17th March 1861


On Monday evening an inquest was held by the coroner, on view of the body of William Woodcock, aged 62 years, who died in a wretched cellar in Little North-street, Whitechapel, which is surrounded by horse slaughterers’ and knackers’ yards.

The evidence proved that the deceased was living with his daughter in an underground cellar. They obtained a scanty existence by making slop tailoring. They had only occasional employment, and they were often without food for two days together.

On Wednesday last the daughter went to the board of guardians of the Whitechapel Union for some temporary assistance, where she was told that they could not do anything for them.

On Friday evening, the daughter went out to obtain some cash from a friend and upon her return she found the deceased lying in bed in a state of insensibility. She ran to the workhouse and obtained a medical order for the attendance of Dr. Richardson, who found the deceased dead.

Dr. Richardson said that he found the deceased lying upon a quantity of rags, and the place was in a very dirty and filthy condition—in fact, the wretched abode was not fit for a human being to live in. It was an underground kitchen, and the body was in a filthy state from dirt and vermin. The various organs were healthy, but the immediate cause of death was effusion of serum into the ventricles of the brain. The body was emaciated and death was no doubt accelerated by the want of proper nourishment.

The jury returned a verdict that the deceased died by effusion on the brain and death was accelerated by starvation.


On Wednesday afternoon the coroner held an inquest at Bethnal-green. on view of the body of Daniel Christmas, aged 44 years, who committed suicide under the following determined circumstances.

Daniel Christmas, the elder, said the deceased was his son, and he was a silkweaver. He had been low and desponding for some weeks past, through pecuniary difficulties brought on by disappointment with his work, at which he could not get a livelihood. Witness had heard the deceased frequently exclaim, “This work will kill me.”

On Sunday night last the deceased was seen to go into the water-closet in the back yard with a lighted candle. Witness, upon finding that the deceased was so long absent, went to him and found him suspended by a strong rope to a beam in the ceiling. Witness ran out and called in two men who were passing, when the deceased was cut down. A surgeon was called, but life was extinct.

The sister of the deceased stated that she thought that the deceased had committed suicide through utter starvation, as he had for some weeks before his death only partaken of, dry bread and water for his meals. The landlord had threatened to turn him out of the house on account of his filthy habits. The deceased owed his father nearly £3 for arrears of rent.

Mr, James Vaughan. the summoning officer, said he had been nearly fifteen years in office, and he had never met with such a wretched case of destitution in that parish.

The room where the deceased died was covered in every corner with vermin, and it was really unsafe to enter the apartment.

The jury returned a verdict that the deceased had committed suicide by hanging, and that the act was brought on by starvation.


The coroner for West Middlesex closed a lengthened adjourned investigation on Thursday evening in reference to the alleged death from starvation of Leila Kate Dalley, aged two years, daughter of a poor woman whose husband had absconded, leaving her and four children, one of whom was the deceased, totally unprovided for.

Mr Marriner, surgeon, deponed that the child died partly from abscess—which might be termed natural disease—and partly from want of sufficient food.

The relieving officer of Marleybone deponed that the mother of the deceased took her own discharge for herself and children from the workhouse some two months ago, thereby destroying the warrant taken out for the arrest of her husband.

The jury returned a verdict to the effect that deceased died partly from want of sufficient food and disease and that no culpability was proved against the parish officers.


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