Lucas, Ellen

Lucas, Ellen               1876 November 11th

Yesterday afternoon an inquest was held in the Council Chamber before the City Coroner, Mr G Smith, on the body of a child named Ellen Lucas, aged 7 weeks, who died early yesterday morning at a lodging-house in Brown-street. The Coroner, in addressing the jury, said he wished to call their attention to some blows on the head of the child, but the medical testimony would satisfy them that they were not the cause of death. It appeared that the mother with her two children had been sleeping out of doors, and the night before last (Wednesday) she was sleeping in some water closet with the infant at her breast. The medical opinion was, he believed, that the child died from some inflammation of the lungs.

Annie Lucas, the deceased’s mother, was the first witness called, and stated that she was the wife of Edward Lucas, a labourer. They resided no-where at present, but on Thursday night she slept at Mr Stay’s in Brown-street. She had been out for two nights, and was almost frozen, it was so cold. She didn’t know where her husband was now, and hadn’t seen him since between 8 and 9 o’clock Thursday night. She wanted him to go to Mr Mathews, but he said he had been there, and didn’t like to go again.

He had not been in work for seven weeks. She made application to the relieving officer, Mr Newbery, but he told her to go to Mr Read, as he thought they belonged to Alderbury. And when she went to Mr Read he said she had been living in the town a long time, and she did not get an order from either of them. The deceased was seven weeks old last Monday, and had never been well since her birth, but she seemed quite sharp before witness laid down with her on Thursday night, which she didn’t think was before 11 o’clock. Witness dropped off to sleep, and when she awoke early in the morning she found the deceased plunging, and it seemed as if she was in a fit. She took her in her arms and took her to Mr Stay’s door and knocked as loudly as she could, but she supposed it was a quarter of an hour or more before she could make anyone hear.

Several lodgers heard her, but they thought it was someone at the front door who wanted to come in for lodgings or something. She believed the house was full, and that was the reason she could not have a bed. She was downstairs. Mr Stay first came to her assistance, when the baby was just gone, and a doctor afterwards came. The scar on the deceased’s head was caused by her little boy letting the deceased fall last Wednesday evening as she was just turning round by the fire to take the kettle off.

James Henry Gordon, the medical practitioner who examined the deceased, said he thought from the circumstances of the mother and the child having slept out the previous night most likely the child died from congestion of the lungs. The scar on the child’s head hadn’t the appearance of having been done very recently. When he saw the deceased she might have been dead an hour.

Superintendent Mathews said Annie Lucas applied to him for relief on Thursday night, with her husband, but he didn’t grant it, knowing the people as residents in the town. He referred them to the relieving officer, but Annie Lucas returned about half past 9, and said she had been to the relieving officers and they had refused to do anything for her. She said she would be thankful if he would provide her with shelter for the night. She had a young child at her breast, and he gave her a sum of money to pay for lodging, and also sent a sergeant with her to Stay’s lodging house to ask him to be kind enough to provide her with shelter for the night. The sergeant gave the other child which was with her some food. Mr Stay let her remain in the kitchen and made up a fire for them. At half past four yesterday morning he received information of the youngest child’s death, and he immediately sent for Dr Gordon and accompanied him to Stay’s lodging house.

Mr Newbery, relieving officer, stated that the husband of Ann Lucas came to him on Thursday evening, he should think about 4 o’clock, and asked for an order for himself, but said nothing about his wife or children. He asked him why he wanted it, and he said because he could not get lodgings. Upon being asked he said he was not destitute nor out of work, and he (Mr Newbery) told him it was simply absurd, and that the Workhouse was not a lodging house.

Stephen Stay, lodging-house keeper, said Annie Lucas applied to him for lodgings on Thursday night, he thought between 9 and 10, and he believed she made an earlier application about 4 o’clock. He gave her his kitchen yesterday morning. He heard her knocking the door or shutter, and he looked out of window, thinking it was someone at the front door. He saw no-one there, but heard another knock, and said it was someone up the street. He closed the window, and his wife heard another knock. She looked out of window, and heard a woman say “Come down, my child is dead,” or something like that. That was just about 4 o’clock. He went to her assistance directly, and took the child into his own arms, examined it, and found it was dead. She might have gone for assistance, back or front, and nothing was locked.

In reply to a juryman, the witness stated that the parties had applied to him before for lodgings, he thought three nights previously, the woman having her baby in her arms, and he said they had no lodgings.

Supt Mathews attributed the death of the child to its continual exposure, and the intemperate habits of the mother, but said she and her husband were sober when they came tom him on Thursday night.

A verdict of “Death from congestion of the lungs,” was returned, and on behalf of the jury the Coroner congratulated Supt Mathews on the manner in which he acted in this matter.

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