Very early on in the police investigation in to the Whitechapel Murders the police learnt of a particular, and seemingly promising, suspect.
In the wake of the murder of Mary Nichols, on August 31st 1888, detectives began questioning the area’s prostitutes in the hope that they might be able to shed some light on who might have been responsible for the killings of Nichols, and the previous murder of Martha Tabram, which had taken place on the 8th August 1888.
The prostitutes began talking about a mysterious character whom they had nicknamed ‘Leather Apron’ on account of the fact they he habitually wore such a garment.
It seems that this man was running an extortion racket and was threatening the district’s street walks that he would rip them up if they didn’t give him money.
However, the prostitutes were unable to give the police much information about him.
But then, the newspapers found out about this suspect and, on 5th September 188, the Star newspaper ran the first of a series of articles that caused genuine unease in the area.
The article’s headline read:-
LEATHER APRON THE ONLY NAME LINKED WITH THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS. THE STRANGE CHARACTER WHO PROWLS ABOUT AFTER MIDNIGHT. UNIVERSAL FEAR AMONG WOMEN – SLIPPERED FEET AND A SHARP LEATHER-KNIFE.
One particular aspect of the Star’s reports on man would have far reaching consequences on the police investigation into the Jack the Ripper Murders:-
“His name nobody knows, but all are united in the belief that he is a Jew or of Jewish parentage, his face being of a marked Hebrew appearance…”
The Star’s singling out of the suspect’s Hebrew appearance fed a growing belief amongst the gentile populace in the area that an Englishman could not be responsible for the crimes.
As a result anti-Semitism, which had been gaining momentum in the area over the previous few years, was greatly escalated and the police became alarmed that this could easily boil over into full scale anti-Jewish rioting in the course of which innocent Jews might lose their lives.
Consequently the police officers investigating the case began to play down suggestions that the murderer might be a member of the Jewish immigrant population. On several occasions, witness statements that referred to suspects as being of “Jewish appearance” were altered to the more universal of “foreign appearance” when circulated to the public at large.
Read more about the Leather Apron Scare
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Well, it seems we’ve well and truly managed to put that dreadful winter far behind us! We’ve enjoyed a couple of days of balmy summer weather and London is looking totally different.
So now’s the time to see the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields in a whole different light, quite literally.
If you joined the Jack the Ripper tour one one of those many bitterly cold winter nights that we’ve just endured, then why not come along and see those same streets in summer?
The point about the area that we explore on the walking tour is that it is a really fascinating part of London made up of some fantastic old alleyways and really atmospheric streets.
Many of the streets that we explore on the walk are still, more or less, as they were in Jack the Ripper’s day, and the buildings that line them are the very ones that formed the backcloth against which the saga of the Whitechapel Murders was played out.
The buildings are intriguing though for reasons way beyond their connection with the most infamous series of murders in history. Most of them were built in the 18th century for the huguenot master silk weavers. Many of them still retain their 18th century fetures, such as the elegant porches and attic workshops.
Indeed, so little changed are some of the streets we pass through that they are often used as locations for films that require an historical backdrop.
The wonderful thing about exploring on a summer’s might is that you really can admire the features and the architecture of these lovely old buildings and you can really get a feel for the vibrant history of the area.
So, why not book a place on London’s premier Jack the Ripper Walk and let out expert guides (who are experts on East End history as well as on the Whitechapel Murders) introduce you to some of London’s finest and least changed streets?Posted in General News Leave a comment
The East End of London can be a truly surprising place to discover. It is a part of the Capital that few visitors venture in to. But this who take the trouble to stray past the well worn tourist attractions are in for a real treat.
Of course most people who come to this part of London do so to take the Jack the Ripper Walking Tour and that is, primarily, what we are about. But, even on the walk our clients discover things, aside from the story of the infamous 1888 murders that really do intrigue them.
Take the knot of streets that nestle behind Christchurch Spitalfields for example. These are lined by sturdy 18th century houses that were built for the Huguenots, master silk weavers who conducted their trade in the upper rooftop rooms of the houses. These attics are still visible today and, when they are pointed out to people on our tour, they really are fascinated to see these survivors from bygone London.
The there’s the Ten Bells Pub, a must for anyone who is interested in the history of the East End or in the Jack the Ripper crimes themselves. The pub was a favoured haunt of several of the victims and the tiling inside is still much as it was in 1888.
On the opposite side of the road from the pub is Spitalfields Market, now a wonderful craft and bric-à-brac market which also boasts some wonderful restaurants. This had opened in 1887, the year before the commencement of the Whitechapel Murders. Today, when you explore its cavernous interior you are seeing a place that those long ago Victorian citizens would still recognise.
Back across Commercial Street, the soaring white tower of Christchurch Spitalfields still dominates its surroundings, just as it did back in 1888. It really is a breathtaking spectacle that links are age with that of Jack the Ripper’s age.
So, in this little knot of streets, all of which can be walked around in the space of about fifteen minutes you have so many buildings that have survived the march of time and progress, and which really do transport you back in time to the teeming streets of Victorian London.Posted in General News Leave a comment
The area around Buck’s Row (where the first Jack the Ripper murder occurred on August 31st 1888) is now undergoing major works s part of the Crossrail project.
There’s no doubt that, when this mammoth project is finally finished it is going to speed up journeys from west to east and vice versa. 26 trains an hour will run in both directions, 14 of them between Whitechapel and Paddington.
26 miles of tunnels are being dug under the streets of London, which has to be a massive engineering task, albeit not being a tunneller myself I’m not sure how impressive a feat this is!
What I do know is that Crossrail is going to change the face of many London neighbourhoods and Whitechapel is no exception.
From a Jack the Ripper perspective you’ll be able to zoom in to Whitechapel from the far west of London and be there by the first murder site. You can then head on over to the Royal London Hospital and visit their small exhibition on the Jack the Ripper murders.
From the perspective of London as a whole the Crossrail project is uncovering numerous intriguing finds from the City’s past.
One of the most recent finds was a that of the skeletons of thirteen 14th century plague victims around Charterhouse Square in Farringdon.
I actually feature this plague pit on several of my walks but to see the remains of those long ago Londoners brought to light was a truly chilling moment. You can read the full story here.
So, yes Crossrail is, at present, causing havoc in central London, but when it’s finished it’ going to make getting around the Capital an altogether speedier and more pleasant undertaking. Stay tuned for updates on the project.
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It’s an intriguing part of our nightly walking tour to see just what people know about the Jack the Ripper crimes and the history of the East End of London in general.
The Whitechapel Murders could easily be described as being a lesson from history as they really do provide us with a window by which we can look back on the streets of Spitalfields and Whitechapel in the latter half of the 19th century.
Many people are, no doubt attracted to the crimes by their sheer gruesomeness and horror. Others are intrigued by the fact that the Whitechapel Murders present us with one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in history.
But, a lot of people who discover the Jack the Ripper crimes for the aforementioned reasons, soon discover that there is a lot more to this particular murder spree than at first meets the eye.
So, what does Jack the Ripper teach us?
Well, for a start the crimes themselves teach us an awful lot about policing in Victorian London. Thanks to the newspapers being on the ground reporting on the crimes on an almost daily basis we are able to, more or less, follow the police investigation and view, and judge, the effectiveness of the hunt for the murderer as it unfolded.
Secondly, the crimes enable us to look at the everyday lives of those who lived in the area, since they exposed the dreadful social conditions that were prevalent in the area in 1888. Many newspapers, and philanthropists, used the murders to shine a light on the grinding poverty in the districts of Spitalfields and Whitechapel and so the ripper murders became the stick with which the radical press beat the authorities for allowing people to literally fall through the net and end up living a hand to mouth existence in two of London’s most densely populated and crime-ridden quarters.
So, we can learn an awful about about the London’s social history from studying the Whitechapel Murders and, in addition, we can look closely how the Victorian police groped their way through an investigation into a type of crime that they had had little experience of.
Posted in General News Tagged Jack the Ripper, Jack the Ripper Police investigation, Spitalfields, Victorian London., Whitechapel, Whitechapel Murders Leave a comment
The East End is a fascinating part of London and there are many and varied things you can do to explore its streets and buildings and which can help you really get to know the area.
In Whitechapel you can pay a visit to the Whitechapel Gallery and really get to grips with some truly cutting edge art. If you wish to pay it a visit then you can get details on their current exhibitions on their website.
Not far from the gallery there is the Whitechael Bell Foundry, founded in 1570 and now holding the record for being the oldest Bell manufacturer in the world. Among the famous bells cast here were Big Ben and the Liberty Bell. Visits are by tour only. For details, and to arrange a visit, you can get details here.
A little further away, on Whitechapel Road, is the London Hospital. It was here that Emma Smith, the first Whitechapel Murders victim died in April 1888. In addition it was here that Dr Openshaw, the medic who was asked to opine on the veracity of the human kidney that was sent with the famous From Hell Letter, was based.
It was also here that Joseph Merrick, the so-called ”Elephant Man” spent his last days.
At the back of the Hospital is their museum which has a fascinating display of artefacts, such as the special head cover that Joseph Merrick wore to hide his disfigurement whenever he left the confines of the hospital.
They also have a glass case in which they keep memorabilia related to the Jack the Ripper murders, including a fascimile of the From Hell letter that was sent to Mr George Lusk, and the map of Mitre Square that was drawn up for the inquest into the death of Catherine Eddowes, Jack the Ripper’s third victim.
All these things are located within walking distance of the start of our Jack The Ripper Walking Tour, so you could easily spend at least an afternoon, if not an entire day, exploring the attractions of the East End of London before joining us at Aldgate East (Exit Four) at 7pm to follow the infamous trail of he World’s most famous, or should that be infamous, serial killer.Posted in General News Tagged Catherine Eddowes, Dr Openshaw, Emma Smith, Jack the Ripper Walking Tour, Joseph Merrick, Royal London Hospital, The Elephant Man, Whitechapel Bell Foundary, Whitechapel Gallery, Whitechapel Murders Leave a comment
There has been much talk over the last year, or at least ever since the end of the London 2012 Olympics, about the Olympic legacy. It got me thinking about whether or not it could be argued that Jack the Ripper, or at least the Whitechapel Murderer, also, in a way left a legacy.
This is not intended as a flippant off the cuff remark but, rather, is intended as a serious question.
Prior to the commencement of the Whitechapel Murders, the area (incorporating Spitalfields and Whitechapel) was one of London’s most densely populated districts. It also contained some of London’s worst slums. Indeed, it is often stated that the whole area was a slum, This emphatically was not the case as large swathes of this neighbourhood were relatively respectable. But, there is no doubting that it did contain more than its fair share of slum dwellings.
One of the things that the Jack the Ripper murders did was to focus attention on the grinding poverty and the horrific living conditions in these slums. It is noticeable that many of the moves to clean up the area came in the wake of the Whitechapel Murders and, there can be doubt doubt, that some of the moves came about as a direct result of the murders drawing attention to the conditions in the district.
Another thing that, if you’ll pardon the pun, the Whitechapel Murders shone a light on, was the lack of street lighting in much of the area. One of the reasons that Jack the Ripper was able to evade the police so effectively was because the area was made of of numerous dark passages and alleyways that he could slip into, or even hide out in, in the aftermath of his crimes.
Again, the area was more adequately lit as a result of the Jack the Ripper Murders.
Numerous philanthropic organisations also used the murders to further their causes and bring change to the grinding poverty and the appalling living conditions in the area. Thus, within a few years more was being done to ease the plight of the poor and, although things wouldn’t improve drastically, they certainly began to get better in the wake of the murders of 1888.
Finally, there is the effect the murders had on the police and police methods. When the murders began the Metropolitan Police found themselves up against a type of criminal that they had never really encountered before, a lone, ruthless and opportunistic serial killer. They were, literally, plunged into a CSI by numbers investigation whereby they learnt as they went. So, as the murders progressed, you could see the police methods adapting as the investigating officers began to come to an understanding of the type of crime they were dealing with and the type of criminal they were up against. Ultimately, of course, their efforts proved fruitless as Jack the Ripper, officially at least, was never brought to justice. But, there can be little doubt that their experiences in dealing with the ripper investigation had the overall effective of improving policing and detection in th Victorian Metropolis.
So, in a way, it could be argued that Jack the Ripper did leave behind a legacy that led to social change and policing methods, not just in the East End of London, but throughout the country as a whole.Posted in General News Tagged CSI, East End of London, Jack the Ripper, Police Investigation Methods for Jack the Ripper, Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Whitechapel Murders Leave a comment
In the early days of the Whitechapel Murders the police were following a line of investigation that wondered if the crimes could be gang related.
This was influenced, to an extent, by the fact that Emma Smith, the first Whitechapel Murders victim, who had been attacked on 3rd April 1888, has told the doctor who treated her at the London hospital that she had been attacked by a gang of youths.
Gangs of youths were a serious problem in the late-1800′s, not just in London but throughout the whole of the country.
One of England’s most notorious Victorian gangs was based in Liverpool and was known as the High Rip gang.
Their name was adopted by several other gangs around the country and founds its way into the East End.
When Emma Smith died of the injuries it was suggested that she had been the victim of one of these East End High Rip gangs, and this belief certainly influenced not only the early police investigation but also the general belief of the population in general as to who was responsible for the murders of Emma Smith, Martha Tabram and Mary Nichols.
It was following the murder of Annie Chapman that the idea of a gang being responsible began to fade in favour of the perpetrator of the crimes being a lone criminal.Posted in General News Tagged Annie Chapman, Emma Smith, High Rip Gang, Martha Tabram, Mary Nichols, Whitechapel Murders Leave a comment
Well, it looks like we’ve finally got some summer here in London. It’s funny how the streets take on a completely different aspect with the changing seasons. And, strangely, even slight changes of atmosphere and light can give the streets of the East End a different look.
In the winter months, with the dark nights, the alleyways and thoroughfares through which our Jack the Ripper Tour wends its way feel really creepy and sinister.
But, in the summer months, with the fading light of the sun glinting of the façades of the old building that our walk passes, you see the area in a whole new, if you’ll pardon the pun, light.
One of the strengths of our Jack the Ripper Walk over the ones that start from Tower Hill Underground Station is that we spirit you straight into the streets that are, more or less, just as they were in Jack the Ripper’s day.
As a result the tour has something to offer you at all times of the year and in all seasons.
On winter nights its the chill menace of the dark streets that people come along to experience. But in the summer you can see and explore the wonderful buildings that line the first section of our tour route. These buildings are truly exquisite and are well worth taking the time to study with your eyes.
So, if you’ve joined us for the Jack the Ripper Tour of London during the dark, and let’s be honest freeeeeeezing cold winter that we’ve just gone through, why not come along again and see those same streets and buildings bathed in the glorious glow of twilight?Posted in General News Tagged Jack the Ripper, Jack the Ripper Tour, Jack the Ripper Walk East End Leave a comment
What is it that makes the Jack the Ripper crimes so fascinating that they still intrigue people even though 125 years have passed since the murders took place?
There are several reasons why this particular set of East End Murders are still able to fascinate people all over the world.
Most important amongst the reasons for Jack the Ripper’s enduring ability to tweak interest is the name by which the killer came to be known.
Until September 1888, the murderer was known as Leather Apron, The east End fiend or, most commonly, The Whitechapel Murderer. But then, on 27th September 1888, a letter arrived at the Central news Office in the City of London which would turn five sordid East End murders into an international phenomenon. The letter was written in red ink and was addressed to “The Boss.”
The writer claimed that he was the unknown miscreant who was responsible for the killings that were then taking place in the East End of London. He boasted, in mocking terms, that the police wouldn’t be able to catch him, and he went into gruesome details about what he had done to previous victims and what he would do to future victims.
The letter was signed Jack the Ripper.
On 29th September the news agency decided that they should pass this missive to the police and it was duly forwarded to Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police.
Within 25 hours of the Police receiving the Jack the Ripper letter, the killer struck again and murdered two women in the early hours of the 30th September 1888.
Desperate for a break through in their investigation, the police released the letter to the public and the name Jack the Ripper was soon circulating around the world and the man responsible for the murders in the East End of London suddenly acquired a name that ensured his legend would live on long after his murder spree came to an end.
Another reason for the continued fascination with these particular crimes is the fact that the killer was never caught. Hence it has provided an endless source of material for writers and documentary makers who, over the years, have added over 200 names to the ever growing list of ripper suspects.
Finally, there is the fact that, thanks to the press reportage of the case, for around a ten week period in the autumn of 1888, the eyes of the world became focussed on the tiny corner of the Victorian Metropolis where the killings were taking place.
Thanks to the thousands of newspaper articles that are still in existence, and which can now be read on the internet, we are able to look back at a specific area an on a particular period in that area’s history, and almost hear the voices of the people who found themselves confronted by the brutal savage who was destined to be elevated into the realms of legend, Jack the Ripper.Posted in General News Tagged East End Murders, Jack the Ripper, Jack the Ripper Letters, Jack the Ripper Suspects, Leather Apron, Whitechapel Murders Leave a comment