The Princess Alice Disaster

od0055Sketch.png The disaster was the subject of many illustrations as well as songs and poems. This illustration depicts the vessels involved with a fair degree of accuracy although in reality the Bywell Castle was bigger than the Princess Alice 


Chronology:    |     Main Themes:
All these items were produced in the weeks after the event and no other material pertaining to the event seems to have been produced until the centenary when the event was marked in a song written by the folk-revival singer Dave Richards the text of which has not been found. [i]  |    - The large number of victims (estimates vary from item to item)
|    - The passengers were taking a pleasure trip
|    - The terror of the passengers
|    - The grief of relatives and friends of the victims
|    - The relief fund 


 The Songs & Poems:

The songs and poems shown here are part of the major outcry arising from the loss of the pleasure steamer The Princess Alice on 3rd September 1878. The Bywell Castle (the ship that ran the Princess Alice down) was identified in early newspaper reports [ii] but is named in only one item (bar734) and referred to - but not named - in two other items (bar488 and bar735). The remaining items make no mention of another vessel being involved. However; such was the publicity given to the event that those who purchased these items would almost certainly have known the basic details of the disaster. Despite the fact that Princess Alice sank among the effluent of a main sewage outfall - a circumstance prominent in survivor accounts and the subject of great subsequent popular debate - none of the items alludes to the disgusting state of the Thames.

The songs and poems vary in genre and include broadside ballads (bar232; bar627; bar734 and bar737); sheet music aimed at the bourgeoisie (bar488); a poem printed in Punch¬≤ (bar736) and commemorative cards (bar611) Several declare themselves to be on sale in support of the relief fund to help the survivors and families of the victims (bar232; bar611; bar734 and bar737). 

Historical Background:

The story of the wreck has been extensively analysed and will not be discussed further here.


[i] [accessed 06Aug2019]
[ii] see for example The Scotsman, 4th September 1878 p5 and many other newspapers of that date.