The Durham County Advertiser of 25th March 1815 carried news of a riot by Keelmen and Casters at Bishopwearmouth on Monday 21st March 1815, and describing events of the following days:
RIOT AT SUNDERLAND.—It is with feelings of the most poignant regret that we announce to our readers a riot of an alarming and disgraceful nature, which took place near Sunderland on Monday last. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon of that day, a party of keelmen, estimated a little short of one thousand, embarked in their keels and set sail of the River Wear, towards the inclined plane lately erected by the proprietors of Newbottle colliery, for the conveyance of their coals to the spouts at which vessels lay to receive them. Having arrived at this spot, the party landed, and, as they had previously agreed, immediately commenced the work of destruction. With the assistance of axes, saws, &c.they demolished in a few hours the work which had required months to bring it to perfection. The magistrates, who merit every praise for their alertness and decision, did every thing in their power to put a stop to the unlawful proceedings; but the keelmen, in defiance of the laws of their country, would not be interrupted. After destroying the inclined plane, they set fire to the machinery, and about 7 o'clock, having completed their diabolical purpose, they dispersed, shouting in the most disgraceful manner as they passed through the streets. A young man, called Bennett, a carpenter, about 18 years of age, who had undertaken to set fire to the building in which the machinery was contained, by attaching a burning tar barrel to the roof, fell whilst in the act, and was so severely bruised he died the next morning, very fortunately for himself; for had he survived, he must doubtless have suffered a disgraceful and ignominious death, as an atonement to the offended laws of his country. A troop of cavalry, which arrived from Newcastle about midnight on the day of the riot, and another troop on Thursday, have since succeeded in maintaining order. On Tuesday night, a keelmen, of the name of Davison, having assaulted the patrole, was taken into custody, and on Wednesday was committed to Durham gaol, (he is believed to be one of the ringleaders,) since which the rioters have moored their craft in such a manner, as to completely impede the navigation of the river, and their threatenings are dreadful; another man, named Clarke, has been apprehended; the police, with the soldiery are in quest of some more.—These riotous proceedings appear to have originated in a report that more waggon ways were about to be formed, similar to that which has been destroyed. These it was supposed must necessarily do away the use of keels, and therefore the mob took the law into their own hands, and committed the outrage we have repeated. We should recommend these deluded men to return to their duty, for they may rest assured, they will gain nothing by a perseverance in their ill-judged conduct, which will only subject them to the severest punishment, and the loss of friends.—Honest industry will always find employment, and if one branch fails, there are plenty others to resort to.