Rambridge, Sarah

Rambridge, Sarah     1891 March 1st

A Wretched House – “Would not put a dog in it”

Yesterday (Thursday) afternoon Mr George Smith, the City Coroner, held an inquest at the White Hart Hotel, relative to the death of Sarah Rambridge, of Caves Terrace, Exeter Street. Mr Curtis was foreman of the jury.

There are only two rooms in the house, and the place is in a wretched state. The downstair room has a low ceiling, the floor is broken and there are signs of general neglect. Ricketty stairs lead to the upstairs room and in the latter lay the body of the deceased, in a dirty unwashed state, on a mattress on the floor. The poor creature’s only covering through the severe weather consisted of a quilt, a piece of blanket and a rug. There was no door to the staircase and nothing to prevent the cold air coming freely into the room. The room itself was in a miserable state, so much so that some of the jury described the place as a most horrible hovel they had ever seen, and one gentleman said, “It’s not fit for a dog to be in”.

Dr Gordon, the first witness at the inquest, said he was called between nine and ten on Wednesday morning, and on going to the house found deceased dead. The appearances was that she had not had sufficient nourishment. He attributed death to syncope, which was aggravated by the circumstances under which she was living. The house was in a very dirty state. It was not fit for two persons to live in. The previous tenants were turned out for overcrowding. He supposed the mother and son slept in the same room.

Samuel Perry said deceased was his mother. He was her son by her first husband, who died when he (witness) was nine years old. Witness’s age was 52, and his mother was 80. The house belonged to Mr Luke Cave. He paid 1s 9d a week for the house, and 3d on an “old score” for back rent. His mother received 2s a week from the parish and a loaf. She was “doatingly fond” of him. He looked after her, and she seemed well and “hearty” on Tuesday night. He slept in the kitchen on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday morning, about eight o’clock, he heard his mother call “Sam.” He took her up some tea, and then found she had a gurgling in her throat. She died soon afterwards. During the past week he earned 2s and his brother had sent him a trifle. His average earnings were 5s a week, so that with the relief they had about 7s and a loaf.

Replying to the jury, witness said Mrs Barber, the district visitor, had been to the house and had brought a custard. He had not seen the district visitor for a fortnight. He told Mrs Barber the state of his mother, but she never went upstairs to see her.

Mr Vincent (a juror) : Didn’t you call the landlord’s attention to the room?

Witness : Yes, you might. Look at the floor. He told me to do it – even the bricks in the fireplace.

Witness added that he had not wanted food, and that he had kept a lamp burning upstairs during the night.

The Coroner, in summing up, said he could not help thinking deceased wanted food, and that the wretched state of the house had contributed to her death. The house was in a disreputable state, and he would not put a dog in it. The jury returned a verdict of “Death from natural causes” and asked the Coroner to represent to the Sanitary Authority their opinion that the house was not fit for habitation.

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