Mapped: London's Worst Disasters And Tragedies

By M@ Last edited 6 months ago
Mapped: London's Worst Disasters And Tragedies

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Like any big city, London has suffered its share of tragedy over the centuries. We all remember recent events such as the July 7 bombs and the Clapham rail crash, but many incidents, horrific at the time, have all but disappeared from memory.

This map is intended principally to bring some of these mostly forgotten episodes to wider attention. Who now remembers the Colney Hatch Asylum fire, which killed over 50 'lunatics' little more than a century ago? Or the incident in Blackfriars, known as 'fatal vespers', in which almost 100 people lost there lives when the floor of their chapel collapsed? And then there's the tragi-comic story of the eight people who died in a 'tidal wave' of beer following a brewery accident off Tottenham Court Road. That said, we've also included more recent incidents for the sake of completeness.

Fatal Vespers.

In all cases, we've kept description to a minimum and instead linked off to pre-existing resources where you can find more details. The map, then, also serves as a pictorial index to anyone looking into the tragic side of London's history.

Notes on inclusions: To keep the map manageable, we've arbitrarily set the threshold for inclusion to five or more fatalities. For similar reasons, we've also left off casualties from the two World Wars (except for the two most deadly V-weapon strikes; for a more detailed map of V2 rocket hits, see here). Also missing from the map are the many tragedies with no specific location - plagues, most fires and mass violence (e.g. Gordon Riots) fall into this category.

Notes on sources: Many books and web sites were of use in compiling this map, but a particularly vigorous nod must go to the terrific Annals of London for obscure pre-Victorian incidents.

As always, we welcome additions and emendations to the map so, after reading the Notes on Inclusions above, please make suggestions in the comments below.

Last Updated 21 December 2017

Joe Kerr

Victims of the fatal vespers were buried in the cloister of nearby St Etheldreda's Ely Place. Some of their bodies were discovered when building work was being carried out a few years ago

Phil Steer

You are missing the train crash that occurred at Gidea Park, Romford, on 2nd January 1947. The text below comes from the back of the attached photo. There is more information available on the Internet, including the official Ministry of Transport report,



Five people were killed and 47 were injured when the 10-35 p.m. Liverpool Street Station to Peterborough, crashed into the rear of the slow Liverpool Street to Southend at Gidea Park, Essex last evening..

KEYSTONE PHOTO SHOWS: Dramatic study showing the engine of the fast train embedded in the rear of the slow train after the crash last evening..

667/JSS KEYSTONE 515063

Clive Y

Amongst your list of rail crashes you might also consider including the Raynes Park rail crash of 1933 that killed five and injured many others, as recorded on this British Pathe news item . I liked the closing comment "It's only when an accident like this unfortunately occurs that one realises how safe our British rail roads really are."

Mark Speight

Everyone seems to have forgotten the Clerkenwell cinema fire. 11 died, 8 at the scene and 3 of injuries later in hospital. Few details anywhere try here: