Mapped: London’s Worst Disasters And Tragedies


View London’s Worst Disasters in a larger map

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.

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.

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  • boby brown

    this did not help

  • 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