Morecambe Bay cockling tragedy: Video: Abandoned house of secrets

Condemned and now empty, the house on Rydal Road in Heysham looks like any family home.

But this is a house of secrets.Ten years ago this was one of the dwellings where the Chinese cocklers lived before tragedy stole 23 of their souls.

The abandoned house mirrors the emptiness left for the families of the cockling disaster victims, an emptiness that can never be filled.

It is not known whether any of the men and women living at this particular house on Rydal Road died in the bay that tragic night, but nobody has returned to this house since that fateful day.

For neighbours still living on the street the memories of what happened that night are still raw and uncomfortable. Many feel guilt about the tragedy, which could not have been predicted.

Sixteen of them would go out at a time for their shift on the sands, they told The Visitor’s Michelle Blade this week, then another group would leave and so the cycle continued.

One neighbour who noticed that 25 Chinese cocklers were living in the house said: “I rang the council to complain about the mess being left in the street and the overcrowding in the house but nothing was done.

“The next thing the cockling disaster happened and the house was empty overnight. Either some of the people died in the bay or they just cleared out.”

The living conditions the Chinese cocklers endured were unimaginable.

Crammed into just a few rooms, they cooked pigs’ heads and cockles, the shells tipped out into the drains the day after.

They slept on mattresses on the floor with sometimes a dozen or more sharing just o ne toilet.

This deplorable picture was repeated at properties across Morecambe on both Chatsworth Road and Albert Road.

Up to as many as 20 of the Morecambe Bay cocklers had been crammed into a one-bedroomed flat in the resort, sharing one kitchen and one toilet between them all.

The terrified group of workers also had to endure the wrath and abuse of local residents who accused them of taking their jobs.

One woman who lived next to a cocklers’ den on Chatsworth Road said: “Although I could not say how many there were, I think it would be between 15 and 20.

“That was all in a one-bedroom flat on the top floor.

“We saw them bringing in their mattresses and there were loads all on the floors.

“They had them coming and going all the time in shifts so it would have been a case of waking up, moving off the mattresses and going to work to give the next man sleeping room.

“It was a mixture of ages but it was mostly men. We did see a baby at one point. They were very polite although they spoke very little English and were extremely quiet and humble.

“I just felt so sad for them when I saw them move in – all squashed together in that flat sharing one toilet and one kitchen.’’

Ten years on there is a lot of bitterness from the residents of Rydal Road.

Bitterness at the fact that concerns were raised to authorities at the time but nothing was done.

Another neighbour who lived on the street at the time of the disaster, said: “I’m sorry that people died but it wasn’t our fault.”