The Tragic Case Of Mary Baxter

Reading some of the accounts of the poverty that was endemic in London in the closing years of the 19th century is a somber and, often, heart-rending experience.

In previous articles, I have gone into a great deal of detail about the case of people who, in what was at the tie one of the wealthiest countries on earth, starved to death in Victorian London.

In truth, starvation was a bigger killer in the 19th metropolis than Jack the Ripper ever was, and numerous newspapers picked up on this point, especially when the Whitechapel murders exposed the horror of the social conditions in the East End of London.

I have also produced a YouTube video that features the cases of 10 people who starved to death.


The Pall Mall Gazette, in its edition of Wednesday the 10th of January 1883, carried the story of the tragic demise of one such person:-

Here is a story of the poor of London, that unfolded before the St Pancras Coroner on Tuesday.

Mary Baxter, a woman of 50, who had lived with boot closer in a single room in a house in Little Clarendon Street for several years, was two years in arrear with her rent.

Her landlord, Mr. Coxhill, distrained her goods, seizing also the tools of her companion who was at work at Stratford.

She was left shivering in a fireless room, with barely sufficient clothes to cover her, and with 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, he had no warrant; but what could the poor woman do?

The rain came in and saturated her scanty clothing as she lay weak and helpless on her sack.


The night passed.

In the morning, the last day but one of the old year, a neighbour came in. He found her almost insensible, but she murmured, “Give me time,” supposing him to be her landlord.

She had lain two days and two nights in an empty room, to which for the last twenty-four hours the wind and the rain had had free access, and, although she was removed to the workhouse, she died in three days.


Cases such as this are occurring all around us, but how little we know of them, and alas! is it not often true, that, though we know little, we care less?