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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 COR/PA
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1878-1966
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 1 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Coroner for the Jurisdiction of the Eastern District of the County of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

The PRINCESS ALICE was a paddle steamer owned by the London Steamboat Company. On September 3 1878 she was on the return leg of a routine trip from London Bridge to Gravesend. At 7:40 pm she was in sight of North Woolwich Pier, off Tripcock Point, Plumstead Marshes. The steamship BYWELL CASTLE, a cargo ship which usually took coals to Africa and was on its way to collect a fresh cargo, was also in this area. The Captain of the BYWELL CASTLE was following traditional navigation rules rather than an 1872 ruling that oncoming vessels should be passed on the port side. The captains of both ships realised there was a problem and attempted to change course, however, their course changes only brought them closer and the ships collided. The PRINCESS ALICE was much smaller than the BYWELL CASTLE and was split in two by the collision, sinking in just 4 minutes. Passengers were either trapped on the ship or thrown into the river. Around 600 people died, many of whom were never identified and were buried in a mass grave in Woolwich Old Cemetery.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records relating to the inquest on the victims of the wreck of the steamship "Princess Alice", 1878-1966. Records include inquisition giving names, ages, relationship and occupations of deceased; sworn statements of witnesses; verbatim report of inquest proceedings at Town Hall, Woolwich; indexes of witnesses; list of persons saved from the "Princess Alice"; correspondence; report of the Board of Trade investigation into the wreck of the "Princess Alice"; supporting documentation including maps of the area and navigation regulations.

Also items relating to the disaster including memorial cards, songs, press cuttings and notes made by Gavin Thurston in preparation for his book The Great Thames Disaster.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

COR/PA/1 - COR/PA/47

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the Corporation of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited by Mr W R H Heddy, MRCS, LRCP, DPH, in August 1965.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For further information see Gavin Thurston The Great Thames Disaster (George Allen and Unwin, London, 1965), LMA Library reference 27.45 THU.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2009 to February 2010

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