Posted May 2nd, 2011

During the 1960s, much of Benwell was transformed as the bulldozers advanced. Clearance of the long terraces that stretched from Adelaide Terrace south to the industrial area along the riverside began during the 1960s, demolishing the houses in phases starting from the lower end where the property tended to be of poorer quality and making its way up towards High Cross which was scheduled to be cleared later in the 1970s.

This period is closely associated in popular memory with the figure of T Dan Smith, the Labour politician who was leader of Newcastle City Council from 1960. Smith initiated a series of slum housing clearances in the city that saw large amounts of money and effort placed on housing redevelopments that experimented with new building methods that would produce more units of housing at lower cost. The Cruddas Park flats are a product of such redevelopments. Smith also had grand plans for the city centre, such as an urban motorway, a rapid transit system and a new library, and he authorised the demolition of a large part of the city centre to create a new shopping centre. Nevertheless, he is mainly remembered today for his criminal activities, after being imprisoned for corruption in the 1970s. It is easy to over-estimate Smith’s significance in the history of Newcastle, however. He led the council for only five years, and many of the decisions and actions popularly associated with him were actually carried out by his successors. Smith died in 1993 still protesting his innocence.