Jane was aged 40 years of age and was the widow of Mr William Martin who died in 1866 when her untimely death occurred. Jane lost her life on 3rd September 1878, whilst on board The Princess Alice, a popular pleasure steamer plying the waters of the River Thames when it suffered a collision with a collier ship (The Bywell Castle) from Newcastle, making its way out to sea.
The weather had been fine, and her passengers had enjoyed a day’s pleasure trip to the Kent coast. Some children were asleep, and the band was playing on the main deck. Some time between 7.20 and 7.45pm, passengers saw a large vessel, the Bywell Castle, loom close. Despite the Bywell Castle reversing their engines at full speed, it was too late to avert disaster. The vessels collided and the Bywell Castle hit the Princess Alice near her starboard paddle box.
All people on board Princess Alice died (between 600 and 700 people). The inquest into the incident found that both vessels were to blame; The Bywell Castle, contributing to the collision by not acting quickly enough to ease, stop and reverse her engines, and ‘the Princess Alice contributed to the collision by not stopping and going astern’. This was the greatest loss of life of any British inland waterway shipping accident. The event became known as The Great Disaster of the Thames.
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