A Weekend Visit To Hanbury Street

The body of Annie Chapman was found in the backyard of number 29 Hanbury Street at 6 a.m. on September the 8th 1888, by John Davis, an elderly resident of the building.

Throughout that weekend, the police presence in the area was increased, and journalists headed for Hanbury Street to see what information they could find about the crime and its perpetrator.


The Dundee Courier, on Monday the 10th of September, provided its readers with a glimpse of what was happening in Hanbury Street over the course of that weekend, as news began to spread of another gruesome murder and excited and agitated crowds began arriving in the vicinity.

The article also gave an insight into the measures being adopted by the police to try and bring the murderer to justice.

The article read:-

All London was awakened on Saturday to the painful and awful fact that another murder, far more diabolical and fiendish, had been perpetrated on another woman of the same class as the poor wretch found in Buck’s Row on Friday last.


The victim, in this case, was discovered on Saturday morning lying in a backyard at the foot of a passage leading into the lodging house, 29 Hanbury Street, formerly Old Brown’s Lane, Spitalfields.

The house is occupied by a Mrs. Emilia Richardson, who lets it out to various lodgers, and it seems that the door which admits into the passage, at the foot of which lies the yard where the body was found, is always open for the convenience of the lodgers.

Davis, the lodger who found the body, immediately communicated with the police at Commercial Street Station, and Inspector Chandler and several constables arrived on the scene in a short time, when they found the woman.

Even at this early hour the news spread quickly, and great excitement prevailed among the occupants of the adjoining houses, and an excited crowd gathered in front of Mrs. Richardson’s house, and also around the mortuary in Old Montagu Street, where the body was quickly removed.

An external view of number 29 Hanbury Street.
29 Hanbury Street.


Telegraphing last night, the Central News says:-

Although the police have made the most diligent inquiry after the murderer of the woman Chapman, who was killed in Spitalfields early on Saturday morning under the most brutal of circumstances, they had last night failed to secure the slightest clue to his whereabouts.

As matter of fact, they are in the dark about the personal appearance of the man for whom they are looking. It is true that they possess the description of the man who is known as “Leather Apron,” and will arrest him if he can be found, but their theory is that “Leather Apron” is a more or less mystical personage, and that he is not responsible for the terrible crimes with which his name has been associated.

All the same, the details of his appearance have been widely circulated, with a view to his early apprehension, and all the police in the vicinity are on the lookout for him.


On Saturday night a large force of police constables and detectives closely watched the neighbourhood.

Men were posted at all the entrances and exits of the numerous alleys and passages in the neighbourhood, who every few minutes made a thorough examination of the places under their surveillance, and from time to time these were visited by the inspectors on duty with a view of ascertaining whether any suspicious characters had been observed.

From ten o’clock at night until late in the morning a large crowd occupied Hanbury Street in the vicinity of the notorious house, No. 29.


When the public houses emptied the occupants swarmed into the street, and caused a good deal of trouble to the police by their behaviour.

The people living in the adjoining houses obtained no rest until between four or five o’clock, when the crowd gradually melted away, only, however, to reassemble again in greater force as soon as daylight appeared.


In the course of Saturday night and Sunday morning, the police arrested two men on suspicion of being concerned in the crime.

One man, whose appearance left little doubt in the minds of his captors that he was the Hanbury Street murderer, was found by an officer in Buck’s Row shortly after one o’clock on Sunday morning.

A murder was, it will be remembered, committed in this neighbourhood but a short time since, and the police have since then been constantly pursuing their investigations in that quarter.

The man upon whom suspicion rested presented a most forbidding appearance. He appeared to be hiding in the street, and when accosted by the officer rushed off at the top of his speed.


An alarm was raised, and, after a sharp race, the man was arrested.

He was a villainous-looking fellow, with long hair and a shaggy beard, dressed only in a pair of ragged blue serge trousers and an old dirty shirt.

He resisted his captors, but was eventually secured and conveyed to Bethnal Green Police Station.

It was said at the time that he was carrying a long knife concealed in the sleeve of his shirt, but, on examination, no weapon was found upon him.


He gave an account of himself which was in the first instance considered unsatisfactory, but inquiries were immediately set on foot, and in the result, the man, who appears to be a common vagrant, was released from custody.

The second arrest was effected in Gloucester Street, where a man aged about forty, having the look of a seafarer, was arrested.

It was pretty obvious, however, from the replies which he gave, and his general appearance, that he was not the man sought.

After he had spent time in Commercial Street Police Station he was also set at liberty.


The police give information very unwillingly. Indeed, they are unwilling to accept assistance or suggestions from any private source, and work upon a plan of their own, which consists of frequent visits to the common lodging houses of the neighbourhood, and a strict watch at night in all the streets in the vicinity.

All day yesterday five policemen guarded the scene of the crime in Hanbury Street. No one was admitted unless he resided in the house.

In the street, half a dozen costermongers took up their stand, and did a brisk business in fruit and refreshments.

Thousands of respectably dressed persons visited the scene, and occasionally the road became so crowded that the constables had to clear it by making a series of raids upon the spectators.

The windows of the adjoining houses were full of persons watching the crowd below.

A number of people also visited the house in Dorset Street where the murdered woman lodged.

The usually lively condition of Whitechapel and Spitalfields on Sunday was considerably augmented yesterday by reason of the excitement aroused by the murder.


In the course of the day, nearly a dozen persons were arrested and conveyed to the Commercial Street Police Station.

In the afternoon a vast crowd had collected about the streets, and as each apprehension was made they rushed pell-mell towards the Station, obviously under the idea that the murderer of the woman had been caught.

In the neighbourhood of the Mortuary, which is situated in Eagle Place, at the Whitechapel end of Hanbury Street, all was quiet during the day. The green doors opened now and a gain to admit some inspectors of police and several medical gentlemen, but all others were rigidly excluded.


The Press Association says:-

Last night Hanbury Street, Whitechapel, was in all but an impassable state owing to the crowds which had assembled in the neighbourhood of the scene of the latest East End tragedy.

Some thousands of people passed through the locality during the early part of the day, and the police authorities at Commercial Street Police Station had a number of constables drafted from other parts of the Metropolis, and these as evening advanced were busily occupied in keeping people moving.

The public excitement as the day advanced appeared rather to grow than diminish, and strong evidence of the fact was apparent last night.

Not only did large crowds of poorer classes loiter in the vicinity of the spot where the murder was committed, but a number of the more well-to-do were to be seen either gazing with awe-stricken faces at Mrs. Richardson’s house, in the rear of which the mutilated body of the victim was found, or endeavouring to glean something additional as to the circumstances of the tragedy.

Up to half past nine o’clock last night, the police at Commercial Street were unable to say that their investigations had been attended with success.


The police authorities at Scotland Yard and Whitechapel are fully conscious of the difficult nature of the task they have before them in identifying any particular individual with a series of appalling crimes.

“God knows,” said an official to our reporter, “but we may have another tonight, though we have men patrolling the whole region of Whitechapel and Spitalfields.”

That the police are putting forth every possible effort there can be no doubt. Last night there was a large force on duty. One-third of the men are in plain clothes, and even those entitled to leave of absence are retained.

That the public are anxious to second their efforts is testified by the presence on record at Commercial Street of no less than fifty personal statements made with the object of assisting in the work of identification.

The police are not permitted to make public the written evidence, if evidence it can be called. It is doubtful if it will ultimately prove of much value, but


It is currently reported in Hanbury Street that on Saturday morning the following paragraph, written in chalk, was seen upon the wall of one of the back gardens there, and four persons distinctly stated they had actually seen the writing.

The words are:- “I have now done three, and intend to do nine more and give myself up, and at the same time give my reasons for doing the murders.”

Whether there is any truth in the matter remains to be seen.

The Press Association says:- On the wall of the yard where the body was discovered the words were found to be written:- “Five; 15 more and then I give myself up.”