A sadly typical tale of domestic abuse



Thomas Looker was a cabinet maker who lived in Bethnal Green with his wife Matilda and their four children. In October 1854 Matilda appeared before the magistrate at Worship Street, battered and bruised and with her youngest child in her arms.

She said that on the previous Saturday night she had got to fetch her husband from the public house (where he usually was) at midnight. The pair had returned home but almost as soon as he got in, Thomas turned around and went out again.

When he came back he set about her, abusing and berating her because ‘his supper was not ready’. Matilda had, she insisted , merely been waiting for his return to prepare him some bacon and potatoes, but this fell on drunken ears and she took a fearful beating.

While she struggled with him she had her baby ‘at her breast’ and he tried to pull it away from her. He hit her about the head and blackened one of her eyes (which was all too evident in court).The attack only stopped when a female lodger nearby intervened.

The justice, Mr Hammond, asked if this was a regular occurrence and Matilda confirmed that it was. Her husband drank all the money he earned so she and children had little for food or clothes (the reporter described her as ‘careworn and scantily-clad’). She ended by saying she and kids would be better in the workhouse, so much did she fear her partner’s violence.

The magistrate agreed and told the authorities to make arrangements for accepting her and the children at the Parish Workhouse. He added that before they left they should be given a proper hot meal. As for Thomas, he sent him to the House of Correction for six months at hard labour.


[from The Morning Post, Thursday, October 19, 1854]

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