The following is an extract from the Parish Registers of Burwell:
“At about 9 o’clock on the evening of September 8th 1727, fire broke out in a barn, in which a great number of persons were met together to see a puppet show. In the barn were a great many loads of new light straw. The barn was thatched with straw which was very dry, and the inner roof was covered with old dry cobwebs, so that the fire like lightening flew around the barn in an instant. There was but one small door, which was close nailed up, and could not easily be broken down. When it was opened, the passage was so narrow and everybody so impatient to escape that the door was presently blocked up, and most of those that did escape, which was but very few, were forced to crawl over the bodies of those that lay in a heap by the door.”
On Friday, people in a little Welsh village near Merthyr Tydfil will pause and think back, with great sadness, 50 years.
On October 21, 1966, the world was stunned by the news that a massive landslide at Aberfan had engulfed a farm, houses – and a school. Spoil from a nearby colliery, loosened by water, crashed down the mountainside just as youngsters at Pantglas Junior School were starting their first lessons of the day, and the mix of mud and debris poured into their classrooms. A few children managed to escape, but 116 died, together with 28 adults.
A Georgian Era tragedy at a puppet show in 1727 resulted in 78 people dead, many of them children. The story begins with a man who owned a family-run puppet show who was named either Richard Shepherd (or perhaps Richard or Robert Sheppard). As he was passing through the village of Burwell, about 10 miles (16 km) north-east of Cambridge, with his wife, his daughter, and two servants, he decided to put on a show and rented a barn on 8 September.