Posted May 2nd, 2011

By the First World War, Armstrong’s factories employed an all-time peak of 20,000 workers. Women were drawn into the factories during this period to do jobs formerly the preserve of men – but once the fighting was over the women were out of work again.

Although local industries were making healthy profits, local people did not always share in this prosperity. Poverty was common in Benwell and Scotswood mainly as a result of low wages and irregular work. Many children went barefoot, and the poorest families relied on meals provided by the council or charities. People lived in fear of the poor law and the workhouse. There was no free healthcare, and infectious diseases were rife, often claiming many lives at a very young age.

The First World War was a boom time for employment but it was also a time of great loss and sadness for local people. Many Benwell and Scotswood men died as a result of a war which cost an estimated 37 million lives in total. The Benwell war memorial, which is located inside St James’ Church, records the names of all those local people who lost their lives as a result of the war.