One hundred years ago today Wanganui people reacted to the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania by smashing up a German pork butcher's shop in Victoria Avenue.

Alison Brockway is the granddaughter of the butcher, Conrad Heinold, and her memory was jogged by a television comment about the riot on Sunday night - to the effect that a pork butcher was unlikely to be passing New Zealand's state secrets to the Germans.

Anti-German sentiment ran high in New Zealand during World War I, and any foreigner was suspect.

Mr Heinold had emigrated to New Zealand as a teenager, and met and married a german woman after he got here. His first butcher shop was on the corner of Maria Place and Victoria Ave. Newspaper records say it was thronged with people who wanted the delicacies he made - his Ormskirk pork brawn was a favourite.

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When the RMS Lusitania was sunk on May 7, anti-German anger boiled over a week later.

The attack on the shop happened on May 14 - and it was expected, the Wanganui Chronicle of May 17 said.

Mr Heinold had received 50 or 60 threatening letters. Sergeant Bourke in the police heard it was to happen at night, and got Mr Heinold to close up shop at 5.30pm. One accusation was that his children were refusing to sing the national anthem, but he said they sang it at both school and Sunday school. According to the paper, the crowd outside the shop surged back and forth, and some threw stones. One thrower was caught by police and handcuffed, but managed to escape. There were several women among the rioters and one of them told a young man off.

"A young man apparently said or did something that caused her to rebuke him, whereupon he swung around a piece of tripe he was carrying, and struck her a stinging blow across the face," the paper said.

Waterside workers were blamed for the attack, but investigators could find no group responsible. The glass windows of the shop were smashed. Another newspaper account said Mr Heinold sold the business a month later.

He never talked about the riot, his granddaughter said, and the family didn't think it was justified. She doesn't know how he earned a living after that.

The incident didn't ruin his life though. She remembers him as quite a happy man, with a chocolate bar in his pocket and a big garden.