St John’s Square, London, EC1. Photo ©RogerDean 2014
The Night Side of London – J. Ewing Ritchie, 1858:
A week or two since, had you been passing down Bridges-street into the Strand late on a Saturday night, or early on a Sunday morning, on a door-step, in spite of the pouring rain, you might have seen a woman, in her rags and loneliness, trying to gather a few hours of sleep. She was too weak to pursue her unhallowed calling, and had she been so disposed on that cold, wet night, it would have been of little avail had she walked the streets. The policeman as he goes his monotonous rounds tells her to move on. See wakes up, gets upon her legs, hobbles along, and then, when he is past, again, weary and wayworn, seeks the friendly door-step. The policeman returns; “What, here still?” he exclaims. Ah yes! she has not power to move away. She is weak, ill, dying. The friendly police carry her to the neighbouring hospital. “She cannot be received here,” says Routine, and she is taken to the workhouse. Again she is taken to the hospital, admitted at last – for is she not a woman, and a young one, too? – not more than twenty-five, it appears, – and on her face, stained with intemperance and sin, there is the dread stamp of death – in this ease, perhaps, a welcome messenger; for who would live, fallen, friendless, forsaken, with a diseased body and a broken heart? “The spirit of a man can sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” Peace be with her! in another hour or two she will have done with this wretched life of hers, and have gone where “the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” More than usual official cruelty is visible in this case, for all that is given her between her admission and her death is a simple cup of tea […].