New memorial to asbestos victims unveiled

Susan Aitouaziz with the new memorial

Susan Aitouaziz with the new memorial - Credit: Michael Cox

A new memorial stone was unveiled in Barking remembering those who have lost their lives due to asbestos exposure.

A ceremony was held on International Workers Memorial Day on Thursday (April 28) to reveal the landmark in Town Square.

The stone was organised by Barking, Dagenham and Havering Trades Union Council with money raised through donations from trade unionists and other individuals. 

The new memorial in Town Square

The new memorial in Town Square - Credit: Michael Cox

It replaces a previous memorial which Susan Aitouaziz, its secretary, called "unremarkable".

Susan said: "We thought that a more significant memorial needed to be placed in the town square in remembrance of the hundreds of workers who have died because of their exposure to asbestos."

Barking was home to the Cape asbestos factory, in Harts Lane, between 1913 and 1968.

Barking and Dagenham Council said the legacy of the factory was the borough having an "exceptionally high" asbestos mortality rate. 

Most Read

Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas said: "There is no more significant place than here to place this memorial.

"There is nothing more important that I'll do this year in terms of helping unveil this memorial because this goes right to the bone of our industrial legacy and a lot of the suffering we see around us today."

The new stone carries two inscriptions. The first reads: “In memory of those who have lost their lives because of exposure to asbestos. In gratitude to those who fight to improve safety conditions for those workers and their families. Remember the dead and fight for the living”.

Jon Cruddas speaks during the ceremony

Jon Cruddas speaks during the ceremony - Credit: Michael Cox

The other side says: “Together showing our commitment to safer workplaces and communities.”

An information board has also been installed next to the stone about the historical impact of asbestos on Barking and Dagenham.

Henry Gregg, the council's director of strategy and culture, said: “It is very important to us as a council to support this special memorial for those who died due to exposure to asbestos.

A crowd gathered to witness the unveiling

A crowd gathered to witness the unveiling - Credit: Michael Cox

"We know many people have suffered in the borough due to use of asbestos, which is still causing pain and suffering for many people and their families. 

“We owe it to future generations to ensure workplaces are safe."

Susann added that a book of remembrance will be opened to receive inscriptions over the coming years.