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Tony Flynn
100 YEARS AGO: SALFORD RACE RIOT
I came across this amazing story from the pages of the Salford City Reporter, March 1919 and it told of a major incident in Salford which was headlined, "Negroes run riot" and "Growing menace of coloured community"

Greengate at this time had to be possibly the worst slum dwelling area of Salford with hundreds of people crammed into squalid rooms in shared houses, a fertile breeding ground for crime and disorder.

It was also the location of the first black community in Salford with many of them, sailors who had left their ships in Salford and settled here, forming their own communities, sadly not to everybody's liking.

Salford Magistrates Court was reported as having a packed public gallery, as crowds had flocked to see what the sensation what all about following the lurid headlines in the press.

Thomas Williams a black man was charged with being on enclosed premises on Duke Street for an unlawful purpose, alongside him in the dock were Albert Cuthbert, Jack Andrews, Lewis Wyndham, John Barber, Thomas Peters, George Nelson and William Johnson who were all charged with assault by striking and kicking P.C. Noddle in the execution of his duty and unlawfully rescuing Thomas Williams from the lawful custody of of P.C. Noddle in Gravel lane, Salford.

Further excitement was caused when one of the accused, Thomas Peters had to be carried to the dock seated in a chair as he had sustained a fractured leg in the melee, also face wounds which were covered with cotton wool.

Detective Sergeant Clark told the court that Thomas Williams had walked into a house on Duke Street, Greengate whilst the occupier a tailor by the name of John Fennell was working in a back bedroom, in the kitchen was a man named Henry Williams who asked Thomas Williams what he wanted, he was told that he was looking for a man called Peters.

He was told that there was nobody of that name there but refused to leave the premises, Mr Fennell came downstairs and he threatened to call the police, Williams ran out of the house pursued by Fennel and Henry Williams.

He darted into another house and quickly fled through the back door but was apprehended by P.C. Noddle who had been alerted by the commotion.

Joined by Fennell and Williams he attempted to take Thomas Williams into custody when they were suddenly attacked by 50 black men some carrying, razors, knives and sticks.

The three men were badly knocked about by the mob and the prisoner was rescued and made good his escape.

Police from the nearby Chapel Street police station were quickly on the scene to help quell a potential riot, they made arrests at various house in the area and were identified by P.C. Noddle as having been concerned in the affray.

D.C. Clark said that Thomas Peters took a large part in the fighting and was found in possession of a razor with a jagged blade, razors were also found on two other men.

John Fennell and Henry Williams both gave evidence in which Williams said that he lived with Fennell and there had been several instances of, "coloured men" walking into the house at all hours, uninvited, and on one occasion a "coloured man" walked in when Fennell's sister was sat alone, , she called out to him and the man fled the house.

Chief Inspector Markland then took the stand and said that when Williams was captured, Thomas Peters began to obstruct P.C. Noddle when negroes from Greengate area gathered together and attacked the men.

P.C. Noddle drew his staff and struck several of the attackers but after a short struggle managed to liberate Williams, when he was rearrested it took six policemen to subdue him as he "fought like a wildcat"

D.I. Markland then added that there had been a lot of trouble with "these coloured men" and he had been called out to quell the disturbances five times and they were becoming, "a perfect nuisance".

In his defence, Thomas Williams said that he entered Mr Fennell's house in error, whilst all of the other accused men, denied taking part in the affray.

Alderman Linley the Chairman of the Bench said that they considered that Cuthbert and and Andrews had taken the least part in the affray and they would go to prison for one month with hard labour.

All of the other men in the dock were sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labour.

He than added, "I hope this will be a lesson to you men, we are determined to protect the police against any rowdyism of this kind" and then asked D.I. Clark to to make representation to the Home Office that these men were becoming a nuisance.

The story doesn't end there because the Chief Constable of Salford, Major C.V. Godfrey actually called at the Home Office in London that week and handed over a report which read.

"The presence of these negroes in Salford was causing a great deal of of dissatisfaction and was looked upon as a public menace.

"We recommend that they be returned to their respective colonies, especially so as the labouring work which they had been undertaking during the war can now be satisfactorily done by the returning soldiers and sailors.

"Many of these men are living with white girls and several had been convicted for living on the immoral earnings of women.

"Several had also been convicted for offences committed on the high sea's including threats to inflict grievous bodily harm on officers with razors and other weapons.

"The white population in the districts of Greengate and the docks area were living in terror at the present time and it was feared that serious trouble would occur in the near future"

If that isn't scaremongering to an incredible degree I don't know what is.

Basically he is asking for "coloured" people to be deported back to the county of their origin whilst chucking in large does of racist rhetoric, guaranteed to inflame tensions even higher, if any existed at all, a shocking thing for the Chief Constable of Salford to say, in my opinion, and almost on par with Enoch Powell's, "Rivers of Blood" infamous speech in 1968.

A browse through and pages of the court cases in Salford will show that the vast majority of crimes ranging from murder, arson, theft, violence, drunkenness etc were committed by white Salfordians of both sexes.

On reflection it's a sad testimony of the mindset of the time that people of a different skin colour could be blamed for a "reign of terror and fear".

Happily the "serious trouble" that Major Godfrey predicted, never happened and life went on in Greengate.

 


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