PortCities London
UKBristolHartlepoolLiverpoolLondonSouthampton
You are here:  PortCities London home > Historical events > Ceremony and catastrophe
Text Only About this Site Feedback
Explore this site
About maritime London
Early port
Tudor and Stuart port
18th-century port
19th-century port
20th-century port
People and places
Port communities
Crime and punishment
Leisure, health and housing
Thames art, literature and architecture
The working Thames
London's docks and shipping
Trades, industries and institutions
Port of science and discovery
Historical events
Ceremony and catastrophe
London in war and conflict
Fun and games
Things to do
Timeline games
Matching games
Send an e-card

The 'Princess Alice' tragedy

Disaster on the Thames
The setting
The collision
The aftermath
The investigation
*
Send this story to a friendSend this story to a friend
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
View this story in picturesView this story in pictures

The setting

The Princess Alice

The saloon steam boat Princess Alice.
View full size imageThe Princess Alice. © NMM

The paddle steamer Princess Alice was launched at Greenock in 1865.

Originally known as the Bute, she served on the Wemyss-Arran route for a year.

In 1866 she was bought by the Watermans Steam Packet Company (later the London Steamboat Co).

Renamed the Princess Alice, she served on the Thames excursion routes for 12 years.
  

Her last journey

A formal group of men and girls at the Rosherville Gardens, Northfleet.
View full size imageA formal group at the Rosherville Gardens, Northfleet. © NMM

On 3 September 1878, the Princess Alice made the routine trip from Swan Pier near London Bridge to Gravesend and Sheerness.

She carried hundreds of Londoners, many of whom were visiting Rosherville Gardens in Gravesend.

The North Woolwich Pier today.
View full size imageThe North Woolwich Pier today. © NMM
By 7.40 in the evening, she had completed most of the return journey. She had passed Tripcock Point and turned into Galleons Reach. She was not far from the North Woolwich Pier, where many passengers were to leave the vessel. Precisely at this time, the Bywell Castle was steaming towards her.

The Bywell Castle

The Bywell Castle screw steam collier.
View full size imageThe Bywell Castle. © NMM
The Bywell Castle was a far larger vessel. She was a steam collier of 890 tons.

She had just been repainted at Millwall Dry Dock, and was returning to Newcastle to pick up a cargo of coal destined for Alexandria in Egypt.

 


*
*
Glossary
Cargo
Dock

Find out more
GalleriesFamous Thames ships
The great and the good
*
*
*
Fact fileThe 'Princess Alice’
The passenger steamship that collided with a collier in 1878 killing over 600 people
*
*
Related Resources
Related Images10 Images
*
*
8
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
Legal & CopyrightPartner sites:BristolHartlepoolLiverpoolSouthamptonAbout this SiteFeedbackText Only