A Rooftop Chase In Spitalfields.

Being a police officer in 19th century London must have been a challenging, not to say, on occasions, terrifying task – and, being a police officer in Victorian Spitalfields must have been the ultimate challenge that would have tested the mettle of even the most dedicated and fearless upholder of law and order.

From the moment an officer went on duty, he would never be sure what the day, or the night, was likely to bring.

Spitalfields was home to some of the most desperate criminals in the Victorian metropolis, and many of those people had little respect for, nor fear of, the Metropolitan Police Officers, whose job it was to police the district.

Murders – even discounting the Jack the Ripper crimes – were not infrequent; thieving, pickpocketing, house-breaking and common assaults were rife.

Then there was the fact that the area was a favoured location in which wanted criminals from other parts of Europe – and the world at large – would hide out, safe in the knowledge that they were unlikely to be tracked down in one of the most densely populated enclaves of the Victorian metropolis.


One such criminal refugee was Chane Rosenburg, who, having stolen 800 guilders from Johaun Gutmenn, her employer in Limberg, decamped to London, married, and then took up residence at a house in Fournier Street, in Spitalfields, where she settled into a new life, doubtless confident that there would be little chance of her old life and misdemeanour catching up with her.

Until, that is, the night of Tuesday, 22nd of August, 1899, when Detective-Inspector Bartels and Detective-Sergeant Wegner knocked on her door.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph told the full exciting story of what happened next in its edition of Thursday, 24th August, 1899:-


At Bow Street Police Court, London, yesterday, Chane Rosenburg, alias Goldstein and Goldbaum, a young woman, was brought before Mr. Franklin Lushington, on an extradition warrant, charging her with larceny within the jurisdiction of the Austro-Hungarian Government.

On Tuesday night Detective-Inspector Bartels and Detective-Sergeant Wegner, Scotland Yard, went to No. 21, Fournier Street, Spitalfields, where the prisoner was living with her husband.


While they were making inquiries on the first floor they heard someone making a hasty exit from the house.

They rushed downstairs, and were just in time to see the prisoner enter No. 19 in the same street.


As she had fastened the front doors behind her, the officers hastened back to No. 21. and Sergeant Wegner got on the roof with the intention of getting into No. 19.

While he was crawling over the roof, some people at a window on the opposite side of the road shouted to inform him that the woman had gone through the skylight of a house several doors away.

Wegner followed, and, in the house indicated, he found the prisoner concealed in the kitchen.

An illustration showing the police officers pursuing the woman over the roof.
“A London Sensation: Police Chase Of A Woman Over The Rooftops At Spitalfields.” From The Penny Illustrated Paper, Saturday, 9th September 1899. Copyright, The British Library Board.


She was very violent, but the sergeant took her to her room at No. 21, where Inspector Bartels found some of the jewellery she is accused of stealing.

She promised to tell everything and give up everything if the charge against her was withdrawn.


The prisoner, it appeared, had been married since she came to England.

The prosecutor was present in Court.

His name is Johaun Gutmenn, and he is the owner of a sawmill in Brodiger-Strasse, Limburg.

The prisoner was in his employ as a domestic servant for about a month in the autumn of last year.

While the family were away, one night she disappeared with 800 guilders and a quantity of jewellery belonging to her master and mistress.

The prisoner was remanded.”