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28 October 2014

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Service remembered those who died at Hartlake

Wednesday 17th September 2003

Hartlake plaque.
The plaque in St Mary's Church
St Mary's Church at Hadlow held a special service in October to remember the victims of the Hartlake disaster.

On Thursday October 20th 1853 a wagon full of hop-pickers toppled into the swollen River Medway and 30 were drowned.

The harvest was late that year and the weather bad. Some local Gypsy families and some from Ireland were on their way home when "day and night were hardly parted" and they crossed the old wooden bridge at Hartlake.

Suddenly the shaft horse stumbled and fell through the rotten side board taking horses, riders and human cargo with it.

Some reported that you could hear the screams from as far away as East Peckham and people came from miles around to help with the rescue, prodding the riverbank with hop poles to find survivors. But conditions were so bad that one body was not recovered until Monday.

The inquest was held on Saturday 22nd October at noon at the Bell Inn, Golden Green. Witnesses described the catastrophe with one survivor telling how others came "tumbling down like hailstones".

Locals stated that the bridge had been in bad repair for many years. It was later replaced with one made of stone but some of the old wooden posts survive to this day.

The memorial in Hadlow

The victims were buried in one grave at Hadlow Church and early in December 1853 a vestry meeting decided that a suitable memorial should be erected to those who died.

One hundred and fifty years later it still stands although some of the names are hard to read. Inside the porch is a plaque on the wall giving the names and ages of all the victims save one.

The Herne child aged just two when disaster struck has no first name.

More news: Four-day celebration of culture

Gypsy Travellers
Friends, Families & Travellers
Hartlake memorial
Details of the service
Order of Service
History of hopping
The River Medway
Hartlake Bridge song
Hartlake poem
Picture gallery
Lord's Prayer in Romany
Setting the scene
Early history
Making a living
Horse drawn days

Settling down
Modern times

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