Penny, Elizabeth

Penny, Elizabeth        1882 September 30th

An inquest was held at the Council Chamber, on Monday afternoon, by the City Coroner (Mr G Smith) and a jury (of whom Mr F G Abel was foreman) on the body of Elizabeth Penny, a widow aged 76, who had lived in one of Taylor’s almshouses in Bedwin-street, and was found dead in bed on the previous day.

The first witness called was Dr J H Gordon, who stated that on the previous day he was called to see the deceased (whom he had attended some time since for bronchial affection), and on arriving at the almshouse found her dead in bed. She occupied the house free and received, he believed, half-a-crown a week from the parish. The deceased – who did not look well-nourished – died he should say from syncope.

A juror : Do you think she died from semi-starvation?

Mr Gordon : Well, I can’t say that. She was certainly better off than some of the other patients.

A juror : Yes, very well off on four pence a day.

Samuel Sims, who is an inmate of the almshouses, stated that he had known the deceased for some years, indeed her duties had been to look after the inmates of the almshouses. She had her house and garden at the almshouse, and in her capacity as nurse got a few pence for doing odd jobs. He last saw deceased alive at about half-past six on Saturday evening, when she appeared in her usual health. On the following morning as she did not make her appearance as usual, he became uneasy, and knocked several times at the door. No answer being received, the door was subsequently broken open and she was found dead in bed.

A juror : Did she ever complain of having insufficient food?

Witness : Oh, no, sir; I think she had some very good friends though she did look a little “picket.”

Edward Penny, brickmaker, said he was a son of the deceased. He assisted his mother by giving her food when he was able, though he did not give any monetary assistance. On Saturday evening – at about seven – she was at his house and had some tea and bread and butter; and he afterwards saw her safely home. On the following morning he was called upon by a Mr Morris, and hearing that some fears were connected with his mother, he went at once to her house. On breaking open the door he found her dead in bed, quite cold.

A juror : Did your mother ever complain of not having sufficient food? No.

Another juror : Did you think she had enough? Well, she got as much as she wanted; she got a little about on errands and we gave her a little when she wanted it.

The Coroner said that the evidence went to show that the deceased died from natural causes; but he must say that half-a-crown a week was insufficient to keep her – indeed her body bore evidences of that.

The jury returned a verdict of “Death from Natural Causes.”

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