For many years, prior to the onset of the Jack the Ripper murders, health officials had been warning about the dreadfully living conditions that had been allowed to develop, unchecked, in the districts of Spitalfields and Whitechapel.
KILLED BY THEIR LIVING CONDITIONS
In fact, as the following case – which was reported by The Kentish Chronicle, on Saturday, 9th December, 1865 – demonstrates, so bad were the living conditions in some parts of the East End, that people were actually being killed by them.
The article read:-
“HOMES” OF THE PEOPLE
DREADFUL ABODES IN SPITALFIELDS.
“An inquest was held on Wednesday in Commercial Street, Spitalfields, on the body of George Anson, aged thirty-eight years, and Margaret Anson, his wife, of the same age.
The deceased persons lived in a room, at 27, Grey Eagle-street, for which they paid 2s. 9d. a week.
THEY COMPLAINED OF FEELING UNWELL
For some time before their decease, they complained of sickness, loss of appetite, and a sort of skin over their eyes.
They spoke of the dreadful state of the premises – the water kept in an old tar barrel, the yard wet and dirty, the boards of the closet partly gone, and the door of it off.
THE DEATHS OF CHILDREN
Mary Davies said that she lived on the ground floor, where she had a coal-shop.
Her sleeping room was three feet below the level of the yard, and the window was level with the surface of the yard. She paid 4 shillings a week to Mr. Waring.
She had lived there seven years, and during that time she had lost six children. They all died under the age of two years and a quarter. She had two children living now.
TWENTY PEOPLE LIVED THERE
Twenty people lived in the house.
In the back-room, on the first floor, a man and his five children lived.
They paid 1s. 9d. a week rent, for the room was very small.
In the next room, the two deceased died.
Over it lived a woman and her two children; and in the next room to hers was a family consisting of a man, his daughter, and a little boy, paying 2s. 6d. a week rent.
In the witness’s room, the flooring was laid level on the ground. There were no rafters. The floor was the height of a table beneath the level of the yard.
DELIRIOUS FROM TYPHOID FEVER
Some further evidence touching on the state of the house and premises having been given, Dr. T. Jarvis said that he found both the man and the woman delirious from typhoid fever.
They were so surrounded by unhealthy influences, that their recovery was hopeless, and they remained there.
There was an accumulation of vegetable and other refuse outside the door, and the passage and the stairs were extremely dirty; the walls dirty and dilapidated; the closet in a disgraceful state; and the water very short in supply and unfit for drink from the exhalations from the drain.
THE WATER WAS FILTHY
Dr. Henry Letheby, medical officer of health to the City, after describing the state of the place in detail, said that the water was so filthy that it could only be used for washing.
Mr. Isaac Battram, assistant inspector to the Whitechapel Board of Works, said that he had served a notice on Mr. H. F. Waring, of 450, Hackney-road, on the 24th of October, and got a compulsory order on Thursday last with reference to this house.
THE JURY’S VERDICT
Some further evidence was taken in conjunction with the abominable and dangerous condition of the premises, and the jury, after some deliberation, returned the following verdict:-
That George Anson and his wife, Margaret Anson, died from typhoid fever, and that the filthy condition and overcrowded state of the premises engendered such fever; and the jurors further say that more prompt measures ought to have been taken with respect to the said premises by the district inspector.”