[Reynoldsʼs Newspaper, 14. November 1869]

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Reynoldsʼs Newspaper. Nr. 1005, 14. November 1869. S. 6.
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Nov Anmerkung von Jenny Marx

On Monday, Dr. Lankester held an inquest at the Bull’s Head Inn, Tottenham-court-road, on the body of Michael Murphy, aged thirty-two, who had died in the infirmary of St. Pancras workhouse.

The case in itself was of a simple character, but as it involved the whole question of the treatment of the sick poor in the infirmary of St. Pancras workhouse—whether that infirmary is or is not sufficient for the wants of the parish, and whether even the large number of inquests which have been lately held on persons dying therein have not been rendered necessary by the acceleration of death from overcrowding—the inquiry was one of the highest importance.

The Coroner briefly explained the circumstances under which the case had come to his knowledge by a letter from the clerk to the board of guardians. It appeared that Michael Murphy, a costermonger, had been suffering from pulmonary consumption, and had been under the treatment of Mr. Barnes, one of the out-door medical officers, for some four or five weeks. Finding he was in the last stage, and that the house in which he resided, in Little Pancras-street, Tottenham-court-road, contained nine rooms, inhabited by twenty-seven persons, and that typhus fever was in the house, he ordered his removal, on Tuesday, the 2nd instant, to the workhouse infirmary. He was admitted about four o’clock, and was seen by Dr. Ellis, who prescribed for him, and placed him in No. 11—the men’s medical ward. He appeared better next morning, when seen about eight o’clock; but about half-past nine, when the doctor went his rounds, he had so changed as to appear dying. His friends were then sent for, and he died about twelve o’clock.

Dr. Ellis was sworn, and after stating the history of the case, in answer to a question from the coroner, said: I think his death was accelerated by the foul state of the atmosphere of the ward of the infirmary in which he was placed from overcrowding. On the day and night he was in it there were twenty-eight beds in it, and nine sleeping on the floor on mattresses, making thirty-seven patients in the ward. I think the length of the ward is seventy-four feet, twenty-one feet wide, and twelve feet high, which would give about 250 cubic feet of air to each patient, which is not half the amount required by the Poor-law Board. When patients are sent to us we are obliged to take them in. As Mr. Solly and another independent medical gentleman can give evidence on this point I should prefer you to hear them.

The Coroner remarked that he had no power to call or pay any other medical witnesses; but if Mr. Solly volunteered any evidence as to the cause of death he would hear him.

Mr. Samuel Solly sworn: I am the president of the Royal College of Surgeons, senior surgeon of St. Thomas’s Hospital, and F R S. I visited the St. Pancras Infirmary on the 4th inst., at half-past nine in the evening. I went over the whole infirmary, and amongst others No. 11, or male medical ward. I have been over and through the foulest of wards in hospitals and other institutions, but I never, in the whole course of my professional experience, entered so foul a place. I never experienced a stench so beastly in all my life arising from foul atmosphere. I should say that this disgusting foulness of atmosphere arose mainly from the want of ventilation, as well as the large number of patients there were in the ward. There were twenty-eight beds, and nine sleeping on the floor.

Dr. Brudenell Carter, fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, who accompanied Mr. Solly on his visit, corroborated the whole of his statements.

After considerable discussion the following special verdict was returned:—“That Michael Murphy died from consumption, accelerated by the unwholesome atmosphere of the ward in which he was placed in the workhouse. The jury also requested the guardians to direct their attention to the state of the receiving ward.”

 Es handelt sich um die Überschrift des in der Zeitung folgenden Artikels, die mit ausgeschnitten worden ist.


  • Social cases. 1869