Remembering victims of hall disaster

Raymond Davis from Sunderland Old Township Heritage Society is helping to organise a service with Stephen Edmonds to commemorate the Victoria Hall disaster.
Raymond Davis from Sunderland Old Township Heritage Society is helping to organise a service with Stephen Edmonds to commemorate the Victoria Hall disaster.
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YOUNG victims of a tragedy more than more than a century old will be remembered in a moving ceremony later this month.

Sunderland families were haunted by the deaths of 183 children who lost their lives in the Victoria Hall Disaster, on June 16, 1883.

Victoria Hall no date old ref number 15-1685

Victoria Hall no date old ref number 15-1685

They were crushed in a stampede for gifts after a show at the concert hall in Toward Road, which was later destroyed by a German bomb during the Second World War.

Now Sunderland Old Township Heritage Society is organising an event to mark the 128th anniversary of the incident.

Children from two schools in Hendon will play a key role in the ceremony, at a memorial to the disaster in Mowbray Park.

Students from Hudson and Valley Road schools will read out the names of the children who died, and a short service will be led by Father Stephen Edmonds, of St Ignatius Church in Hendon.

A wreath will also be laid saying “Suffer the little children to come unto me.”

Raymond Davis, from Sunderland Old Township Heritage Society, said it was hoped the event will take place every year.

“This is something we were talking about a few months ago,” he added.

“Nothing has happened since 2002 when the memorial was moved, and we feel there should be a commemoration of this every year.”

Any families with connections to the disaster are welcome to join the ceremony, which will start at 11am.

The Heritage Society is also hosting a rare chance to attend a service at Holy Trinity Church in Sunderland’s East End.

Choral evensong is taking place in the church - which only opens for worship three times a year - at 3pm on June 19.

The service marks Trinity Sunday, which celebrates the Christian Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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TIMELINE

A MEMORIAL marking the disaster was returned to Mowbray Park in 2002, after a campaign by Echo readers and then-Hendon Councillor Mary Smith.

The grade-II listed statue, showing a mother cradling a dead child, was paid for out of a relief fund set up for the families of the children who died in the stampede.

Sunderland Council agreed to restore the statute, which was almost forgotten in a corner of Bishopwearmouth Cemetery.

Several designs by architect Paul Prince were submitted and the final design was selected to echo the Winter Gardens.

The project cost about £48,000, and marble for the restoration of the statue – which had missing limbs and other damage – had to be brought from Italy.