On this day……129 years ago, a panicked stampede cost the lives of 17 people at the Hebrew Dramatic Club in London’s Spitalfields.
The club had a tradition of putting on ‘benefit’ performances to raise money for members in difficulties, and about 400 people were attending one on 18 January 1887. A group of young men in the gallery tried to get a better view of the show by hauling themselves up on a gas pipe.
The pipe fractured, and as the audience smelt gas, a cry of ‘Fire!’ went up. As the gas was turned off, and the hall plunged into darkness, terrified people ran for the exits, falling over chairs and each other. The staircase from the gallery in particular became packed with a desperate mass of struggling humanity.
16 of the victims, mainly women and children, were crushed to death, while a 70 year old man died of a heart attack trying to rescue his wife. For more details, see London’s Disasters.