On Monday Mr. John Humphreys resumed, at the Black Dog, Church-street, Bethnal-green, an inquiry opened upon view of the bodies of George Potter, an infant aged 9 months, and Mary Clarke, otherwise White, aged 36 years.

The child died at No. 7, Leonard's-buildings, Friars-mount, and the woman Clarke at No. 3, Reform-"square," [1] a court on the opposite side of the same street, or so-called Mount. The jury found that the house No. 7, Leonard's-buildings, was occupied by a family named Marler, eight individuals of which had been attacked with typhus fever. The discoloured skins and brownish hue of these unfortunates showed that their convalescence was very recent. The jury then crossed the black and fetid roadway of Friars-mount to Reform-square, and there too they found typhus rampant, and saw quite sufficient to account for its presence. The jury, entering the square by passing under a low archway, found themselves in a court not larger than a good-sized room. Some nine houses consisting of two rooms each formed the sides of the square, and two closets for all the square in a most disgraceful condition occupied a portion of the centre. There was no water-butt of any kind, but there was a wretched tap from which the water flowed in driblets half-a-gallon in half-an-hour—and from that source the inhabitants had to supply themselves with the means of cooking, and, if they were patient, of cleanliness. In one house the dirt was very much the same as in the others, but the peculiar smell we especially noticed, and in answer to an inquiry a medical man present said, "Oh! that smell! that is the fever taint." A glance at the yellowish-brown skins of the inhabitants in view not only confirmed this explanation, but tended to cut short the inspection on the part of some of the alarmed spectators. The house or cabin No. 2 was occupied by nine persons—all had the fever, and the father was dead. At the door of No. 3 stood a boy who took off his cap and showed with pride that all his hair had been shaved off for fever. He stated that twelve persons occupied the house, and that seven of them had typhus.

In the case of George Potter.

Ann Potter, 2, Rose-street, deposed that she was the wife of a chairmaker. She used to live at 7, Leonard's-buildings. A month ago, while she was in the hospital with the fever, the deceased got a fall. He died at his grandmother's in Leonard's-buildings on Sunday week. Witness, her husband, her father, and mother-in-law, and four children, were all taken ill of fever in the one two-roomed house. Two other members of the family had the fever in a neighbouring street.

Mr. Rumbold, surgeon, said that he did not attribute the child's death to the fall mentioned, but to inflammation of the lungs.

In this case the jury returned a verdict of "Death from natural causes."

In the second case.

George Clarke, a sickly-looking, ragged man, said that he was a canewasher, and that the woman White lived with him as his wife. They live in one of the two rooms of No. 3, Reform-square, for which they paid 2s. 3d. a-week rent. The room below was occupied by a man and his wife and three or four children. The water flowed into the house from the pavement of the square. The deceased had been ailing for some time past. On Saturday week he found her lying on the floor, and very ill. He put a sack and other things over her, there being no blankets or counterpane, and he went to Mr. Haycock, the parish doctor. Mr. Haycock could not come without an order. He went to the workhouse to get one. Mr. Arnott was out, and he was told the master was ill, and he must wait for an hour. He went home and found the deceased dead. She used to have enough of food. The witness then described the shocking state of the premises and said that the place had been whitewashed within a week or ten days, but that nothing else had been done to it since he had lived there. Four or five persons had been taken away out of the place to the Fever Hospital.

Stephen Knight, messenger at the Guardians Offices, said that he remembered the man Clarke coming at one o'clock in the day for a medical order. One of the relieving officer's pauper attendants told him that Mr. Arnott was out. Witness did not hear him told that the master was ill (which was true) and that he could not get an order. But on the brass plate on the door the hours for application were stated to be from nine to ten A.M., and five to six P.M. Except the relieving officer chanced to be detained at the office, no order could be got except during those hours. On Sundays no orders at all could be obtained.

Mr. John Baker, No. 7, Elms-terrace, Cambridge-heath, said that he was the landlord of Reform-square. There were two rooms in each house, and each room was let at 2s. 3d. per week rent. He held the property on lease, at 26l. a-year round-rent. He had been served with a notice from the parish authorities on the 26th of January, but it was dated on the 19th, and was left with a tenant. He had done some cleansing since. He had put the place into thorough repair, at a cost of 120l., eighteen months ago. The people would not keep the place clean—that was the real matter.

Mr. F. J. Gant, pathological anatomist to the Royal Free Hospital, said that he made a post-mortem examination of the body of the deceased, and found the cause of death to be disease of the brain. But the condition of the place in which she lived would tend to accelerate death. The room in which she and another person lived contained 882 cubic feet of air; and the room underneath, in which seven persons lived, had a cubic space of 819 feet. Now, the minimum allowance consistent with health was set down as 800 cubic feet for each individual. The defective ventilation was a known cause of typhus fever, and the defective drainage, the accumulation of vegetable and other refuse, and the state of the closets, would produce typhoid fever. Typhus and typhoid fevers were eminently preventible diseases.

Mr. George Haycock said that he was divisional surgeon of Bethnal-green. The man Clarke called on him to see the deceased about twelve or one o'clock on Saturday week. Witness told him that he should get an order and he ran off to the workhouse to get one. By the rules of the Poor-Law Board witness could not go without an order, and, besides, the guardians had written to another divisional surgeon, prohibiting him from attending in any case without an order. Even in midwifery cases the surgeon should wait for an order but the person cold procure it beforehand and keep it by her till needed. Clarke returned in about an hour's time, and stated that he could not get an order, and that his wife was dying or dead, and witness went to see her out of humanity. He found her dead.

By the Coroner: Witness had attended persons in four houses in that square. Typhus and typhoid had been raging there. He had eighteen cases in two houses. Some of the cases were removed to the Fever Hospital. The condition of the houses would produce fever, and so would over-crowding. Witness inserted the facts about reform inquiry in his medical relief book, which he sent to the guardians about three months ago. A dustbin was erected and a closet emptied, but nothing else was done until within the last fortnight.

Mr. J. W. Burrows deposed that there were nine houses in the square. The number of rooms as eighteen. At present sixty-eight persons lived in them; the deceased was the sixty-ninth inhabitant.

Dr. Sarvis, medical officer of health for Bethnal-green, said that he dissented from Mr. Grant as to 800 cubic feet being the minimum quantity of air necessary for health. A meeting of medical officers had decided that 300 feet was sufficient in dwelling-houses.

Mr. Gant said that persons required as much air to breathe in a dwelling-house as in any other building.

Mr. C. A. Christie, sanitary inspector, said that on the 17th of last month, while walking down Mount-street, he saw water flowing across the pavement out of Reform-square, and he went up and made an inspection. He found the place in a very filthy state; and when he found out the landlord, he served him with notices, which were not yet fully complied with. His discovery of the state of the place was entirely casual; he had received no notification from the Board about it.

The Coroner, in summing up. said that it was manifest that the condition of the houses in question was such as to engender disease and cut chort life. The guardians had been apprised of the state of affairs three months ago by their medical officer, but nothing had been done until an inspector chanced to observe it three weeks ago. To pull down and rebuild such places would be a social blessing, and would be advantageous to the landlords themselves. If the landlords could not afford the outlay, it would be well worth consideration whether the object could not be obtained by the apportionment of a part of the munificent Peabody gift, to be advanced to the landlords, and be repaid in state periods, or otherwise. To erect proper buildings on the site of the present wretched tenements would be a most important benefit to the poor of Bethnal-green. In cases of leasehold properties, some means might be devised of causing part of the burthen to be borne by the reversionaries who would gain by the improvement.

The jury returned a verdict, "That the deceased was found dead from the mortal effects of disease of the brain; and that her said death was accelerated by overcrowding, want of sufficient water supply, defective drainage, the dirty and unhealthy condition of the premises, and general neglect of sanatory arrangements; and the said jurors do say that the intimation made by the medical officer of the district of the condition of the premises ought to have received immediate attention, and that greater facility should be afforded to the poor in obtaining medical orders in urgent cases."

[1] For an earlier description of Reform Square, see "Ragged London in 1861" Behind Shoreditch.


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