Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Benwell Riots

The area that R's sister L and her husband D live in is a small private estate that was originally surrounded by government housing. It was a rough area, known as Benwell.

I have done some research on the net and come up with very little. But in 1991?, there were the Benwell riots in Newcastle. In their private house in a nice area, surrounded by a not so nice area, people rampaged through their street, smashing cars, street furniture, front windows. Riot police formed a barrier at one end of the street and repelled a further invasion. The rioters came in the other end and attacked the police. D was at work and L and whoever was with her cowered at the back of the house.

Seeing the area for myself, it is hard to believe that such a thing could happen. It is just a suburban street full of houses and people going about their business and friendly neighbourliness.

In the aftermath, council properties were sold for 50p, with provisos to improve. With a price for a house now around $200,000 plus, many made an absolute killing.

It was said that the riots in Newcastle started at North Shields? and for whatever reason, ended up in Benwell.

The cause so far as I can work out was a reaction against the deaths of youths joyriding and being pursued by police.

If anyone can add some more information, I would be most appreciative.


  1. The Benwell riot? Never heard of that one Andrew. Mind you, unless it happened it London the television news people in this country wouldn't have bothered covering it.

  2. Sounds like the Macquarie Fields riots here in Sydney a few years ago. That was started for the same kind of reason.

  3. Can't say that I know of it, either, sorry.

  4. Worth having a quick Google Brian and Jayne. There is a bit of info on it.

    Jo, from memory those were to do with aborigines? Although people did try to paint the Benwell Riots as racial, they apparently weren't.

  5. Yes, wot Jo said - Macquarie Fields here.
    I wonder what M.Fields property values are today?

    Should we start our Toll Roads Stockade in South Yarra and pray it results in Paisley St prices plumetting?

  6. I would guess not much has changed at M Fields Ann. Stockade is a great idea. How about an aboriginal tent embassy too.

  7. Anonymous7:43 am

    The Benwell Riots was a copycat disturbance of the Meadow Well Riots. Info can be found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meadow_Well_Riots

    The stupid thing is that the idiots in Benwell set fire to the shop that housed the Post Office and queued outside the burntout shell next morning to cash their giros

  8. Thanks for the comment Anon. Yes, I do recall that it police pursuing kids was a reason. Re the PO, very amusing.

  9. Anonymous3:49 am

    Just doing a search for something else on the 'net and came across this blog.

    I was there on Benwell when the 'Riots' started, and it was a day or two after two car thieves in a stolen car being pursued by Police crashed and killed themsleves on a sliproad off the Coast Road - leading to the 'Meadowell Riots' in North Shields, where they came from.

    The Benwell Riots began in the late afternoon with some young lad/scrote who had been caught breaking into a house - he somehow made his way onto the roof of the two storey buidling and started throwing the roof tiles at the police below. This stand-off went on for a few hours, when I presume the Police decide enough was enough and went in/up to bring him down.

    After this, it seems a lot of the local idiots decided to start their own mini version of the Meadowell Riots, due to the Police intervention in this incident.

    The main 'riot' areas were along Elswick Road, past Elswick Park and just before the Big Lamp area, where a pub was burned down. The other are was along near the shops on Adelaide Terrace. A decorating shop and a few other had windows broken.

    Our house was right in the middle of these two hot spots, but luckily the two didn't meet and our streets were fairly quiet apart from Police cars going round.

    Do also remember the Post Office incident though, and the queueing nest day!

  10. Thanks for the colour and first hand account Anon. It is just so hard to imagine it happening now when you walk the quietish streets.

  11. Anonymous8:52 pm

    I was there. Lived on Fairholm Road. You could see the flames and hear the sounds of smashing glass, but luckily the rioters didn't come that far up the hill. Remember seeing the TV report the next day and some kids threw a brick through the back window of the car the reporters were in. The whole place was like that then. You kept your head down and got on with life, and didn't try to intervene.

  12. Quite close to where my parnter's sister lived. Vaguely recalling the topography of the area, they would have been down hill in Elswick Road?

    It is just so hard to imagine it happening to such a quiet place that is now is.

  13. Anonymous9:05 pm

    I lived in Benwell during the riots, recent events have made me reflect and recall memories. I remember people on the roofs hurling tiles at police vans. The high street was smashed up, windows, shutters, broken, etc. Police had tried to close off the high street, however as seen police taking charge and control leads to further revolt. Only the people can stop the riots!

  14. Thanks Anon. High Street was the West Road? Or another road?

  15. Anonymous11:39 am

    I was there too, I was about 10 years old at the time, lived on Westfield Rd, an area that has only just began to be redeveloped from the time of the riots. To be honest violence on the streets was all I knew from a very early age, everyone was into one thing or another more or less. There was a strong sense of community then what I remember is drugs becoming a big thing and community going out the window. The kids I grew up with sniffed glue and generally just fucked about as there were no job prospects for people leaving school, but in the late 80's and early 90's the drugs changed and people started theiving left, right and centre(I'll never forget my mas house getting burgled at Christmas) and people coming home during the day to find their houses turned over. I played in burnt out cars a long time before the riots and was into crime from about the age of 7 or 8 (a lot of kids like myself suffered big time from growing up at that time), car chases and police helicopters were the norm as the locals pretty much owned the streets, coppers didn't want to be on the beat back then as people were reckless. One of my haunting memories is of a guy in Sids shop showing stiches were he had been repeatedly stabbed in the front and back the previous night, he jumped through a closed window to escape,we went into the abandoned house as we always did as soon as someone left and I remember needles and water all over the floor; as innocent as we were back then we took them and had great fun injecting crickets, years later I realised it was equipment for shooting up heroin! Shit like that happened almost daily again I say long before the riots. Drunk driver one night came speeding down Delly Rd one night and plowed into a group of kids hanging on the corner, one went under the car and luckily got away with a broken leg. When the riots erupted it had been a long time coming, I was standing at the bottom of Delly Rd watching the police getting all sorts chucked at them, it wasn't anything new, the school across the road had been burnt down twice and we tore up anything that wasn't locked down, ask how many people had a full garden fence, houses were gutted as soon as people moves out and most set on fire. We moved after the riots but the scars took a long time to heal, I feel fortunate to be breathing today as I know many are not or might as well not be. I've been approach about making a docummentry about my childhood and would like to publish a book at some point as there is a whole load of stories to be told from that time.

  16. A really good contribution Daniel, thank you. As they no longer live there, I can say my partner's sister lived in Benwell Grange Terrace off Hodgkin Park Road.

  17. The Benwell riots was basically anything North Shields can do, Benwell can do bigger and better.

    1. JJ, it is hard to believe it is the same place now.