Parade and moment of peace to mark 170 years since Great Yarmouth bridge disaster

Remembering the Suspension Bridge Disaster in Great Yarmouth. Photo: Steve Adams

Remembering the Suspension Bridge Disaster in Great Yarmouth. Photo: Steve Adams

Candles were lit on the banks of the River Bure to mark 170 years since one of the region's greatest disasters.

Great Yarmouth suspension bridge disaster of 1845. Source: Library

Great Yarmouth suspension bridge disaster of 1845. Source: Library

A memorial parade was held yesterday - the anniversary of the Great Yarmouth suspension bridge disaster of May 2, 1845, which claimed 79 lives. A huge crowd had gathered on the bridge, located near the White Swan pub, to watch a circus publicity stunt. But the day turned dark when the weight on the bridge shifted and the ensuing collapse killed dozens, most of them children aged five to 13.

Few could afford a proper burial and in the end the bridge owners paid for many of the victims to be buried in two mass graves of 30.

Yarmouth resident Julie Staff has lead tributes to the victims in recent years, campaigning for a permanent memorial and organising commemorative events.

For the 170th anniversary, she organised a costumed parade from the site of the river crossing - which no longer exists - along with stalls and, at 5pm, a moment of reflection by the waterside, before candles were lit at dusk.

'Seeing the lanterns all along the river bank was quite emotional,' said Mrs Staff.

'It went well. It was good to have children from the local schools involved; St Nicholas Primary had decorated lantern bags and we had two descendants of one of the victims.'

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Carole Maran and Keith Gilbert, the great great grandchildren of a man whose 12-year-old sister died in the tragedy, travelled to Norfolk for the anniversary having first made contact with Mrs Staff in 2013.

The £360 raised on Saturday will be donated to Great Yarmouth Food Bank.

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