The Pall Mall Gazette, on Wednesday 10th January, 1883, printed two stories that highlighted the dangers of everyday life in London for its Victorian citizens.
One story concerned the light of a lady who had, quite literally fallen through the net of society and who had got into rent arrears with her landlord with, as it transpired, tragic consequences.
The other story, illustrates the dangers to everyday citizens posed by the roaming and ruffianly gangs in the East End of London:-
A STORY OF THE POOR OF LONDON
“Here is a story of the poor of London, unfolded before the St Pancras Coroner on Tuesday.
Mary Baxter, a woman of 50, who had lived with a bootcloser in a single room in a house in Little Clarendon Street for several years, was two years in arrears with her rent.
Her landlord, Mr Coxhill, distrained her goods, seizing also the tools of her companion who was at work at Stratford.
LEFT IN A FREEZING ROOM
She was left shivering in a fireless room, with barely sufficient clothes to cover her, and no furniture but an old sack.
The next day, the landlord sent a man to remove the door and window of the room. The act was illegal, for he had no warrant; but what could the woman do?
The rain came in and saturated her scanty clothing as she lay weak and helpless on her sack.
FOUND ALMOST INSENSIBLE
The night passed.
In the morning, of the last day but one of the old year, a neighbour of hers came in. He found her almost insensible, but she murmured, “Give me time,” supposing him to be her landlord.
She had lain for two days and two nights in an empty room, to which for the last twenty-four hours the wind and rain had free excess, and although she was removed to the workhouse she died in three days.
WE CARE LITTLE
Cases such as this are occurring all round us, but how little we know of them, and alas! is it not often true, that though we know little we care less?
AN ATTACK ON AN INNOCENT BYSTANDER
There is a labouring man lying between life and death in a London hospital who has been stabbed in the street by the organised band of ruffians which is allowed to parade the streets of Shadwell under the name of the Skeleton Army in order to intimidate the Salvationists.
The man Macartney, however, is not a member of the Salvation Army.
He was standing at the street corner when the processions passed, and he was mistaken for a Salvationist by his assailants. He was struck, hustled, and finally stabbed in the back with a knife.
THE POLICE MUST DEAL VIGOROUSLY WITH THEM
If he dies, as it is feared he will, it is to be hoped that the police will receive instructions to deal vigorously with ruffians who strike and kick and stab in the streets, even although they are organized as a Skeleton Army.
They have been tolerated while they confined themselves to breaking the heads of the Salvationists, but they should at least be taught that they are presuming too far upon the forbearance of the police when they take to stabbing inoffensive bystanders.”
A WOMAN FROM THE STREET
On Saturday, 27th January, 1883, the Pall Mall Gazette, brought its readers yet another story which, this time, highlighted the dangers posed to the destitute poor caused by the bureaucracy of getting themselves admitted to the Workhouse:-
“It is a very old story that the two millions sterling which London now expends every year on the relief of its poor does not save numbers of women and children from dying every day from starvation.
In most cases the machinery of the poor law does not reach the sufferers at all; but sometimes, although it finds them out, it works too clumsily to be of any avail.
THE MOTHER AND HER CHILD
This was the case with the child on whom Dr, Thomas held an inquest yesterday.
For the past fortnight the mother had been sleeping on doorsteps; but at last, noticing that the child was ill, she applied for admission to the St. Giles’s Workhouse.
WHERE WAS HER NOTE?
That was all very well but where was her note from the house where she had been sleeping the night before? The poor woman explained how things stood, but was sent off to get a reference from a lodging where she had been a fortnight before.
She could find no one there, and came back to the workhouse again – only, however, to be again repulsed until the relieving officer had “made inquiries.”
The story turned out to be perfectly true, and she was ultimately admitted, just in time for the child to die in the house from cold and exposure.”