Princess Alice Memorial - Stone Walk, Creekmouth, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 30.959 E 000° 05.896
31U E 298672 N 5711198
Quick Description: This memorial is on a low bank on the west side of the Barking Barrier where the River Roding joins the River Thames. Standing at the memorial there is a view across the River Thames to where the disaster took place in 1878.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 9/8/2013 6:05:08 AM
Waymark Code: WMJ18K
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member cldisme
Views: 1

Long Description:

The memorial, that is a flat piece of slate, is inscribed:

Princess Alice Memorial
In memory of all those who lost their lives
in the tragic sinking of the
Princess Alice paddle steamer
off Creekmouth, on 3rd September 1878
Also, with grateful remembrance of the residents of
Creekmouth Village, who helped in the rescue attempts
Approximately 700 people lost their lives in the disaster
May they all rest in peace

The memorial was placed by the Creekmouth Preservation Society and was funded by the National Lottery.

The BBC website tells us:

To this day the disaster at Gallions Reach holds the dubious honour of having the largest number of fatalities of any incident in peacetime Britain, especially as countless other survivors may have died years later from ingesting the pollution in the river. At the time of the accident many people were hostile towards Captain Harrison, but after the inquests he regained his professional reputation although he never went to sea again. The Bywell Castle was given to another captain and continued to work as a collier until 1883, when on the way back from the Mediterranean she vanished in the Bay of Biscay and is still listed as missing.

The Creekmouth website further tells us:

The Princess Alice Disaster

The Princess Alice was a paddle steamer that sailed, daily, between Swan Pier, near London Bridge, to Gravesend and Sheerness.

On 3rd September 1878 the paddle steamer left Swan Pier with hundreds of passengers aboard, having purchased their tickets for 2/-. Children travelled free so it was never known exactly how many were on board but it was a beautiful, late summers day and Londoners were making the most of the good weather for a last trip before the autumn weather set in. Captain William Grinstead was on the bridge.

The passengers were in high spirits as the steamer made its way along the River Thames, stopping a North Woolwich Pier before sailing on to Rosherville Gardens, near Gravesend, where many of the passengers would disembark to picnic and wander round the beautiful gardens.

On its return journey it arrived at Rosherville Gardens at about 6pm. So many passengers were trying to crowd on to the boat that others took the decision to get off and wait for a later boat to take them back to London. At approximately 7.40pm it passed Creeksmouth, travelling upstream against the tide. It was hugging the south shore as it rounded Tripcock Point. At the same time the 890 ton coal collier, The Bywell Castle, was leaving dry dock to head downstream and onwards to Newcastle. Collision was inevitable and The Bywell Castle, much bigger and heavier than the Princess Alice, sliced the paddle steamer clean in half.

Men, women and children jumped, or were thrown, into the filthy, swirling waters of the Thames. They were further hindered by their heavy, Victorian clothes. Hundreds were trapped inside the boat and were later found crowded around the exits.

Across the darkening river, in the little village of Creeksmouth, the children were enjoying a 'treat day'. As the screams and cries for help travelled across the river the women took the children into the cottages whilst the menfolk rushed up to the riverbank to discover what was causing such a commotion.

On realising that a terrible tragedy had occured they launched rowing boats and quickly made their way to the collision site. Others waded into the river to help pull survivors and bodies ashore. About 30 or more passengers, dead and alive,were brought ashore. The survivors were taken into the cottages, given warm, dry clothes and food. The bodies were laid out in the little schoolroom were just a short time earlier the children had been enjoying their tea.

Over the following days the survivors were collected by relatives and friends. The Coroner came to perform inquest on the poor souls who had drowned & then they were removed to their families. During the inquest into the tragedy, blame was laid firmly at the feet of Captain Grinstead. The Coroner received testimonies from many survivors who stated that, but for the bravery of the people from Creekouth, they would not have survived that night. The Coroner added his praise to that of the survivors.

Most of the bodies were taken to Woolwich on the south side of the river, following the collision. Many of them were buried in Woolwich Cemetery and their is as huge memorial cross there, paid for by public subscriptions, in memory pf all those who lost their lives.

The exact number of casualties was never ascertained but it is reckoned that between 650 - 700 passengers lost their lives in the tragedy.

There was no memorial to the drowned souls on the north side of the river so, in 2009 the members of the Creekmouth Preservation Society raised funds through the local community and The Lottery-Awards for All scheme, to commission a Welsh slate memorial plaque. It now sits on an incline at The Creekmouth Open space - the site of Creekmoth Village - overlooking the spot in the river where the tragedy took place.

The local cubs and scouts helped the Creekmouth group plant 700 spring bulbs in memory of all those who died that terrible night.

Disaster Date: 9/3/1878

Memorial Sponsors: Creekmouth Preservation Society

Parking Coordinates: N 51° 31.063 W 000° 05.921

Disaster Type: Technological

Relevant Website: [Web Link]

Date of dedication: Not listed

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