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The original St Joseph's Catholic Church, Illustrated London News
St Joseph's catastrophe 1870

St Joseph's catastrophe 1870

Liverpool Mercury, Jan 24th, 1870

AWFUL CATASTROPHE IN LIVERPOOL

FALSE ALARM OF FIRE AND TERRIBLE PANIC

IN A ROMAN CATHOLIC CHAPEL

15 PERSONS CRUSHED OR TRAMPLED TO DEATH

A NUMBER INJURED

A terrible catastrophe reminding one in its horrible results of the Santiago tragedy, occurred at Liverpool last night, many lives have been lost, numbers of people have been maimed, and the dire calamity will cause misery to many a Roman Catholic family in Liverpool

In the lower portions of Liverpool there is a vast population, the majority of whom are Irish and Roman Catholic. To meet the spiritual wants of this community a number of buildings have either been erected or converted into Roman Catholic places of worship. On of the largest and best attended of these edifices is the Church of St Joseph in Grosvenor St, off Rosehill, in the midst of one of the poorest and densely populated localities in Liverpool.

It was here the awful occurrence took place, and the circumstances which led to the catastrophe are of a touching and painful character. A series of mission services have been conducted by the Passionist fathers for several Sunday evenings at St Joseph's, last night was the concluding service, and the lecturer on the occasion was the Rev Father Raphael, an eloquent preacher and exceedingly popular man among his congregation. The mission services have been largely attended, for it cannot be denied that the poor Irish population are most devout in their religious observances. The celebrity preacher, and the fact that the service was a special one had the effect of bringing together and exceedingly large congregation last night.

A larger congregation never assembled within the walls of St Joseph's, the capacious building was filled to overflowing, the floor, the galleries and even the staircases and passages were crowded by worshippers. Many came who were unable to obtain admission and to provide accommodation for those unable to find seating or standing room a supplementary service was held in the schoolroom, a large apartment underneath the chapel. The entrance to this room was by a door at the northern end of the building, and was also used for entering the chapel. It was at this point the catastrophe occurred, to understand the terrible nature of the occurrence, it will be necessary to describe, the mode of ingress and egress to the chapel and schoolroom. The doorway at the north end of the building, leads to both the schoolroom and the chapel, it is about 6ft wide and is raised about 3 or 4 steps above the pavement. On entering the doorway there is a flight of stone steps leading to the schoolroom beneath, and another flight from the same landing leads to body of the chapel. Round the chapel runs a gallery, and under the portion of the gallery at the north end and close to the doorway described was a dense body of people The stalrose leading from the doorway under the gallery, and the steps leading to the schoolroom beneath were also crowded with worshippers About a quarter to eight when the Rev Father Raphael was delivering his lecture the occurrence took place which has been attended with such dire consequences.

There are several versions of what led to the dreadful occurrence, and in the confusion and excitement it was exceedingly difficult to arrive at an accurate account, but it seems, however, that it arose over a false alarm of fire. While the services were going on in the schoolroom and chapel, a man, said to be in drink, and smoking at the time found his way into the schoolroom, and called out to the clergyman who was officiating, "I have heard you long enough." Some persons near the brawler attempted to eject him, and it is stated he then shouted "Fire", and rushed from the building. A scene of incredible alarm and confusion ensued, those in the schoolroom imagined the chapel above was on fire.

A circumstance took place at this time which added greatly to the consternation of those in the building, the majority of the congregation in the body of the chapel had brought with them candles to be blessed. At the time the cry of fire was raised these candle were lighted and the glare caused by the illumination led to the belief that the building actually was on fire. Those in the schoolroom attempted to force their way into the street, the narrow staircase and doorway soon became blocked with a seething multitude, who, struggled in alarm to escape. The cry of fire had been heard by who crowded the staircase leading to the chapel and those under the northern gallery, seized with panic, imagining the schoolroom was in flames they rushed wildly down the stairs to the landing. It was here the two crowds, the one from the schoolroom, the other from the chapel above met, a terrible scene followed. The people fought and struggled to reach the narrow street, the doorway was soon blocked, and escape by this means was impossible. Loud cries of alarm were raised, the cry of, "Fire" continued and the panic increased. Strong men fought and struggled with each other to reach the street, the shrieks of the women and children told of the terrible alarm that seized them. Some persons near the spot attempted to compose the multitude, but still the struggle continued, women, children and old men were knocked down and trodden to death, or suffocated by the terrible crush.

While this fearful scene was going on, the great majority of the congregation were unaware of the existence of any alarm, but in a few moments intelligence reached the fathers who were conducting the service, Fathers, RAPHAEL, DOMINICK, ALPHONSUS, O'DONOVAN, and M'GRATH, of the terrible scene taking place on the staircase. They at once proceeded to the spot and by some superhuman efforts got the crowd from the staircase, in a few moments order was restored. But, alas, their help came too late, from the time the cry of fire was raised until the arrival of the fathers, the mischief had been done, 15 people in the narrow doorway had been suffocated or trodden to death by the terror stricken crowd.

The alarm had reached the interior of the chapel, the occupants of the northern gallery became terror stricken, many of them made their way to the staircase, women fainted, and men struggled to leave the pews. The fathers here exerted their influence with the multitude and by their efforts order was restored, a calamity which might have been even worse than the first was averted. The fathers assured the people there was no cause for alarm and the service went on. Still there was uneasiness among the congregation, and until the end of the service it was feared there would be a recurrence of the alarm, and further fatality might come.

The intelligence of the catastrophe spread rapidly to the neighbourhood and a vast crowd collected, a terrible scene then took place. Many outside had friends or relatives inside the church. It was believed by the crowd that the edifice was on fire and that the worshippers were unable to get out and were being suffocated or burned to death inside. The shrieks of the women and cries of the men rent the air.

A body of police under Superintendent HANCOX arrived on the spot, and it was only by the greatest exertions that they kept the crowd outside from forcing their way into the chapel for the purpose of rescuing, as they thought, those who were perishing with its walls.

Ultimately the space in front of the church was cleared and the dismal task of removing the dead and injured commenced. It was fearful to see the poor wretches with their pale and mangled faces being carried by their friends through the crowd to the police station, on the way they would be stopped by some relative or friend, who on recognising the dead, would raise a touching cry of lamentation. Women who had sons or husbands in the church, knelt in the street and in loud, wailing voices, prayed to the Almighty and the saints for their safety. One poor woman forced her way through the line of policemen and rushed to the door of the church, and beseeched those who were guarding it to admit her. Clasping her hands, she exclaimed, in terribly touching accents, "O, gentlemen, let me in, my boy is inside, he's an orphan, he's my only help," and "O, if he is killed, what will I do?" The poor woman was assured that there was no danger to those inside, but she remained crying near the door until the congregation were dispersed, when, to her delight, the boy came out uninjured.

While this scene was going on outside, the demeanour of the congregation in the church presented a marked contrast to the excitement of the crowd in the street. At the bidding of the priests the vast assembly, numbering at least 2000 remained in the pews, calm, and attentive to the ceremony. The whole service was conducted and completed without any hurry, and the congregation was quietly dismissed at a quarter to nine. During the service there were no lighted candles at the altar, the only light being the sanctuary lamp in the chapel.

The conduct of the fathers was beyond all praise, it was only by the wonderful influence they possessed over the people that the congregation was kept calm in the church. If the people in their terror had rushed wildly for the narrow doors and staircase, the consequence would have been too fearful to contemplate.

The bodies of those killed were taken to Rosehill police station, there they were laid in rows upon the floor, and presented a most ghastly spectacle. Numbers of people went to the station to identify their friends, and during the night the neighbourhood of the church was thronged by a mourning and excited crowd.

Many rumours are current as to the object raising the cry of fire, some of the crowd attributing it to mischief or malice. Pending an inquiry it would be unwise to speculate as to the cause, no doubt the authorities will thoroughly investigate the whole of the circumstances which led to this untoward and awful calamity.

From another account

Shortly after 8pm Inspector HANCOX was proceeding on duty to Athol St, when he received a telegram through one of the salvage corps that an alarm of fire had been raised at St Joseph's, but that it was a false alarm. He immediately replied, "If there has been a false alarm of fire in that church, it will be followed by panic." and anticipating some disaster had occurred Mr HANCOX ran into Grosvenor St. Hundreds of persons were surrounding the church, from which a few police aided by civilians were bringing out the dead and injured. Cars were sent for and medical men summoned in all directions. Dr John BLIGH, who was in n the church at the time rendered immediate assistance, and Dr HANBURY, and LUCAS of the East Dispensary, who were speedily on the spot, having examined the bodies as they were brought out, ordered there removal to Rosehill station. In this painful work the civilians acted with the most praiseworthy celerity, 4 or 6 men carrying a dead or injured person to the police station, a work of no small difficulty considering the intense excitement which prevailed and the crowded state of the streets. The medical staff were quickly augmented by the arrival of Dr RAE, police surgeon for the northern division, Dr RIDLEY, East Dispensary, Dr PACKMAN, Parish Infirmary, Dr HUGHES and Dr DALY North Dispensary, and other gentlemen who used every effort to revive the sufferers. 15 died, about 10 were injured, but hopes are entertained the whole of them will recover. Two of the dead were taken away by their friends, the other 13 were taken to the dead-house, Prince's Dock, some of the injured were taken to their homes and the others to the Northern Hospital, and promptly attended to by Mr ORFEUR and Mr J. WILLIAMS house surgeon, whilst Dr RIDLEY, one of the surgeons of the East Dispensary visited the other injured persons in their houses and did all in his power to alleviate their suffering

Soon after the occurrence Major GREIG, the head constable, with Divisional Superintendent RIDE, arrived at Rosehill Station and Superintended the removal of the bodies, and subsequently his Worship the Mayor [Mr Joseph HUBBACK] attended, and, having made himself acquainted with the circumstances of the calamity, went to the chapel and inspected the scene of the accident.

Liverpool Mercury, Jan 25th, 1870

FURTHER PARTICULARS

OF THE AWFUL CATASTROPHE.

In brief :-

Little further has been gleamed which will throw light on the terrible affair, statements of the most contradictory character are current as to the origin of the alarm. It is contended that the drunken man who created the disturbance was not the person who called out, "Fire", and although he was a brawler he did not go to the chapel with the intention of creating a disturbance, in fact, it is said that his exclamation of "I beg your pardon" was apologetic to the priest whom he had interrupted. This man was ejected and while he was being removed a person with a lantern outside approached the windows of the school and called out, "Fire". Then again there is the theory that the candle which the congregation had were lighted, and some person seeing the glare became alarmed, thinking the chapel was in flames and shouted, "Fire". There is a strange contradiction of testimony, the fathers state there were no candles lighted and the only light in the chapel was the "sanctuary lamp" on the altar. On the other hand we have it from gentlemen whose testimony we believe unimpeachable, and can be corroborated by officials, that 100 people were seen with lighted candles soon after the alarm was raised.

No description, however accurate, could convey a notion of the panic that took place within the church and the schoolroom when the cry of fire was raised. Women and men fought and struggled with each other to reach the door, and in the schoolroom some broke the windows with the object of getting to the street, and in struggling through were wounded by the broken glass. In the chapel the panic reached those in the northern gallery, who made for the door, it required all the influence of the priests to keep the people from rushing in a body from the chapel. To add to the alarm a cry was heard that the gallery was falling, and several persons believing this jumped from the gallery into the body of the church, fortunately no one was injured by this dangerous leap.

Amongst the first arrivals at the chapel after the alarm was raised were PC'S No's 7 and 200, Detectives FITZSIMMONS and STRETTLE and Superintendent HANCOX, all of these officers exerted themselves to the utmost to calm the people and extricate those who were in danger. Some of those rescued presented an extraordinary appearance, one man was literally naked, all his clothes having been torn off his back in his attempt to rescue himself from the crush, many were without boots, and others had lost their coats and caps.

A wonderful escape

Among the worshippers were Patrick HIGGINS, tailor, his wife and son, they were under the gallery near the door, when the cry of fire was made they made for the door. They were knocked down and trampled, had it not been for speedy assistance being at hand they would have all been sacrificed. The poor boy screamed out, "Father, do not leave me!" In an instant he was dragged away, and was apparently lost. PC No7 BARROW rushed to the rescue and seized hold of the father dragging him from the struggling mass, and also proceeded in rescuing the boy. The two waited outside for Mrs HIGGINS, but the poor woman had been trampled to death, and the husband and boy heard no more of her until they received word her body was in the deadhouse.

The old woman and her shawl

When the panic was at its height an old Irish woman who was in the body of the church made for the door, she was forced forward by the crowd and reached the street in safety. In the crush she lost her shawl, she returned to the door and demanded re-admission. The priest refused her request, she protested that she would not lose her "fine tartan shawl." This so exasperated one of those removing the dead that he told her to go home and be thankful that "although she had lost her shawl she had escaped with whole bones." The old woman went away grumbling that although she had been crushed she would come back for the shawl.

The lost prayer book

Among the worshippers in the gallery was a poor Irish servant girl who resided in the neighbourhood of Breck Rd, when the cry of fire was raised and panic reached the chapel, she was standing on the stairs leading to the northern gallery. People immediately left the pews and made a rush for the door, the poor girl was knocked down and fainted, and on recovering found herself in the street, having lost her cloak and prayer book. In a bruised condition she returned to the door and beseeching one of the bystanders in charge of the door, asked to be re-admitted that she might recover her prayer book, she would attempt this at any risk for the prayer book had been given to her by her mother who had recently died in Ireland. Some gentlemen assured her that at the conclusion of the service would assist her, but at that time it was too dangerous to enter the building. She acted on the good advice and on re-entering the building the prayer book was found in the pew where she left it.

Statements of eye witnesses

The Rev Alphoneus O'NEILL was in the lower room under the church delivering an address to persons who could not get into the church, he had been occupied about 15mins when a man in the congregation under the influence of drink, rose and remarked "I beg your pardon" Thereupon another man led the interrupter by the arm out of the room towards the street, whilst this was being done someone said, "Put him out" the person was ejected, just as he reached the end of the room a cry of "Fire" was heard twice from the window overlooking Grosvenor St. Then a rush was made to the door, he tried to keep his hearers in the room by engaging them in prayer and was successful in thus inducing nearly the whole of them to stay.

The Rev Mr Raphel was at a quarter to eight giving instruction from the platform in the church and noticed the whole congregation standing, but was unaware of the cause, he then observed them rushing out. He endeavoured to restore confidence in them, and for 10mins was thus occupied assisted by several members of the congregation and local priests. But the shrieks and confusion was so great that their efforts were unsuccessful. Upon this he gave out the hymn commencing "Jesus, my God" This was taken up by the congregation and the confusion subsided, the service continued as if nothing unusual had occurred concluding at 9pm. He having finished went outside where he found a crowd of about 3000 persons, he could not say what was the origin of the occurrence but had heard that it was a false alarm of fire.

The Rev Robert BRIDGES describes a second panic in the church, occasioned by a woman calling for her shawl, and accusing another woman of having stolen it, a rush being then caused out of the south doors. Observing this he opened the south east door, through which a number of persons made their way to All Saints Lane. He ejected the woman who caused the panic, he was certain there were no candles burning, the only light burning was the sanctuary lamp. Upon the alarm of the first panic a door at the back of the church was opened by him by this means a number of persons made their escape into Rose Place The Rev Osmond MAGUIRE having at about twenty minutes to eight, been occupied in delivering an address to the persons in the schoolroom was succeeded by Rev Mr Alphonsus, he then proceeded upstairs to the parlour, after a few minutes, with the Rev Mr DUGGAN, he heard the screams in the church, and having gone down stairs rendered assistance to persons carried out in a fainting state.

The Rev M DUGGAN, who assisted in keeping back the crowd, noticed the injured lying upon each other on the north steps of the building.

Dr J. BLIGH, of 12 Great Nelson St on of the congregation in the room under the church, whilst the Rev Mr Alphonsus was addressing them noticed at about 8pm, a slight confusion near the preacher, a woman was heard to say, "Put him out"

Then a few persons rushed to the door, occasioning shrieks and confusion. Some one broke windows near the north door, a rush was made towards the door, upon him proceeding there he found it blocked up by persons who were thrown down and trampled on. The Rev Mr DONOVAN was endeavouring to pacify the people and he and Dr BLIGH assisted to eradicate those being trodden on, Dr BLIGH carried into the lower room several persons who were subsequently taken to the police station, two were dead, two seriously injured. Afterwards he found in the lobby five persons lifeless, who were removed to the police station, 5 mins having now elapsed the commotion subsided, he heard no alarm of fire either inside or outside.

William O'BRIAN, , on of the injured of 72 Fontenoy St, was in the schoolroom under the chapel whilst one of the priests was addressing the people. A man under the influence of liquor entered, he said to another man who was correcting some children who were noisy, "Let them alone, what have you to do with them ?" The drunken man then proceeded towards the officiating priest and said something in a loud tone and rough manner, whereupon a member of the congregation ejected him. Seconds after a great uproar was heard and a cry of, "Fire", which O'BRIAN thinks came from the north end of the room, several persons made a rush to the door, whilst others opened windows to make their escape. O'BRIAN subsequently stayed in the room for about half an hour, with others, the priest having successfully pacified the people. He then went out to go upstairs to the church, at the north end of the room a woman and two men were lying gasping for breath, but he did not offer any assistance, as he thought they were merely in a fainting fit.

PC'S No7 BARROW and 200, whilst on duty at Scotland Rd, were informed the chapel was on fire, they proceeded there and found a large crowd had collected. They went to the north door and found a number of persons lying on top of one another. The congregation were rushing out of the chapel and trampling upon other persons. With the assistance of Detective Constables FITZSIMMONS and STRETTLE they commenced to move the injured and PC 801 proceeded to the East Dispensary for surgical aid. Dr HANBURY, Dr LUCAS and others were quickly upon the spot and the injured were taken to Rosehill police station

John M'GUIN, 2 Peel Square, Cazneau St, was in the lower portion of the building about 20mins to eight whilst the priest was conducting the service a drunken man entered and remarked, " I have been listening to you long enough", the congregation cried, "Put him out." Considerable confusion followed, the noise reached the persons in the upper portion. M'GUIN who was close to the door heard someone shout, "Fire", then a rush was made to the doors and windows, he got to the window and assisted persons making their escape. When he found there was no fire he called to those who remained that they were in no danger and urged them to keep quiet. Rev Mr DONOVAN assisted him in helping the persons who had fallen at the door.

Courageous conduct of a priest

During the service in the schoolroom and whilst Rev Father ALPHONSUS was delivering the supplementary lecture, a number of children in the schoolroom commenced to create a disturbance. The Rev Father DONOVAN proceeded to where the children were sitting and after remonstrating with them conducted three or four of them to the door. Whilst standing at the door speaking to the children the alarm of fire was raised. The crowd in the schoolroom rushed to the door and broke windows hoping to get to the street. Father DONOVAN seeing that the panic might have serious consequences, at once set himself to work endeavouring to pacify them. He stood at the door shouting at the top of his voice there was no cause for alarm, still the crowd pressed forward to the doorway, and Father DONOVAN, who is a strong young man, despite his efforts to retain a footing, was knocked down and trampled by the panic stricken crowd. By a desperate effort he eradicated himself from a number of people struggling on the floor, he then saw the crowd making for the doorway, fearing they might reach the church, which was densely crowded, he determined at any risk to obtain an entrance to the body of the church. This was a work of great difficulty, and in his efforts to eradicate himself from the crowd his cassock was torn from his back, and he was severely bruised. He stood on a form and jumping over the heads of the people, densely wedged in the doorway on the staircase leading to the schoolroom, he alighted upon the landing. He was there met by a rush of people and was again knocked down, he managed to regain his footing and forced his way into the church, he assured the congregation, who were in a great state of consternation, that there was nothing to fear, and the alarm of fire was false. He shouted to the people, "go back, go back, if you will be quiet it will be all right, there is no cause for alarm." The disordered state of the reverend father's dress and the excitement of his demeanour somewhat belied this assertion and the people again made for the doorway, when the other reverend fathers reiterated the assertion that there was no cause for alarm, and the congregation became pacified. Father DONOVAN then exerted himself to clear the doorway, and found it was blocked up by a mass of people, unable to move either backwards or forwards, and under their feet were a number of men, women and children who had been knocked down in the struggle and were being trampled to death. By the exertions of Father DONOVAN, assisted by other priests and police officers the passage was cleared. Father DONOVAN found that so frightful had been the struggles of some of the men and women to extricate themselves that they had actually torn the clothes off their backs.

Noble conduct of a surgeon

Among the worshippers in the chapel at the time of the calamity were Dr BLIGH and his sister, when the alarm of fire was given Dr BLIGH in conjunction with Father DONOVAN assisted to quiet the people. Several of the injured hemmed in by the crowd were extricated by Dr BLIGH, after some order was restored he pressed into the schoolroom and rendered medical assistance to several of the wounded. To accomplish this labour of love Dr BLIGH was compelled to leave his sister in the chapel, and when assisting the poor creatures in the schoolroom, who were in agony, it was reported that an alarm of fire had been raised in the church and that the congregation were in jeopardy. Dr BLIGH, notwithstanding the fact that his sister was among the congregation, continued to render assistance to the injured, but when the cry of "Fire" was said to have reached the church, and when he was supporting on his knee a woman thought to be dying, the doctor exclaimed, "My God! If my sister Dorothy is like this!" and almost fainted. Restoratives were however applied, and he immediately rallied and continued to devote his attention to the injured, to whom he was most attentive during the night.

Scene at the Deadhouse

Terrible have been the many sights seen at the deadhouse, Prince's Dock, not one was ever more shocking than that presented by the ghastly appearance of the 13 bodies of the persons whose lives had been sacrificed in the panic, laid in a row upon the table of the deadhouse, their pale upturned faces, in some cases staring eyes and discoloured necks, showing how dreadful had been the struggle, they had fruitlessly made for their lives. The whole of the victims were of the poorer class of working people, their ordinarily torn garments were almost to shreds. 11 bodies bore the appearance of having died from suffocation, their faces unmarked with no apparent bruises. The bodies of Mary HIGGINS and Winifred CONOR, 13yrs of age presented a frightful spectacle, and had all the appearance of persons out of whom the life had been completely stamped, their faces a mass of bruises, it is said they were amongst the first to fall, on the stairs, the crowd in their rush to the street trampled them to death. During the day crowds visited the deadhouse to identify the bodies, in some instances the scenes witnessed were of the most affecting character. In one case a poor woman asked the policeman in charge of the building, permission to see the body of her husband, as she understood he was to be removed and buried by the parish. When the door was opened, the poor creature cast an anxious look inside, and then uttering a piercing cry, rushed from the place. During the afternoon a little boy of about 12yrs, went to the officer in charge, and addressing him said, "Please sir, will you let me look at my father, he is killed, and I shall never see him any more." The boy then began to cry bitterly, when the officer admitted him, he seized the hand of his father, which he kissed most affectionately, and left the building sobbing as if his heart would break.

In the course of the afternoon of Monday, Mr Clarke ASPINALL, the borough coroner and the jury visited the deadhouse to view the bodies, when as usual they were followed by a number of persons who appeared to find a satisfaction in witnessing the terrible spectacle which so many slain presented.

The interment of the bodies

As already remarked, most of the persons who fell victims to the panic were of the lower ranks of society, and persons are exerting themselves to raise funds for the interment of the slain, and also for the benefit of their afflicted families. We understand some money has been raised, but there is ample scope for the charitable to exert themselves in this praiseworthy object. It is arranged that the bodies shall be interred in the Roman Catholic burial place at Ford, when a public funeral service will take place.

The police arrangements

The first intimation the police received that anything was wrong at the chapel was at 8pm when a man named GIBSON left word at Rosehill station that the chapel was on fire. The reel was turned out and on its arrival at the south door, it appeared that if there had been a fine it was immediately extinguished. People were leaving and there was nothing whatever to indicate that anything serious had occurred, the reel was consequently taken away. An engine from Hatton Garden also proceeded to the chapel, and finding no fire, or anything to justify remaining, it also returned to the station. PC 80, STAUNTON, who was on duty in Rose Place, took word to Rosehill station, that a serious occurrence had taken place at the chapel and that the dead and dying were being taken into the street. Concurrent with this Superintendent HANCOX, who was on duty, received word at Athol St that there had been a false alarm of fire at the chapel, knowing there had been a mission service, considered that the alarm, although false, might be attended with serious consequences, and he immediately proceeded to the spot. His arrival was most opportune, there was great confusion at the north entrance, he saw people lying in the street apparently dying. He at once obtained the assistance of a number of persons present, and had the unfortunate persons removed to Rosehill station. Other police assistance arrived and something like order was restored, and by the efforts of the police and some bystanders, those leaving the building and those in the street were calmed. The injured were taken to the Northern Hospital, and those seriously hurt to Rosehill station. Telegrams were sent to the head constable, Major GREIG and to Chief Superintendent RIDE, who were quickly on the spot, and further police arriving, the street crowded by excited people, was cleared, and order restored between 9 and 10pm.

His Worship the Mayor was at his residence and was informed by the head constable of the terrible occurrence, he at once visited the scene of the catastrophe, he went into the chapel and conversed with the clergymen in reference to the accident and the cause of it. Afterwards he proceeded to Rosehill station and received from the surgeons a detailed number of the killed and injured. He remained in the neighbourhood for some time.

Scene at the Coroner's Court

During yesterday the passages leading to the police court and coroner's court were crowded by persons anxious to obtain information of the occurrence, many were relatives and friends of the deceased, and during the proceedings in court they manifested the most intense interest.

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The stairs where the catastrophe occurred, Illustrated London News
Opening of the inquest upon the bodies

A jury was sworn before Mr Clarke ASPINALL, the borough coroner yesterday, to investigate the cause of death of the 15 persons killed. The jury consisted of 13 persons belonging to Whitechapel, names as follows :- James BUSH [foreman], Bernard HANNIN, Thomas BROOK, Frederick COOPER, William WHITTLE, George C. RAPER, Francis MARCUS, Henry HUME, Milner LEICESTER, John THOMPSON, Joseph MACKLIN, William WHALEY, Morris HYAM.

In brief:-

The Coroner addressed the jury as follows :- Gentlemen we are called together in a case of unusual sadness to investigate the cause of death of no fewer than 15 persons, each and all of whom, as we know, were just as likely to be alive as ourselves not 24hrs ago. A more terrible catastrophe could scarcely occur, and that intensifies one's horror in being called upon to witness the bodies of those poor sufferers, and the agony in which it involves so many families to whom they would be near and dear. When I tell you that of these poor creatures only two are at home, the other thirteen are all together at the deadhouse, you may well understand how anxious I was that the other 13 bereaved families should have as soon as possible the consolation of having their friend's remains with their own dwellings. And more than that, the fact of the thirteen person's remains being together in one place keeps up an excitement and induces a morbid curiosity on the part of many, which we would be glad to allay as soon as possible. Your first duty will be to go with me to view the remains of the deceased and see the chapel were the deplorable calamity took place, then return here in order that some formalities may be gone through with a view to an adjournment in order that we might have a day before us for investigation when necessary evidence has been collected. The coroner and jury departed to view the bodies.

On their return the following witnesses were called for the purpose of identification :-

John O'NEILL, shoemaker, Addison St, said the deceased Mary O'NEILL was his wife, aged 48, shortly after 6pm on Sunday the deceased left home to go to Grosvenor St chapel. He had since seen her dead.

William FURLONG, porter, 22 Cazneau St, said the deceased Mary FURLONG was his wife, aged 55, he left the deceased at home 5.45pm the previous evening, when she was intending to go to the chapel, he had seen her dead body at the deadhouse.

Michael LEEMY, shoemaker, 8 court, Gay St, said the deceased Catherine LEEMY was his wife, on Sunday evening shortly after 6pm she went out to go to the Grosvenor St chapel. He saw the deceased at the deadhouse that morning.

James GORDON, a youth, labourer 1 court, Grosvenor St said the deceased Margaret GORDON, was his mother, aged 62, and the wife of Marcus GORDON, a labourer, Witness lived with them, the deceased went out to go to chapel the previous night, witness saw the deceased that night.

Margaret GALLAGHER, 9 court, Addison St, said the deceased James GALLAGHER, was her husband, aged 50, a stonemason, at 6.30pm on Sunday he went out to Grosvenor St chapel. She had seen him dead.

Maria WELSH, 1 court, Pepper St, said the deceased John WELSH was her husband, aged 28, a labourer, at 6pm on Sunday he went out to Grosvenor St chapel. She had since seen him dead.

Mary WHELAN, wife of John WHELAN, a cooper of 19 Grosvenor St , said the deceased Michael WHELAN was her son aged 7, her husband and the deceased went to the chapel on Sunday evening, her husband came home on Sunday night saying he had lost the child, the deceased was brought home dead at 10pm just before her husband arrived.

Eliza ROGERS, 18 Circus St, said the deceased Francis ROGERS was her husband, a tin plate worker, aged 38, on Sunday night he went to Grosvenor St chapel at 6.30pm- The Coroner, "And when did you see him again?" Mrs ROGERS [crying bitterly] "About ten minutes ago, sir, at the deadhouse."

Margaret CONNOR, a servant at 34 The Willows, Breck Rd, said the deceased Winifred CONNOR was her sister, aged 12, daughter of the late Peter CONNOR, salt dealer, witness saw her sister at 5.40pm on Sunday at her mother's house, 2 court Beau St, she had since seen her dead.

Patrick HIGGINS, tailor, 4 House, 2 court, Grosvenor St , said the deceased Mary HIGGINS was his wife, aged 32, witness and she were together with their son at Grosvenor St, chapel, when the cry of "Fire" was made they were separated. The deceased got knocked down in the crowd getting, he saw her dead body in the deadhouse that morning. [The witness wished to express his feelings of thankfulness to PC No 7, for saving his life, but the exigencies of business forbade his being allowed to do so]

Thomas FARRELL, labourer, No 2 court, Nicholas St, said the deceased Ellen FARRELL was his wife, aged 55, he last saw her alive at 5.30pm on Sunday, she went out to Grosvenor St, chapel, he did not see her again until he saw her dead body in the police station between 9 and 10pm, her body was taken home.

The friends of a man unknown, John M'DONALD, John BULGER and Mary SHAUGHNESSY were not present in court, and therefore evidence of identification was not given.

The jury were then bound over in the usual terms to appear on Friday next at 11am to pursue the inquiry.

The killed

[as written some do not tie with above]

Catherine LEEMY, aged 18, 8 court, Gay St

James GALLAGHER, aged 11, 9 court, Addison St

John WELSH , aged 40, 84 Pepper St

John M'DONNELL, aged 40, 9 Meadows St

Mary FURLONG, aged 55, 22 Cazneau St

Francis ROGERS, aged 38, 22 Circus St

Winifred CONNOR, aged 13, Beau St

Margaret GORDON, 1 court, Grosvenor St

Mary HIGGINS, 4 court, Grosvenor St

John BULGER, aged 71, 109 Eden St

Mary O'NEILL, aged 44, 4 Addison St

Mary SHAUGHNESSY, 60 Furness St, Walton Rd

Ellen FARRELL, No 2 court, Nicholas St

Michael WHELAN , 19 Grosvenor St

Also the body of a man not yet identified

The injured

John BRYAN, aged 40, Bert St, the patient having recovered, has now left hospital.

John TRACEY, aged 18, baker, 29 Comus St

Daniel RILEY, aged 50, labourer, 19 court, Sawney Pope St

Patrick STENTON, aged 66, labourer, 5 Edgar St

Jane DANIELS, aged 30, 15 Bevington Hill, has now recovered.

Adam CAMPBELL, 1 Court, Rose Place

Bridget LANEY, 10 Gay St

Mary FITZPATRICK

Michael CANNON, Bridport St

James DUNN, 7 house, 1 court, Beau St.

Thomas O'BRIEN, 1 court, Great Richmond St.

Ellen MONKS, 1 Bute St.

Sarah PURCELL, 7 court, Rose Place.

Condition of the injured

The sufferers who were taken to the Northern Hospital remain there for the present and it is gratifying to find that they are all satisfactorily progressing, and quickly overcoming the effects of the sad calamity. From inquiries made at midnight it appears no fatal consequences are expected in any case under the care of the medical officers of the institution, and two of the injured are in such an improved condition it is hoped to release them today [Tuesday], and allow them to go home.

The bodies at the deadhouse

During the whole of yesterday, the bodies taken to the deadhouse were removed to the residences of relations and friends, with the exception of John BULGER, aged 71, John M'DONNELL, and a man not yet identified. Those three remains are still in place, no application for their possession having been made.

Liverpool Mercury, Jan 26th 1870

In brief :-

Arrangements for the funeral of the killed.

We understand that the authorities are in possession of the name of the man who raised the cry of "Fire", it is said he is a member of the Roman Catholic Church, if true, this will go a long way to remove the fearful suspicion that has been entertained by many a persuasion, and among them some priests, that the cry of "Fire" and the terrible fatality that followed was wickedly premeditated and maliciously carried into effect. This will be thoroughly investigated when the matter comes before Mr Clarke ASPINALL, the coroner for the borough.

The body out of the 15 that remained unidentified was claimed last night at the deadhouse. It turns out to be that of a man named M'INTYRE, a coalheaver, who resided in Henry Edward St.

The whole of the persons who met with their untimely deaths, will be interred in the cemetery Old Ford, this Wednesday afternoon. Messers J and W, JEFFERY and Co, Compton House, have been entrusted with the arrangements for the funeral, which will be of public character. It is arranged that the hearses having collected the bodies of the deceased, shall meet at St Anthony's Church, Scotland Rd, and proceed then to Ford Cemetery at 2.30pm.

Mourning coaches will be provided for the several families and friends of the deceased, Messers JEFFERY have acted in a most generous way in the matter, and have promised to render every assistance in their power to the bereaved families. A large body of the police under the direction of Mr RIDE, [chief superintendent] and Mr Superintendent HANCOX, will be present to preserve order along the route taken by the cortege.

There will be a solemn requiem mass at 10.30am at St Joseph's and a sermon suitable to the melancholy occasion will be preached by Rev Father Alphonsus. Some of the families bereaved have been reduced to great pecuniary distress, one of the deceased women leaves 7 helpless children to deplore their loss, another poor woman whose husband was killed, has been left with 8 little ones to provide for. If ever there was a case which called for the speedy help of the charitable, it is that of these poor creatures suddenly reduced to the direst poverty, in cases of this kind all class and creed distinctions disappear, we are sure this community remarkable for its great charitable organisations will readily extend aid to alleviate the wants of those who have been left helpless and destitute by this terrible catastrophe. A subscription has already been originated by the Passionist Fathers, to which they have handsomely contributed. Further assistance will be gladly received by any of the local priests, or by the Revs M. DUGGAN, P. O'DONOVAN, and the Rev R. BRIDGES of St Joseph's.

It was announced last night by the clergy at Holy Cross Catholic Church that a collection would be made through their district and their friends to benefit the sufferers, the priests of that church, whose address is at 21 Great Crosshall St, have undertaken to distribute amongst the suffers any sums entrusted to them.

Calamities similar to those at St Joseph's have been, not of unfrequent occurrence. The greatest of those in modern times are those at Glasgow, Limerick, Galway and New York, and in all these cases, as at Liverpool, Bristol, Dundee and Sheffield, the sufferers have been children or persons of a very humble rank in life. The calamity in Glasgow arose in 1849 in the gallery of the Dunlop St, Theatre. The alarm of "Fire" was raised, the audience received the assurance of the managers that there was no danger, but a stampede afterwards occurred from the gallery, and 65 people were killed. At Limerick on the 29th January 1850, 500 women were sleeping in a workhouse lof, when someone maliciously raised a cry of "Fire", there was an immediate rush to a ladder, and 27 were killed, 28 seriously hurt. The Galway panic happened at an early Christmas mass, in 1842, at which nearly 5000 people were present. A rail snapped and a cry arose that the gallery was falling, the people rushed out and more than 30 were killed. The New York accident occurred in November 1851, in a school of 1800 children. A teacher had fainted, an attendant cried for water, the cry was thought to indicate that the building was on fire, the children rushed out, a balustrade broke on the crowded staircase, 50 were killed, 50 seriously injured. In the accident at Manchester, in the summer before last, a very slight cause produced the alarm to which 23 persons were sacrificed, and in most other cases the alarm was itself altogether needless and baseless. This is the feature of all such calamities, one word of false alarm arouses a fear which no assurances can allay, under the excitement of an unregulated imagination, this fear speedily becomes a frenzy, panic like anger, is a short madness.

Liverpool Mercury, Jan 29th 1870

In brief :-

The Inquest

The inquest on the 15 persons killed on Sunday night at St Joseph's was resumed yesterday before Mr Clarke ASPINALL, Mr STEINFORTH solicitor, watched the case on behalf of the priests of St Joseph's, who themselves attended the court.

After some evidence of identification had been given, Mr John Hunter CHRISTIAN, borough engineer was called and said, since Sunday last he had made a survey of St Joseph's Roman Catholic Chapel in Grosvenor St. The drawings produced accurately represented the block plan of the building, showing the locality, ground floor of the chapel, the doorway, and entrance to the schoolroom beneath. The chapel had three entrances, two facing Grosvenor St, and one through the graveyard into All Saints Lane. The widest entrance is at the south west of the building, consisting of a long passage stretching nearly the width of the chapel, the first half, 7ft wide, the remaining half 5ft 5ins wide. The outer doorway has a double door, which opens inwards from the centre, between the door frame the width is 6ft 9ins, which constitutes a good entrance. Into this passage there are two entrances from the body of the chapel, and two staircases communicate between the passage and the gallery, the only communication with the gallery, which is a very large one. The staircases are 4ft 3ins wide, and well constructed. The doorway into All Saints Lane is 5ft 3ins wide, and is a double door opening inwards, leading to a passage communicating with the chapel with an inner door 2ft 10ins wide. The entrance at the north west end consists of a single door 4ft wide opening inwards, one step above the street, onto a landing 5ft wide by 5ft 4ins long, inwards. There are eight steps approx 5ft wide up into the chapel, with a top door into the chapel 4ft 8ins wide, a single door opening inwards. Underneath the chapel is a schoolroom divided down the centre length ways, which is approached by a door 2ft 10ins wide, on the right on the first landing, immediately on entering the north end of the chapel, the door opens inwards and there are 4 steps down into a passage, from which there are three more steps into the schoolroom. From this passage is another doorway 3ft 10ins wide opening inwards, there are four steps from Grosvenor St to it. The south east doorway into All Saints Lane would ordinarily by considered sufficient, I consider the north entrance deficient, irrespective of it communicating with the school. The steps up to the chapel are a disadvantage, but a necessity owing to the levels. Three entrances to a place of worship are ordinarily sufficient. There are two subordinate entrances to the chapel, one communicating with the priest's house, the other with the yard. Galleries are more commonly entered from the west than the east end of church buildings.

John M'GINN, a porter residing at 2 Peel Square, Casneau St, was next called, He said, he attended the service in the schoolroom at St Joseph's last Sunday evening, where the Rev Father O'NEILL was preaching a service was also going on in the chapel above, the north west entrance to the chapel was very crowded, but not so as to interfere with passing into the schoolroom. About 6.30pm he was in the middle of the schoolroom, the preacher was further up. About 7.40pm he heard Patrick NEVIN call out to the preacher, "I have heard you long enough, you have said enough." NEVIN was near to the window which looks into Grosvenor St. Some people called out, "Put him out." Some persons were going to put NEVIN out but the preacher told them not to do it. I am sure NEVIN was in drink. Less than a minute later I heard the cry, "Fire fire" called out through the window in Grosvenor St, it was apparently a boy's voice. Before I heard the cry of "Fire" I did not notice anybody at the window. The room was lighted by gas, there were no candles or tapers lighted. The moment the alarm was given the congregation tried to get out the best way they could through both doors and windows, there was great confusion, I got out through a window, the great crushing was towards the doorway. When I got out, I shouted to the people inside there was no fear, and returned by the window into the schoolroom, NEVIN who was in drink came to me and said, "They are going to kill me" I replied, "And you vagabond you deserve it." The crowding was still going on Father O'NEILL, the preacher, was at this time asking the people to be quiet, Father O'DONOVAN was at the door doing what he could to prevent the crushing, it was 5 to 10mins before the crushing ceased, several remained quiet in the room. After the crushing 4 persons were lying at the entrance landing with their heads down the first steps into the schoolroom, their feet on the outer landing leading into Grosvenor St. One an old man with his clothes torn off him, quite dead, all seemed insensible. I have not heard who it was that called out, "Fire fire."

Mary NOLAN, widow, of No 4 court, Scotland Rd, was present in the schoolroom on Sunday night with two of her children. She told a similar story to the one given by M'GINN. She stayed with her children in the schoolroom and sustained no injury.

Thomas HUNTER building surveyor to the corporation was called and asked for his opinion as to the entrance to the chapel, he said, he considered the entrance on the north west corner of the chapel to be objectionable, in consequence of the basement entrance being at the same point, and partly on account of its narrowness, the steps to the chapel were objectionable, but necessary on account of the levels.

Mr STEINFORTH, but for the steps and the doorway into the schoolroom he should not call the north west doorway insufficient, it would be sufficient if the schoolroom was not used simultaneously with the chapel above

John ARMSTRONG, tailor, 8 Rose Hill, said, On Sunday evening last he was at the chapel, he was a collector at the chapel, and stood at the entrance to the east gallery. At about 7.50pm, before the panic took place, I observed a blaze coming from a gas jet near the north west entrance, in the body of the chapel, as if the burner had fallen off the jet, it was turned off at once, immediately some one in the chapel, near to the north west door, called out "Fire". This caused great confusion, the chapel was crowded, there was up to 4000 persons in the chapel. The north west door was open, and other main entrance were open all evening. The clergy present did what they could to allay fear, the people crowded out as fast as they could, one person jumped from the gallery into the body, shortly afterwards I heard shrieks from the street, but I remained in the gallery to keep the people quiet. At the time the alarm was given no candle were burning in the chapel, only the ordinary gaslights, most had candles with them but none were lit, the candles were brought to be used in the "renewal of the baptism vows." A few candle were lit during the excitement to try and quieten the people. The service continued for nearly an hour after the panic originated and a great many stayed till the end, and were purposely kept ignorant of what had occurred.

John WHITE, cabinetmaker, Bent St, who was present at the service in the schoolroom, and heard the man call out "That's enough" was questioned as to whether he knew who the man was. He said he had told the detectives he should be able to identify him. He was asked to look around the court to see if the man was present. Witness said, he was not. Patrick NEVIN was then ordered to stand up, and witness was asked if he was the man. He said, he was not. Witness was then examined as to what happened in the schoolroom. He said, he did not hear anyone call out fire, but there was great confusion. He got out of the window and assisted others out, he saw nothing to alarm people but the confusion arising from the man's interruption. Witness had hold of the man who shouted out, to prevent him being beaten by two other men.

Dr HANBURY, house surgeon at the East Dispensary, who had been called to the accident, said that 14 of those killed died on the spot or between the time of the accident and their removal to Rosehill station, he saw the 15th dead at the dispensary. He had assisted in a post mortem on one of the bodies and found that death resulted from suffocation.

Dr J. BLIGH, agreed with the last witness on the cause of death. Witness was in the congregation in the school room and heard someone call out, "Put him out!" but did not hear what originated it The confusion became serious, their were shrieks from women from inside the doorway. Some people broke windows and there was a rush to the door by 30 to 40 people, he thought Patrick NEVIN was one of them. Immediately afterwards people were being trampled by the door, some were dragged back into the schoolroom, fainting. The preacher engaged the congregation in prayer, which caused them for the most part to remain quiet. Father DONOVAN and witness did what they could to allay fears, and assisted in removing those down of the ground. As far as he could make out 13 must have been crushed on the outer landing, and 2 on the landing immediately outside the school. He heard no alarm of fire, and saw nothing to account for it.

Moses WHELAN, cooper, who was in the schoolroom during the service, said he could swear it was Patrick NEVIN who called out, he was close to NEVIN who was in drink. Whilst this confusion was going on someone called out through a window at the bottom end, "Fire", this increased the confusion. The priest said it was a false alarm and ordered the people to kneel, Witness knelt down.

Rev Alphonsus O'NEILL was next called, He said, I was engaged in preaching the mission service in St Joseph's schoolroom, about 7,50pm a man under the influence of drink, I believe to be Patrick NEVIN, called out, "I beg your pardon", afterwards using the expression, "Enough of that" or words to that effect. A commotion ensued, someone stepped forward to put NEVIN out. I said to them, "Quietly, quietly, lead him gently" as they were removing him. The bulk of the congregation remained quiet after I spoke to them, but when NEVIN got to the door the confusion increased. Whilst I was doing what I could to keep the people quiet, I heard what I thought to be a boy's voice call out, "Fire" through a window at the south end. In an instant the people arose screaming, in a state of great excitement. I then heard great noise in the street and asked the congregation to engage in audible prayer, as I knew then they would be less likely to hear what was going on. We prayed for 15mins, I ceased praying for a moment and they were immediately on their feet, I got them down again as I thought the chapel might be on fire and that our only safety was to remain where we were until the congregation in the chapel got out. When all was over I went to the preacher in the chapel and asked him to conclude the service as soon as possible, as I was afraid of the excitement that prevailed in the street, which I thought might lead to further mischief. The Rev Patrick O'DONOVAN corroborated the statement of Dr BLIGH, his evidence was consequently not taken.

Rev Dominic O'NEILL, who was also engaged in the mission service and was in the chapel, said, the people came to the south east door near where he was about 8pm and called out "Fire", he saw nothing to create alarm. Quite a panic ensued. The two Grosvenor St doors were open all evening, the east door was opened immediately. Every effort was made to allay panic, a great number of persons were induced to remain quiet. No candles had been lighted previous to the alarm, witness went to the gallery and did what he could to keep the people calm. There were about 3000 in the church when the panic began, a great number were standing.

Detective FITZSIMMONS said, On Sunday shortly before 8pm, he and Detective STRETTLE, were attracted to St Joseph's chapel in consequence of hearing a noise. There was a great crowd in the street opposite the chapel and he heard someone say the chapel was in fire. He had before observed from the street some people in the gallery near the windows with lighted candles in their hands. On getting to the north west door he saw about 30 people on the ground with their heads towards the street. The stairs into the chapel were crowded with people pressing forward. He shouted to them to keep back as there was no danger, but it had no effect. He saw people passing over those that were down. The was a great deal of crowding, many people did not seem to pass out as they stopped it as much as they could. Witness assisted in getting the people removed.

Detective STRETTLE gave similar evidence to the last witness. He got into the chapel and said, Everyone in the gallery seemed to have candles in their hands and in the body of the chapel there was a great number with lighted candles. That would be about 8.05pm, they were lighting the candles at the gas, and giving lights to neighbours. When witness first got to the chapel about 7.50pm, he saw the candles were lighted then.

PC, 801 STANTON, on duty at Grosvenor St at the time of the accident, said he was at the chapel at 7.45pm, there was a panic he could not tell what caused it. He looked into the chapel, there were no candles lighted, only the gaslights and the sanctuary lamps. He assisted to remove the killed.

PC, 7 BARROW, who was also outside the chapel at the time of the accident gave a similar account to that already given, he also assisted in removing the dead.

Police Superintendent HANCOX, said, hearing the had been an alarm of fire at the chapel he went there, arriving about 8.15pm, Grosvenor St was crowded with people, who were pressing upon the north west entrance of the building. He did what he could to clear the doorway, and saw the dead and injured carried out from where they had been crushed to the street. The injured were removed first. Witness had previously sent for doctors. The Mayor and Superintendent PRIDE were soon after on the spot, it took 150 constables to clear the street.

Rev Robert BRIDGES, one of the regular priests at St Joseph's, said he was in the sacristy at about 7.45pm, when the disturbance arose. The service in the schoolroom was owing to the great crowd that attended, and to relieve pressure in the chapel. There were no candles lighted in the chapel prior to the disturbance commencing. Three were lit in the body of the chapel, and a number in the gallery, to allay the excitement. He considered the south west entrance the principal entrance.

This completed the evidence

Mr STEINFORTH said, It did not seem necessary for him to address the court as no negligence was imputed to the clergy, for whom he appeared.

The Coroner intimated he agreed with Mr STEINFORTH, then proceeded to sum up to the jury. He said, since the accident he had asked himself, and considered this question, "Supposing it is brought home to some person that he wantonly cried, "fire" with the obvious intention of doing mischief, what legal liability does such a person incur for the terrible disaster that has taken place?" He had made up his mind that he would today assume the responsibility of saying to the jury that in a point of law he thought any person who went to a crowded building and wantonly created an alarm of this sort, which led to panic and subsequent death, it would be a prudent thing for the jury, under his direction to say that. that made such a person responsible for the manslaughter of the persons killed through the terrific crush. It was for the jury to judge as to the wantoness. With regard to the drunken brawler he was not prepared to go to the length of saying that he should be held criminally responsible for all the results of the sad misconduct. He looked upon the act of the drunken man as somewhat different to the act of wantoness in giving a false alarm of fire, likely to induce a panic, brawling in church was not. If ever the horrors of drinking were put before a reasoning people in the deepest colours it was possible to impart on them, it was in this case, where, it seemed to him the primary cause of this terrific calamity had been entirely and absolutely the brawling of a drunken man on a Sunday in a place of worship. He firmly believed but for that man carrying his intemperance into the presence of his Maker, thay would not have had this inquiry going on, there would not have been this dread calamity overshadowing the town. It was a miserable thing that people could not be temperate upon the Sabbath, in the chamber of their God, they brawled like senseless brutes and brought down this terrific calamity upon the heads of their fellow-citizens. He could not conceive a greater responsibility attached to any man than attached to this man, he could not conceive a more emphatic lesson to the community against that terrible, dreadful and wicked propensity, drink, drink, drink, to the destruction of both body and soul. As to the cry of, "fire" they had no evidence to show whether it was a wanton act or done in good faith. If they attributed the calamity partly to the wanton act of someone crying "fire£ and partly to the act of the drunken man, they had better find their verdict in the most open manner possible. The candles it appeared were not lit until after the panic and then judiciously, in order for the priests to obtain influence over the people. After complimenting the police, Dr BLIGH, and the clergy for the activity and zeal they had displayed, the coroner then said, the jury would have to consider whether the construction of the building was satisfactory, and if not, was any one to blame for it.

The jury returned the following verdict:- "Died from suffocation from injuries resulting from the effects of being thrown down and trampled upon whilst endeavouring to leave in a state of panic and confusion the church and schoolroom of St Joseph, in Grosvenor St, such panic and confusion arising partially from a drunken man named Patrick NEVIN, brawling in the said schoolroom, during the service there, and partially owing to a false alarm of fire given in such schoolroom and also in the said church almost immediately after such brawling commenced." The jury attached a presentment that the north east door of the church would be better considerably widened, so as to secure the safe accommodation of the congregations in case of crowding or panic.

The Coroner called Patrick NEVIN and warned him against indulging in drinking habits, he did not mean to say the calamity might not have happened without his drunkenness, but it looked as if he truly was the beginning of the panic, and therefore responsible for the end of it.

The jury subscribed the sum of 2-14s which they handed to the coroner to be applied in aid of the friends of the deceased.

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More deaths

Liverpool Mercury, February 2, 1870

Another death resulting from the fire panic at St Joseph's

Coroner's inquest before Mr C. ASPINALL, Borough Coroner, yesterday

On the body of Catherine FLEMING, aged 57, wife of Michael Joseph FLEMING, stonemason of 16 court, Collingwood St. It appeared that the deceased had been for some time in infirm health and suffered from a cough and debility. On Sunday evening the 23rd ult deceased went to St Joseph's Chapel, Grosvenor St, when the false alarm of fire took place. When she returned home she was much excited, and on Thursday last she took to her bed and died on Saturday evening. The deceased's husband said that she came home about 9pm on the Sunday evening referred to and had been severely crushed at St Joseph's Chapel. Dr LUCAS was called to see her on the day she died. The jury returned a verdict that the deceased had died from excitement and being crushed at St Joseph's Chapel.

Liverpool Mercury, February 9, 1870

Coroner's inquests before Mr C. ASPINALL, Borough Coroner

On the body of Mary HOLLOWAY, aged 52, the wife of a labourer of 83 Stitt St. On Sunday evening the 23rd ult deceased went to St Joseph's Chapel, Grosvenor St. She returned home between 8 and 9pm, and complained she had hurt herself by getting over the banisters and jumping on to the landing during the panic. No medical man was called to her, on the 31st ult she was taken to the Royal Infirmary, where she died on Sunday last from strangulated hernia, resulting from injuries received. A verdict to the effect was returned.

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The church

The church [built on land originally a tennis court] which was originally called All Saints, belonged to Mr Thomas BANNISTER and was first used for divine service in 1798, in connection with the Church of England. It was opened on November 27th 1833 under license from the Lord Bishop of the diocese. The celebrated Montgomery WEST preached in the church, and at the time of its transfer to the Roman Catholic body the Rev Andrew M'CONKEY now of West Derby, was the officiating clergyman. After having been 46 years used as a licensed place of worship in connection with the Establishment, it was closed on December 31st 1844, having previously been purchased by the Roman Catholics, who called it St Joseph's Chapel.

In March of 1876, the roof of the church fell in and funds were raised to build a new church.

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