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    HISTORY CORNER

    Scaffold collapse at ‘new’ Crystal Palace site leaves 12 dead 

    On the afternoon of Thursday 18th August 1853 over three thousand mourners attended St Bartholomew’s Church to pay their last respects to 12 men who had died while working on the construction of the new Crystal Palace. The men were killed when scaffolding upon which they were working collapsed.

    Building of the new Crystal Palace had progressed speedily and by August 1853 work was starting on the arched roof of the great central transept that crossed the central part of the main building. The builders had to construct a series of temporary trusses to support the arches over which the glazed roof would be built. The trusses were made in situ, 170 ft above the ground, on scaffolding supported on already constructed galleries.

    At on Monday 15th August 1853 a passer-by heard a sharp noise “like the falling of a plank” followed by “a loud crack” and he saw a large part of the scaffolding in the central transept give way. There was “a great cry followed by a tremendous crash” and he saw “workmen dropping like partridges”. He ran to the central transept where there were “sixteen or seventeen workmen” amoung the debris. In fact, twelve men died, five were injured and one survived uninjured. The cause of the collapse was never determined.

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