National Recording Project


Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

'Princess Alice' Memorial


Type Cross

     A large white marble Celtic cross on a shaped square base, set on two square white marble steps. These stand on a concrete base step. The cross is carved on both sides, with five 'stones' (raised hemispheres) on the east and west sides, and has a raised rope edging carved all the way round.
     The monument, in the form of a large white Celtic cross, was paid for by public subscriptions, with around 23,000 people making sixpenny donations.
     In the nineteenth century there was a considerable increase in traffic on the River Thames and a growth in the use of pleasure craft such as rowing boats, paddlesteamers and steam launches giving trips down to the coastal resorts. This led to conflict with the working vessels. The worst disaster was the sinking of the pleasure steamer the 'Princess Alice' which occurred on the evening of 3 September 1878 at Galleon's Reach, eleven miles downriver from London Bridge. She was on her way back from Sheerness and after calling at Gravesend, moved out into the river to continue her journey. She was run down by a larger ship, the steam collier 'Bywell Castle'. Passengers and crew were thrown into the water and 640 drowned, with 69 people surviving, the greatest tragedy ever to occur on the Thames. Bodies continued to be washed up on the banks of the river for some time afterwards. A mass funeral was held at Woolwich Cemetery on Monday 9 September 1878. Shock at the scale of the accident led to improvements in the rules of navigation on the river.


In the circle round the top of the cross, on west side, in carved raised lettering: I AM THE / RESURRECTION / AND THE / LIFE In the circle round the top of the cross, on east side, in carved raised lettering: IN CHRIST / SHALL ALL / BE MADE / ALIVE On base of cross, on west side, in applied raised slate lettering: THE SALOON STEAMER / "PRINCESS ALICE", / RETURNING FROM A PLEASURE EXCURSION / WAS WRECKED OFF TRIPCOCK POINT / BY COLLISION WITH / THE STEAM COLLIER "BYWELL CASTLE", / ON THE NIGHT OF / SEPTEMBER 3RD 1878. On base of cross, on south side, in applied raised slate lettering: IT WAS COMPUTED THAT / SEVEN HUNDRED / MEN WOMEN AND CHILDREN / WERE ON BOARD, / OF THESE ABOUT 550 WERE DROWNED / ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY / WERE BURIED NEAR THIS PLACE. On base of cross, on east side, in applied raised slate lettering: "IN THE MIDST OF LIFE [italics?] / WE ARE IN DEATH." [italics] / JESU MERCY. On base of cross, on north side, in applied raised slate lettering: TO THE MEMORY / OF THOSE WHO PERISHED / THIS CROSS / WAS ERECTED / BY A / NATIONAL SIXPENNY SUBSCRIPTION, / TO WHICH / MORE THAN 23000 CONTRIBUTED.

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Cross White marble 360cm high x 130cm wide approx
Base of cross White marble 73cm high x 139cm wide x 116cm deep
Top step White marble 35cm high x 198cm wide x 174cm deep
Bottom step White marble 36cm high x 243cm wide x 223cm deep
Base step Concrete 37cm high x 290cm wide x 257cm deep
Whole monument White marble 540cm high approx

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
General condition Good
Surface condition
  • Corrosion, Deterioration
  • Accretions
  • Biological growth
  • Abrasions, cracks, splits
Structural condition
  • Cracks, splits, breaks, holes
  • None
Road King's Highway
Precise location In Woolwich Cemetary in old north part, south west of chapel near Camdale Road entrance
A-Z ref 80 8D
OS ref None

Sorry, we have no precise geographical information for this item.

Date of design None
Year of unveiling 1878
Unveiling details None
Commissioned by None
Duty of care None
Listing status Don't know
At risk? No known risk

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