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Alderson, Thomas Hopper (1903–1965), wartime rescue party leader, was born at Ashburne Stables, Sunderland, on 15 September 1903, the fifth of six children and first son of Thomas Alderson (1864–1945), domestic coachman, and his wife, Sarah Annie, née Hopper (1872–1942). He was educated at a village school; then at ...

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Appleby, Sir William (1732–1796), eccentric and municipal reformer, was born at Durham on 15 September 1732, the third surviving son of Edward Appleby (1702–1736), a grocer, who was said to have introduced the bleaching of linen cloth from Ireland to Durham, and his wife, ...

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Barry, Thomas Bernardine (1897–1980), Irish revolutionary and folk hero, was born on 1 July 1897 in Killorglin, co. Kerry, the eldest son and second of eleven children of Thomas Barry, a policeman, and his wife, Margaret Donovan, both of co. Cork. After Tom...

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Baume, Pierre Henri Joseph (1797–1875), radical activist and eccentric, was born at Marseilles on 17 October 1797, the son of Henri Joseph Baume (1770–1831) and Marie Claire Antoinette Merlat (1780–1837). His parents ran a wig-making shop and were inclined both to anti-clericalism and adultery. When he was still young his father moved to ...

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Noel Pemberton Billing (1881–1948) by Elliott & Fry, 1920s © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Billing, Noel Pemberton (1881–1948), aviator and self-publicist, was born on 31 January 1881 in Hampstead, the youngest child of Charles Eardley Billing, a Birmingham iron-founder, and his wife, Annie Emilia Claridge. He was educated at the high school, Hampstead; Cumming's College, outside Boulogne...

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Bosville, William (1745–1813), society host and radical, was born on 21 July 1745, the eldest son of Godfrey Bosville of Gunthwaite, Yorkshire, and his wife, Diana, the eldest daughter of Sir William Wentworth, baronet, of West Bretton. Bosville was able to trace his family back to the reign of ...

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Brittain, Sir Henry Ernest [Harry] (1873–1974), journalist and politician, was born on 24 December 1873 at Storth Oaks, Ranmoor, near Sheffield, Yorkshire, the oldest surviving child in the family of two sons and three daughters (one daughter died in infancy) of William Henry Brittain (1835–1922)...

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(Archibald) Fenner Brockway, Baron Brockway (1888–1988) by Bassano, 1930 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Brockway, (Archibald) Fenner, Baron Brockway (1888–1988), politician and campaigner, was born on 1 November 1888 in Calcutta, the only son and eldest of three children of the Revd William George Brockway, London Missionary Society missionary, and his wife, Frances Elizabeth, daughter of William Abbey...

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John Bull (supp. fl. 1712–) by Charles Williams, c. 1816 © Copyright The British Museum

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Bull, John (supp. fl. 1712–), fictitious epitomist of Englishness and British imperialism, first appeared in print in The History of John Bull, a political allegory—sometimes wrongly attributed to Jonathan Swift, but now accepted as the work of John Arbuthnot, Queen Anne's physician. The ...

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Charles Buller (1806–1848) by Edward Scriven, pubd 1840 (after Bryan Edward Duppa) © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Buller, Charles (1806–1848), politician and wit, was born in Calcutta on 6 August 1806, the son of Charles Buller (1774–1848), civil servant in India and politician, and his wife, Barbara Isabella Kirkpatrick (d. 1849), daughter of Major-General William Kirkpatrick of the East India Company...

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Cuffe [Cuff], Henry (1562/3–1601), classical scholar and secretary to the earl of Essex, is believed to have been the youngest son of Robert Cuffe, of Donyatt, Somerset. The senior branch of the family were modest landowners at Creech St Michael, near Taunton. A ...

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Dashwood, Francis, eleventh Baron Le Despencer (1708–1781), politician and rake, born in Great Marlborough Street, London, in December 1708, and baptized at St Botolph without Bishopsgate on 23 December 1708, was the only son of Sir Francis Dashwood, first baronet (c. 1658–1724), merchant and MP, of ...

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Francis Dashwood, eleventh Baron Le Despencer (1708–1781) by Nathaniel Dance, 1776 The Dashwood Heirloom Collection. Photograph: Photographic Survey, Courtauld Institute of Art, London

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Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée D'Éon de Beaumont, Chevalier D'Éon in the French nobility (1728–1810) by George Dance, 1793 © Copyright The British Museum

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D'Éon de Beaumont, Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée, Chevalier D'Éon in the French nobility (1728–1810), diplomatist and transvestite, was born at the Hotel d'Uzès, Tonnerre, Burgundy, on 5 October 1728. He came of an old noble family, possibly of Breton origin, though, like much else about this extraordinary personage, his genealogical pretensions later gave rise to judicial proceedings. His father, ...

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Des Barres, Joseph Frederick Wallet (1721–1824), hydrographer and colonial official, was born in November 1721, either in Basel, Switzerland, or in Paris, the eldest child of Joseph-Léonard Vallet des Barres, a Huguenot, and his wife, Anne-Catherine, née Cuvier. He was baptized Joseph-Frédéric Vallet...