
- Symeon of Durham, historian
- Sir Peter Vardy, businessman (attended the Chorister School)
- Hugh Walpole, novelist
- Walter of Durham, 13th century painter
- Sir Arnold Wolfendale, Astronomer Royal
- James Wood, literary critic
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