Wednesday 23 December 2009

The Deptford gravedigger's widow

Before the welfare state, long-term illness and widowhood could bring disastrous financial consequences. The newspaper notice below sought help for a family well-known in the locality, although one wonders how the widow felt about having her financial situation so pitilessly exposed to the public. There was also perhaps another purpose behind this notice. The details about the widow's landlord suggest that at least part of the motivation of its authors was to shame him for his behaviour.

The kind and humane consideration of the Benevolent Inhabitants of Deptford is earnestly solicited in behalf of WIDOW BIGSBY and her 5 fatherless children in this the time of their bereavement and affliction.

It is well known, that the deceased MR. BIGSBY, for a long time was unable to attend to the duties of his situation in consequence of his affliction, during which time it could not of course be expected he could receive any more than a small pittance out of the Emolument arising from the office of Grave-Digger; which circumstance, combined with a variety of difficulties under which he laboured, has left his Widow and 5 fatherless children in the most pitiable condition imanginable; - and now added to which affliction, MR FLEAY, Linen Draper of the Broadway, her Landlord, has ordered a Distress to be levied on her few remaining Goods, for the sum of £4. 13s. 6d.; the half of which WIDOW BIGSBY has offered to pay, if the Distress should be withdrawn, but which has been refused by her Landlord.

The WIDOW BIGSBY therefore has no other resource than to throw herself and the condition of her 5 fatherless children on the humane and generous Public – entreating their kind assistance in this her time of trouble, and for which she trusts she shall ever prove herself to be sincerely grateful. Any Subscription, however small, will be most thankfully received.

Mr. T. B. KNOTT, High Street, Deptford, has very kindly offered to receive Subscriptions in WIDOW BIGSBY’S behalf; - Also Mr. T. R. PRESS, 1, Broomfield Place; and Mr. W. BURGESS, New Cross.

Jan. 20, 1841


Anonymous said...

"resource"? Is that a typo for "recourse"?

CarolineLD said...

I don't have the original in front of me, but from memory it really was 'resource'.