Suspension Bridge, The Fall of the


Sited on the north-west tower in Lawn Avenue.

The suspension bridge stood at the site of the road bridge over the River Bure. Nelson the clown from Cooke’s Circus was performing in the town at the time and he was to appear in the afternoon of 2nd May 1845, on the River Bure, in a washtub being towed by four geese. The bridge afforded a good view of the event and over 400 people crowded onto its southern side to watch. The weight was thrown onto one of the suspension chains, a link of which was later discovered to have been imperfectly welded. The chain parted, propelling the watching crowd on the bridge into the River Bure. Seventy-nine people were drowned of whom nearly 40 were children of less than 12 years of age.


Robert Cory junior had the right of ferryage over the river and obtained the right, by Act of Parliament, to replace the ferry with a bridge for access to his land. The suspension bridge was built by Geoffrey Goddard and was opened in 1829. It was not equipped to take the weight of the crowd, and the coroner blamed the disaster on poor workmanship when the bridge was constructed.


The Vicar of Great Yarmouth, the Revd. Henry MacKenzie, believed that the disaster was a judgement on people’s sins and asked for atonement from the town, resulting in funds being raised for the restoration of St. Nicholas’ Church. It had been noted that many of the victims were very poor and there was a desire to improve the lot of those who were impoverished. As a result, after Mackenzie had persuaded the Dean and Chapter of Norwich to consent to the renovation of the disused and dilapidated priory, the Priory School was founded there to provide education for children living in the nearby deprived area.

Mass funeral service in St Nicholas Church