3 September AD 301

After escaping from persecution for his faith, the former stonemason Marinus establishes a Christian hermitage on the summit of Mount Titano – the foundation of the future republic of San Marino.


3 September 863

In Paphlagonia, in the north of present-day Turkey, the Byzantine emperor’s uncle Petronas smashes a raiding Arab army under the emir Umar al-Aqta.

3 September 1651

In the last major battle of the Civil Wars, Oliver Cromwell destroyed Charles II's largely Scottish royalist army at the battle of Worcester. Most of the 13,000 royalist troops were killed or taken prisoner but Charles himself avoided capture. "A crowning mercy" cemented Cromwell's position as the dominant military and political figure in republican England and contributed to his appointment as lord protector following the expulsion of the Rump Parliament in 1653.

3 September 1658

After the death of his father Oliver, Richard Cromwell becomes lord protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.

3 September 1812

The Pigeon Roost Massacre. A Native American war party made a surprise attack on Pigeon Roost village, Indiana. Twenty four settlers, including 15 children, were killed.

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3 September 1878: Tragedy unfolds on the Thames

Hundreds are killed as a paddle steamer sinks

On the evening of 3 September 1878, a paddle steamer ploughed back up the Thames from Sheerness to London. It had been a lovely warm day, and the Princess Alice was packed with families who had enjoyed a day out at the seaside. On the main deck, a band was playing. But with so many children sleepy, many parents had chosen to take them inside – a decision that would have terrible consequences.

Some time around 7.30pm, as the ship entered Gallions Reach, its captain suddenly realised that they were on a collision course with a much larger ship coming the other way, the collier Bywell Castle. The captain yelled out: “Where are you coming to! Good God! Where are you coming to?” – but it was already too late. With an enormous crunch, the Bywell Castle ploughed through the side of the paddle steamer, effectively slicing it into two. Within just five minutes, it had sunk beneath the waves.

Even by London’s standards, the stretch of the Thames where the Princess Alice sank was especially foul, with so much sewage that boatmen gagged as they passed through. Now, hundreds of men, women and children floundered desperately in the fetid waters, weighed down by their clothes. Aboard the Bywell Castle, crewmen tried to throw them ropes, lifebuoys, even chicken coops to cling on to. But it was no good. It was a horrific scene.


After 10 minutes, the screams died down. The disaster was over, and perhaps 640 people were dead.

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