At 7am on Monday the 23rd of August, 2021, the new station concourse for Whitechapel Station opened to the public, and commuters could once again enter the station via the original 1876 façade on Whitechapel Road.
THE NEW WHITCHAPEL STATION
The new concourse is quite simply stunning, and it is far more spacious than the cramped and dingy ticket hall via which commuters used to have to enter the station.
The new ticket office sits on a concourse which has been built on a bridge that floats above the underground and Overground tracks that pass through the station, and just to give bored commuters something to mull over as they make their way into or out of central London, at Whitechapel Station the Overground actually passes under the underground, or, to put it another way, the underground passes over the Overground… I think I got that but right!
A SPLENDID CREATION
Irrespective of what goes over or under what, the new Whitechapel Station is a splendid creation.
It is spacious, light and airy. It has lifts, it has seating and it is. To put it mildly gleamingly futuristic.
No doubt the day will soon come when film companies begin to recognise its potential, and it starts popping up in big budget post apocalyptic movies in which humankind is forced to battle against some ghastly pandemic and has been forced to move underground into … well you get the gist.
SLIGHTLY OVER BUDGET
Speaking of big budgets, I would like to mention that the new station came in bang on its predicted budget of £110 million.
Yes, indeed, I would like to mention that, but, unfortunately, I can’t as it went slightly over budget and ended up costing around £659 million.
But hey, ho, it’s a beautiful station, and did I mention it’s absolutely stunning!
THE JACK THE RIPPER CONNECTION
What’s all this got to do with Jack the Ripper? I hear you ask.
Well, I’m glad you asked me that, because, you see, a new public footway that passes directly through the station has also been created.
It connects Whitechapel Road with a new entrance or exit on Durward Street, or, if you are coming from the opposite direction, it connects Durward Street with Whitechapel Road.
And, you can use this walkway without actually having to pass through the ticket barriers at the station, meaning we now have a shortcut from Whitechapel Road onto Durward Street.
FORMERLY BUCK’S ROW
Durward Street, of course, was formerly Buck’s Row, which was the scene of the murder of Mary Ann Nichols in the early hours of the morning of August 31st, 1888.
In fact, the new, Durward Street exit from the station comes out more or less alongside the very spot where her body was found by Charles Cross as he made his way to work at around 3.40am on that long ago morning.
THE BOARD SCHOOL STILL STANDS
Durward Street has changed beyond recognition since the days of Jack the Ripper. However, one fixture has survived the march of time and progress, the former Board School, which still looks down on the scene of the murder, just as it did in 1888.
Everything else in the vicinity is long gone.
THE SITE OF ESSEX WHARF
On the opposite side of the street from the station exit, there now stand a group of modern buildings, which are, I believe, part of the Elizabeth Line which is due to open in the first half of 2022.
In 1989, Essex wharf was still standing on this site.
It was directly opposite the spot where the murder took place, and was where wharf manager Walter Purkiss and his wife lived. Their bedroom actually looked across at the scene of the crime, yet neither of them had heard a thing, and they remained oblivious of what had occurred until Constable Neil knocked on their door to notify them of the murder.
ALL HAS CHANGED
And so this little corner of Whitechapel has changed again, and to be honest, this change in some ways is for the better.
However, I wonder how many people entering or exiting the station will know that they are passing by the very spot where the body of Mary Nichols, the first victim of Jack the Ripper, was discovered in the early hours of August 31st, 1888.