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1880: Untimely deaths of navvies at the Workhouse

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Daily News (London) - Tuesday 13 July 1880

Who is Blame ?—To the Editor the Daily News


Sir, —These last few weeks, attention has been called to a state of things which seems worthy of serious consideration. -


I am a constant visitor to the infirmary of the Union for a large number parishes. Recently men have been brought, mainly navvies, in such an advanced state of disease that they are past human aid. Who is to blame ? Surely when railway or other works, are in course of construction some more adequate accommodation than overcrowded huts or even more over-crowded farmhouses and cottages ought to provided by the contractors, and wherever the men are massed together there ought to at least bi-weekly medical inspection, in order to ascertain whether there are cases of illness or not, and not to be left to the chance any one sending for a doctor.

I will mention some the cases:-


1. A workman, found in a bed on a landing, suffering from erysipelas and inflammation of the lungs; he died two days after he was admitted to the infirmary, aged 37.


2. A navvy, dying when he came to the infirmary, had no medical order, but in the absence of the Governor, the nurse and porter, ignoring red-tapeism, admitted him, he had instant medical attendance, but died in four hours, aged 50.


3. A man in the prime life, aged 32, a navvy of magnificent physique. He came in an advanced stage of heart disease, and died within nine days of admittance.


I know in each case all that human aid could do was done, but too late. Surely some one is responsible for such reckless waste of human life!


When we consider that these men aid us, forming, as if, were, a bridge of their lives to enable us to reach those whom we love and hear their dying words and receive their last look, we ought to feel bound to succour them, so far as possible, from dying alone and amongst strangers in a workhouse infirmary.


Sarah M. Kingsley Cuckfield, July 12.

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