Benwell shown within Tyne and Wear
|OS grid reference|
Benwell village was recorded in A.D. 1050 known as Bynnewalle which roughly translates as "behind the wall" or "by the wall". Referring to its position relative to Hadrian's Wall (next to which was the Roman fort of Condercum, hence the nearby Condercum Road). At this time it was part of the Barony of Bolbec.
By the 13th century the medieval manor of Benwell had been subdivided, originally into two, but then one of the halves was further subdivided. So, although people usually refer to the three sections of Benwell Manor as ‘thirds’, this gives a misleading impression, because one of the ‘thirds’ was larger and wealthier than the other two. This third belonged to the Scot family, who were wealthy merchants from Newcastle and by 1296 they were the principal taxpayers in Benwell. The Scot family later went on to create a deer park in 1367, which later became Scotswood.
In the 16th century Benwell village was arranged in two rows of houses on either side of a wide street or green. A plain oblong tower, three storeys high with battlements around the roof was also recorded as being built.
In 1540, the crown (Henry VIII), took possession of Benwell Tower from Tynemouth Priory when it dissolved the monasteries.
Early in the 17th century, Benwell was split into smaller estates which were bought by the Shafto and Riddell families who were merchant families interested in exploiting the coal reserves on the banks of the Tyne.
Benwell Colliery was opened in 1766 and operated until 1938.
The original layout of Benwell exists in the form of Benwell Village, Benwell Lane, Ferguson's Lane and Fox and Hounds Lane however no buildings still exist other than from the early 19th century. The tower from the 16th century was rebuilt in the 18th century and then all traces were removed when the present hall, Benwell Towers was built in a Tudor style by John Dobson in 1831. Benwell Towers featured in the BBC television show Byker Grove.
By the 1990s, Benwell was widely regarded as one of the most troubled parts of Tyneside, if not the whole of Britain. In April 1994, The Independent reported that unemployment in the area stood at 24% (well over twice the national average) and that drug abuse and arson were both a major problem in the area, with a number of arson attacks known to have been carried out in an attempt to intimidate witnesses to crimes and deter them from giving evidence in court.
The area is represented on Newcastle City Council as part of the Benwell and Scotswood ward, with three Labour councillors, including Lord Jeremy Beecham,the former chairman of the Labour Party and the Local Government Association. He was first elected for Benwell in 1967.
Famous residents and facts
- Alan Robson MBE (born 1 October 1955) is a British radio presenter who presents the late night phone-in show, NightOwls on Metro Radio, a local commercial station in the North East
- Richard Grainger who built the markets, The Monument, Grainger Street, Theatre Royal and Grey Street is buried in St James’ Churchyard in Benwell.
- William George Armstrong / Lord Armstrong (hence Armstrong Road in Benwell) started up munitions production after 1850 which created the demand for the terraced housing in Benwell
- Joseph Swan established the world’s first electric light bulb factory in Benwell in 1881. The factory supplied the lights for Mosley Street in Newcastle which was the first street in the UK to be lit by electric light
- John Buddle was a local mining engineer, who invented and developed the means of mining coal deeply and thereby began the industrial development of the area in the early 19th century. He is commemorated in "Buddle Road". He is buried in a family crypt in the graveyard of St James Church; for which he donated 3/4 acres for its building and was principal in having the church built. The crypt is constructed in a seam of coal, the very ore he dedicated his life to.
- Richard Scot, the son of John Scot, bounded 200 acres (0.81 km2) of land to make a deer park. This has been attributed as the origin of Scotswood
- Bill Steel, TV & Radio presenter, actor, broadcast journalist, lived in Benwell as a boy at 170 Atkinson Road with his parents & brother & sister
- Alan Hull, a musician, songwriter, and member of Lindisfarne, was born in Benwell.
- Robert Thomas Atkinson was a successful mining engineer who owned High Cross House, that once stood around the current area of Elswick Road and the corner's of Maria St., Caroline St. and St. John's Road. Hence the origin of "Atkinson Road". He was the nephew of John Buddle and took over many of his positions upon the death of Buddle. He too is buried in the family crypt at St James Church. He died only two years after the death of John Buddle. He had donated further land for the expansion of the church graveyard.
- The Reverend William Maughan was the first incumbent vicar of St James Church, he was the vicar from 1843 - 1877. He is buried in the church graveyard with his wife Mary. Mary was the wife of Robert Thomas Atkinson and upon his death married William.
- William Surtees had Benwell Hall built. He was the brother of Bessie Surtees (made famous by her elopment with John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon). The Hall was demolished in 1982.
- Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher was born in Benwell in 1903 and lived at 142 Clara Street. Using the name Rudolf Abel he was arrested in New York in 1957 as a Soviet spy and was the person exchanged for Gary Powers, the pilot in the U2 bomber incident, in 1962.
- Pastscape, English Heritage National Monuments Record. "Condercum Fort", accessed 17 May 2011.
- The Baronies of Bolbec, Archaeologia Aeliana, 3, XXI, p. 146
- Philip Davis (2015-11-22). "Benwell Towers (The Gatehouse Record)". Gatehouse-gazetteer.info. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
- Durham Mining Museum. "Durham Mining Museum - Benwell Colliery". Dmm.org.uk. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
- "Benwell, Benwell Lane, The Mitre PH (Benwell Towers) | sitelines.newcastle.gov.uk". Twsitelines.info. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
- Martin Wainwright. "Byker Grove youth club to become an Islamic school | Television & radio". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
- Henderson, Tony. "Richard Grainger's tomb restoration wins design award". The Journal. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
- "A History of the World - Object : One of the First Electric Light Bulbs". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
- Butcher, Joanne. "Newcastle City Hall reveal plaque for Alan Hull". Chronicle Live. Retrieved 2015-12-03.
- "Benwell, Benwell Hall | sitelines.newcastle.gov.uk". Twsitelines.info. Retrieved 2015-12-03.