WEARSIDERS united to mark the anniversary of a historic tragedy where nearly 200 children lost their lives.
Sunderland families were haunted by the deaths of 183 children – most of whom were under 10 – who were killed in the Victoria Hall Disaster, on June 16, 1883.
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.
The disaster left Sunderland in mourning, as many families lost two or more children that day and all 30 from one Sunday School party were killed.
Yesterday, Sunderland Old Township Heritage Society met at a memorial to the tragedy in Mowbray Park to mark its 131th anniversary.
Father Andrew Collins, from St Ignatius Church in Hendon, led a short service.
Janette Hilton, from the society, said: “We do this every year to mark that event and keep that awareness there, so the children are remembered and the massive impact it had on the town.”
The memorial marking the disaster was returned to Mowbray Park in 2002, after a campaign by Echo readers and then-Hendon councillor Mary Smith.
Sunderland City Council agreed to spend £48,000 restoring the grade-II listed statute, which was almost forgotten in a corner of Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, showing a mother cradling a dead child.
Youngsters from the Centre Stage drama school in Grangetown, also got involved with the anniversary celebrations to pay their own tributes, with Father Oliver Keyes, from St Benet’s in Monkwearmouth.
Mark Clegg, 40, who runs the school with wife Fiona, said: “It is really introducing the children involved to the history of Sunderland and it makes them appreciate how important Sunderland was in the history of things.”
No one was ever blamed for the bolting of the door which led to the disaster, despite two inquests being held, although a lack of caretakers to “preserve order” was criticised.
The tragedy did prompt the passing of legislation to provide doors which opened outwards at all places of public entertainment from then on.