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Town's rich history recalled

PUBLISHED: 17:26 24 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:56 03 July 2010

TWO commemorative blue plaques were unveiled in Great Yarmouth on Monday by the Archaeological Society.

The first one was at 11.30am near the White Swan public house on North Quay to commemorate the fall of the suspension bridge on May 2 1845 which claimed 79 lives, many of them women and children.

TWO commemorative blue plaques were unveiled in Great Yarmouth on Monday by the Archaeological Society.

The first one was at 11.30am near the White Swan public house on North Quay to commemorate the fall of the suspension bridge on May 2 1845 which claimed 79 lives, many of them women and children.

Among the assembled crowd were various members of the society together with students from St Nicholas Priory Middle School.

A dedication was given by Canon Michael Woods who spoke of the town's history.

He said: “This town is rich in history and therefore there is bound to be tragedy. But I feel that this blue plaque will enhance the town's historic dimension by remembering those who died at the time.”

A further address was given by Barbara Gooch, secretary of the Archaeological Society. She said: “At the time of the tragedy, the Norwich Chronicle newspaper had some disparaging things to say about the tragedy as many of those who died when the bridge collapsed were woman and children from deprived neighbourhoods. They were just out for a day's entertainment by the river. But perhaps some good has come out of the tragedy as the deprivation that was witnessed here at the time did lead to some improvements in living conditions. I believe there have been good consequences to come out of this tragedy.”

The second plaque was unveiled at noon by retired consultant to the JPUH, Hugh Sturzaker to commemorate the life and times of surgeon Sir Astley Cooper, the son of a vicar, at the Old Vicarage in Church Plain, Yarmouth.

He said: “Astley was quite a character and on one occasion actually climbed to the top of the steeple at church next door. He became a surgeon at St Thomas's Hospital and later Guys in London and it was at this time he said you need three things to be a successful surgeon.

“He said you need living people, the dead and to be able to experiment with animals.”

Mr Sturzaker went on to say that Cooper's reputation was tainted by his patronage of body snatchers, but added there was not an abundance of bodies for experimentation at the time. Bodies of those who had been hanged became the targets of body snatchers.

He added: “Astley went on to become the surgeon to King William IV and Queen Victoria and was a famous anatomist. It shouldn't be forgotten that at that time, you needed to be a brave patient too, as there wasn't any anaesthetic.”

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