December 13 2013 Latest news:
Monday, September 23, 2013
Families are invited to come along to the unveiling of a monument to commemorate the 79 victims of Great Yarmouth’s suspension bridge collapse.
The ceremony at noon on Saturday next to the White Swan on North Quay will be the culmination of an 18- month fundraising campaign by Yarmouth grandmother Julie Staff who was determined that the victims of the 19th-century disaster – mostly children – should be fittingly remembered.
Mrs Staff, 55, has raised £5,000 in £1 donations, the first made by the Prince of Wales, to fund the black granite statue crafted by stonemasons at Abbey Memorials, in Norwich Road, South Burlingham.
Five feet long and 40 inches high, it is shaped as a book, with delicate etchings telling the story of the disaster and a list of the names of those who lost their lives.
Mrs Staff, of Euston Court, said: “I wanted a person with a good heart to unveil the monument and I have asked local historian Valerie Howkins.”
A clergyman from Yarmouth Minster has been asked to adress the ceremony and it is hoped the church bells will ring to mark the occasion.
“I wanted someone from the church to say some nice words because at the time of the children’s burial the priest said the disaster was due to the wickedness of Yarmouth people and the fact their children could not read or write,” she said.
Mrs Staff, who runs a deckchair business on the beach, said as a mother and grandmother she had been moved by the loss of so many children when her husband Shaun recounted the story of the disaster which happened on May 2, 1845.
A crowd of 300 children had been packed on the bridge hoping to watch a clown being pulled along the River Bure by four geese, but their perfect day turned to tragedy when the bridge’s metal chains snapped.
Mrs Staff said she felt the victims deserved a finer memorial than the blue plaque on the wall of the nearby White Swan. She described her fundraising as a “journey” during which time she has met a number of ancestors of victims.