Newcastle, Theatre Royal
A serious incident occurred at this Theatre on February the 19th 1823 when a small fire which broke out during the first half of a production of 'Tom and Jerry' and was easily dealt with, resulted in the death of eight people when they were trampled underfoot by the audience trying to escape. The Morning Post printed a letter from one of their readers reporting on the tragedy in their 24th of February edition which said: 'It is with much pain that I acquaint you with the follow calamitous accident which took place at our Theatre here yesterday evening. Shortly after the commencement of the second Act or "Tom and Jerry," one of the Gas-lights in the third box from the Stage, on the right side of the house, by some mischance had set fire to the wood-work that enclosed the pipe. The consequence was an immediate and very unmeasured alarm of "Fire !" pervaded the house, particularly the gallery, which, unfortunately, was very much crowded.
Notwithstanding it was soon apparent to the company in the boxes and the pit (both of which places were but thinly filled), that there was little or no danger to be apprehended, the people in the gallery were not to be tranquillized. Considerable efforts were made from the Stage, too, to persuade them, that if they would but patiently wait a very short time, they would see every thing restored to order. All in vain: a deaf ear was turned to the judicious advice given to them, and with a tremendous rush they struggled for egress. Woefully distressing was the result: - Eight individuals were literally trodden to death! These are two young women of the names of Green and Johnson, a Mrs. Riddell Robson (the wife of a respectable builder, who himself escaped with some very terrible bruises), a fine youth, aged about 14, son to Mr. Wilkinson, the veterinary surgeon; a young man of the name of Handasyde, aged about 18, son to Mr. H. the bookbinder; an elderly person of the name of Edwards, a cellarman to Messrs. Laidler and Co., spirit-dealers; a person of the name of Heaton, belonging to Gateshead; and a stranger, a stout man, apparently between 40 and 50 years of age. Of course several are wounded. - I have not learnt the exact number; but I would fain persuade myself from what I have heard, that the casualties that way are fewer than might have been expected, where so many lives have been lost.
Altogether, it is a most melancholly affair; and the sombre impression it has made generally on the inhabitants, evinces the deep feeling and sympathy of the town on the distressing occasion. The Manager, Mr. Decamp, is labouring under a most agonizing state of mud, in consequence of what has happened. It is inferred, that although the season is scarcely half over, the Theatre will not be opened again till out Winter.'
The above text in quotes was first published in the Morning Post, 24th February 1823.
If you require further information on this item you can contact us in a number of ways. Click here to see our contact information.