On our jack the Ripper Walks we don’t actually go to Durward Street, which in 1888 was known as Buck’s Row, and was the place where the body of Mary Nichols, the first of Jack the Ripper’s victims, was found in the early hours of 31st August 1888. We don’t go there because it is quite a distance to go there and then come back and so, instead, we take you to the street, Thrawl Street, where Mary Nichols was living at the time of her murder and we also show you the Frying Pan Pub, where she drank away her doss money a few hours before she met Jack the Ripper.
However, in keeping with our ethos of making as much information available as possible, we though we’d give you the opportunity to discover Durward Street for yourself if you so desire. You can watch our film of the Buck’s Row Murder and then, if you wish, visit the site for yourself.
So here is a brief DIY Jack the Ripper Tour that will enable you to visit the site of Jack the Ripper’s first murder under your own steam.
YOUR DIY WALK BEGINS OUTSIDE
WHITECHAPEL UNDERGROUND STATION.
Turn left out of Whitechapel Underground Station onto Whitechapel Road. The tall lofty building that you pass immediately on the left is the former Whitechapel Working Lads Institute. It was here that the inquests into the deaths of several of Jack the Ripper’s victims were held.
Continue along Whitechapel Road and go first left along Brady Street.
You are walking from the direction that a carter named Charles Cross was walking from on his way to work at around 3.40am on August 31st 1888.
The left side of the street was lined by two-storey cottages, and Bucks Row itself, had minimal street lighting.
As Cross approached the board school that still looms over the west end of this section of Bucks Row he noticed a bundle lying in a gateway on its left side, the site occupied by the parking area after the modern line of housing that now stands on the left side. His first thought was that it was a tarpaulin that might make a useful cover for his cart or wagon, so he went over to inspect it closer. But, as he got nearer, he discovered that the bundle was in fact the prone form of a woman lying on the ground with her skirts pulled up above her waist. Unsure whether she was drunk, injured or dead, Cross stood rooted to the spot pondering what to do do next. It was then that he heard footsteps sounding from the direction he he had come from, and turning round he saw another carter, Robert Paul, heading towards him.
Paul was at first startled by the sight of Charles Cross stepping from the shadows towards him, and, thinking that Cross was about to attack him, he tried to swerve round him.
Cross, however, blocked his path. “Come and look over here,” he told him, “there is a woman lying on the pavement.” They both crossed over to the body, and Cross took hold of the woman’s hands, which he found to be cold and limp. “I believe she is dead,” he whispered to Paul. He then placed a hand against her face, which was warm. Robert Paul meanwhile had put his hand on her heart, and as he did so he fancied he felt her chest move slightly. “I think she is breathing,” he told Cross “but very little if she is.”
Cross suggested that they should sit her up, but Paul declined to touch her any further. At this point they decided that they were already late for work and, perhaps a little callously, agreed not to waste any more time at the scene. They opted, therefore, to tell the first policeman they met of their find, re-arranged her skirt over her knees to cover her decency, and then headed off along Bucks Row passing the Board School as they went.
It was so dark in Bucks Row that, despite the fact they had got close enough to the woman to feel her face and chest, both men had failed to notice that her throat had been slashed so violently that her head had almost been cut from her body.
For the people of the East End their Autumn of terror was underway.