Personal information about Henry Hill

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Henry Hill
02 December 1889
Reverend H H Skuie



Obituaries and Newspaper announcements

Henry Hill
Article source:    Newbury Weekly News
Date of source:    05 December 1889
Copyright:    © Newbury Weekly News




The death of an old man

An inquest was held on the Saturday afternoon of 30 November 1889 at the "Jack Hotel" on the body of Henry Hill, aged it is said 64 years of age, who had been found dead "in the squalor of his freezing and filthy house" on the Thursday previous.  Aged in his sixties, he had been for most of his life a journeyman baker, a skilled occupation at which he was employed by the day by at local bakeries. For many years he had worked for the Heath family. At some point he seems to have had a crisis after which he began to neglect his cleanliness, causing any possible employer he approached to refuse to take him on. Maybe after Mrs Heath gave up the bakery and he lost his secure employment. Or when Edward Heath died in 1885 this being about the time his lapse from cleanliness occurred. This could have puzzled him; he knew he was a good and skilled worker, but could not appreciate that no one wants a dirty smelly employee around a foodstuff which they intend selling. And baking is very much a hands-on operation. He began to wander round town asking everywhere for work. Usually bakers would send him away with a loaf of bread to sustain him.

His neighbours in Ashdown-court, had been worried when they had neither heard nor seen anything of him since the previous day, Wednesday, when Mrs Rebecca Bristowe, a neighbour had met him in the court and he had asked her for a cup of tea. She had been unable to supply him and he then had replied that he would go and ask "Aunt Osgood" for a little money.  Hannah Pike, Elizabeth Lailey had enlisted the aid of George Emmans, a navvy, but on knocking at his door they had got no answer. Eventually a group of them broke in and found Hill partly clothed and sprawled in a chair — his usual practice as he had no bed. The hovel was so filthy and reeked so much that the doctor who was called could not remain in the place for long and had the corpse removed to the mortuary. His examination there caused him to give the verdict that he was of the opinion that Hill had died from "Pleurisy, accelerated by want of the common necessaries of life and warmth."

At the inquest, Mr. Samuel Cooper, of Northbrook street said that he "had a pecuniary interest" in the cottage and knowing Mr Hill's circumstances had not asked for rent for two years and had even done some repairs. Neighbour Rebecca Bristowe, a widow, said that she would make Hill cups of tea and wishing to be helpful, advise him to go to the Workhouse where he would be fed and kept warm. But he did not want to give up his freedom "There are too many masters there" he would say. I am told by social workers that this would not be regarded as an unusual case.

Newbury Weekly News   5 December 1889


This obituary entry is awaiting verification.
Henry Hill
Article source:    Newbury Weekly News
Date of source:    05 December 1889
Copyright:    © Newbury Weekly News




SAD AFFAIR AT NEWBURY       A melancholy case of destitution and privation was revealed at the inquest of a man named Henry Hill, Thursday night. who was found dead in his cottage in Ashdown-court, on Thursday night. The deceased was a journeyman baker and for many years had been in the employ of the late Mr. Heath baker of Cheap-street, and subsequently worked for Mrs. Heath.  For the last two years or eighteen months, however, he had no regular employment, it being stated that his disregard of personal cleanliness made him an undesirable personage in a bake-house. He was unmarried, and lived alone in a little cottage in Ashdown-court, and a cheerless, lonely kind of life the poor fellow must have led.  Earning no wages he had to depend for a bare existence on the charity of his friends, and the bakers of the town never refused him a loaf of bread when he asked for it.  But he was extremely reluctant to beg for assistance, and confident that he was a good workman, could never understand why he was refused employment.  Too proud to beg, he also steadfastly refused the advice of all with whom he came in contact, to seek the shelter of the Workhouse.  It was this unfortunate pride which cost him his life, for had he gone to the Workhouse he would have obtained the common necessaries of life, for the lack of which he perished in so wretched a manner.  Living alone, he refused the help of kindly neighbours to perform any household duties for him, and as a consequence his cottage became most filthy and obnoxious.

The deceased was last seen alive on Wednesday evening when he asked a neighbour for a cup of tea, and then said he was almost starved and perished. The next day nothing was seen or heard of him, and at night the neighbours became alarmed. They knocked at his door, but obtained no answer. Then on entering they were shocked to find the poor fellow in a reclining posture in a chair before the fireless grate, and in an almost nude condition. He was quite dead and cold. The stench arising from the accumulation of filth was so abominable that next morning when Dr. Hickman was called in to make a post mortem examination he was quite unable to remain there, and obtained an order from the Coroner to have the body moved to the public mortuary.  Even 24 hours later when the windows and doors had been thrown open, the jury who went to view the cottage, had a most unpleasant duty to perform, and several expressed the opinion that they had never experienced a worse case.  The rider attached to their verdict may have a beneficial effect in calling the attention of the sanitary officer to this court, which is one of the most insanitary in the town.

The inquest was held on Saturday afternoon at the "Jack" Hotel, before Dr. Watson, Borough Coroner, and a jury of whom Mr. W. Davies was foreman. The jury first inspected the deceased's cottage, and then proceeded to view the body, which was lying at the mortuary. The following evidence was then taken:-

Charles Henry Osgood,  cellarman, said he was cousin to the deceased, who was a baker, and who was 64 years of age.  He identified the body as that of his cousin.

Rebecca Bristowe, widow, living in Ashdown-court, said she had known the deceased for more than eleven years. She last saw him on Wednesday night. He was standing at the top of the yard and asked her for a cup of tea. She said she had her tea at the laundry, where she worked.  He said he was almost starved and perished and asked her for a penny.  She gave him the last she had got.  He said he was going to see his aunt, Mrs. Osgood, to ask her for some money.  He seemed then about in his usual health.  He often came into her house to beg.  She told him he would be better in the Workhouse, but he said there were too many masters there for him. His house was in a very dirty condition, and she frequently told him she would do anything for him.

George Emmans, a navvy, living in Ashdown-court, said he was acquainted with the deceased.  On Thursday night he was in next door, and two women in the yard, Hannah Pike and Elizabeth Lailey, said they had not seen the deceased lately. They said "Let us go and knock at the door and see if we can make him hear." They could not, and came back to ask witness to open the door. He opened the door, which was unlocked, and found the deceased sitting in a chair with his foot against the fireplace.  His head was on the floor and his shirt was over his head.  He was almost naked, his trousers being about his feet. He was quite dead and cold.  He had not seen the deceased for a month.

A juryman asked if there was any bed in the house. Mr Chivers (a juryman), said he had known the deceased for many years and it had been his practice to sleep in a chair just inside the door. Mr. Samuel Walter, cooper, of Northbrook-street, said he had a pecuniary interest in the cottage in which deceased lived. He took the property about twelve months ago, the deceased being already a tenant. He knew he had been out a journeyman baker for many years, but had been out of regular employment for a long time.  He had not paid any rent, he believed, for two years.  He had no idea that the cottage was in such a bad condition. He had repaired the roof and windows. He knew the deceased was in bad circumstances, and he told him often that he would be better in the workhouse.  Deceased said he would never do that.  He did not like to turn him out of his cottage, as he was afraid he would commit suicide.  Witness' sister gave him some food, and advised him to go to the workhouse, but he refused.  He was rather particular about what he ate, and would never ask for a penny. The rent of the cottage was 2s.

Mr. Richard Hickman, said by order of the Coroner he made a post mortem examination of the deceased that morning. He had previously seen the body in Ashdown-court, and requested the Coroner to have it removed to the mortuary, as there was no accommodation at the house.  He would also like to mention that there was no accommodation at the mortuary. 

The Coroner promised to bring the matter before the Corporation, who would no doubt provide proper means for carrying on a post mortem examination.

Witness, continuing, said he found the body very much emaciated. There was not a particle of fat on it. The lungs were diseased, and there was recent pleurisy. The liver was diseased, but the other organs were healthy. The stomach and intestines were empty, and gave him the idea he had no food for some time.  He thought the cause of death was pleurisy, accelerated by want of the common necessaries of life and warmth. There were no signs of violence or injury. The body was covered with vermin.

The Coroner, having summed up the evidence, said it was a most regretful circumstance that the deceased had never been removed to the Workhouse, and remarked that it was astonishing that such a case had been overlooked. There was no doubt that the landlord had acted in a kind and lenient manner.

Mr. Cullum said he had never been in such a dirty place, and strongly expressed the feeling that landlords should have the authority to enter these places and put them in a sanitary condition. He had been in a good many dirty places, but never one where the stench was so abominable. It was a case for the Inspector of Nuisances to interfere.

The Foreman also spoke of the extremely unsanitary condition of all the cottages in Ashdown-court, and remarked that it was a wonder a fever epidemic had not been started under such dreadful conditions.

The Coroner said they were not met there to pass judgment on the landlords, but the jury could append a rider to their verdict, drawing the attention of the Medical Officer of Health to the unsanitary condition of this cottage, and indeed the whole of Ashdown-court. The atmosphere of the cottage was fragrant and balmy to-day, compared with it when he went into the cottage yesterday.

Several of the jury concurred in the suggestion to append a rider to their verdict, which was that "Deceased came to his death through want of the common necessaries of life, accelerated by pleurisy."

The Coroner said he would communicate with Dr. Woodford, the Officer of Health, and express the opinion of the jury as to the insanitary condition of Ashdown-court, and he hoped something would be done to improve its condition.

|Newbury Weekly News  5 December 1889



This obituary entry is awaiting verification.
Henry Hill
Article source:    Newbury Weekly News
Date of source:    05 December 1889
Copyright:    © Newbury Weekly News





The melancholy death of the poor man Hill [an unemployed and poverty stricken man who had starved to death in the squalor of his freezing and filthy house, will have served a useful purpose if it should direct attention to the wretched condition of some of the dwellings of the poorer classes. How many of our town councillors have personal knowledge of the circumstances under which these poor people live? Here was a centre of corruption adjoining our main street, and a man, is allowed to be literally starved to death.

The new Inspector of Nuisances will doubtless bring his official gaze to bear on these dark and undesirable corners of our town. It is a great wonder that people should continue to live in miserable courts and alleys.

New houses are being built all around the town, and quite a colony of small houses have sprung up in the neighbourhood of the Gasworks. Here at least there plenty of light and air; and an occasional whiff from the Gasworks is said to be conductive to health.

notes on the case by: Julie Goddard - see Biographies and History

This obituary entry is awaiting verification.

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