Christmas 1888

Over the Christmas period, 1888, the people of the East End were coming to terms with the fact that another murder had recently taken place in their midst, with the finding of the body of Rose Mylett in the early hours of the 20th of December 1888, in Poplar East London.

There was much debate as to whether her murder was the work of the fiend who, by this time, was universally known as “Jack the Ripper,” with the general consensus being that it wasn’t.

Indeed, several newspapers were stating emphatically that the murder was not by the same hand, whilst, at the same time, commenting on the fact that this most recent murder had not, so it seemed, resulted in the same degree of terror and panic that had followed the murders that had taken place between August and November, 1888.

An illustration showing the murder of Rose Mylett.
The Murder of Rose Mylett. From The Illustrated Police News.


However, and perhaps inevitably, the Whitechapel murders were still fresh in peoples minds and, over the Christmas period of 1888, several newspapers carried mentions of the way that the people of the East End were celebrating the Yuletide that followed their autumn of terror.

They were also mentioning the fact that many people were of the belief that the Whitechapel murderer would mark Christmas by striking again in the East End of London.


The Aberdeen Journal, in its edition of Tuesday, December 25th, 1888 reported on the weather in London, and on the mood in Whitechapel, with regards the murders that had occurred in the district over the course of the previous few months:-

“Christmas Eve, so far as London is concerned, presented the worst features of an inclement winter’s night.

The holidays began on Saturday, scarcely a single shop of a representative class being open.

The morning of Christmas Eve began in dull, warm weather, and as twilight came down upon the dreary and depressed multitudes heavy rain added its influence to the prevalent gloom.

“A green Yule maketh a fat kirkyard.” So runs the legend, and certainly there is not much health in the elements amid which we live this Christmas.

In Whitechapel an eerie feeling took hold of the inhabitants, owing to an impression or suspicion or fear that Christmas Day might dawn upon a new horror.

The police have naturally relaxed their vigilance, and, in an official sense, the crimes of the autumn have been well-nigh forgotten.

The poor inhabitants of this benighted region, however, hold “Jack the Ripper” in a species of superstitious dread, believing that he chooses high holidays and fast-days for his murderous forays.”


Meanwhile, The Nottingham Evening Post, on Wednesday, December 26th, 1888, published the following letter from Laura E. Ridding who used the Whitechapel murders to solicit funds for a refuge for poor women in Nottingham:

“Sir, –  The Evil one has thrown down a challenge to Christendom in the blood-stained streets of White-chapel.

Shall it lie there undisturbed? Dare no one take it up? Those whose hearts God has moved to care for His lost ones believe that He is giving an answer through their humble work. They believe that in seeking and saving the fallen and friendless girls of our great cities, they are fighting the evil side by side with those who are trying all around to raise the standard of purity.

This quiet rescue work has now been carried on for three years in Nottingham.

In these three years over 300 different cases have slept in the Rescue Home, and have been helped in various ways.

Besides many who are safely restored to their own friends and helpers in other towns, more than 30 are gaining their livelihood in respectable situations, about 90 are now in homes where they are staying voluntarily, and are learning honest means of self-support.

Daily,  fresh cases come appealing for help; and all that hinders the further development of the work is want of funds.

Will those whose feelings of pity and horror have been stirred by the terrible deaths that have lately overtaken so many of these poor women in London help their sisters in Nottingham who need rescue and assistance no less, by contributing towards their maintenance at the Rescue Home, Southwell House, 19B, North-street, Nottingham?

The message of Christmas is Salvation and peace.

For the sake of the Saviour who brought it, you are earnestly begged to help in this work of restoring the fallen to repentance, peace, and safety by your prayers and your alms.

I am, sir, &c.,

Laura E. Ridding

Thurgarton Priory, Southwell,

December 22nd, 1888.”


In its edition of Thursday the 27th of December, 1888, The Western Morning News pondered on how it perceived that Jack the Ripper had spent his Christmas:-

“Jack the Ripper did not spend his Christmas in following the pleasures of using the knife.

There was, however, a dire dread that he would gratify his thirst for blood by dispatching another person in Whitechapel; but it was with a sense of relief that one found that he had spent his Christmas in a civilised manner.

His barbarism has been traced by some in the Poplar case, but I do not attach any importance to the theories advanced.

The Poplar tragedy in no respect resembles those of Whitechapel.”


Over on the streets of the East End of London, it appears that the Christmas spirit was somewhat lacking, if a case reported by the Falkirk Herald and Linlithgow Journal in its edition of Saturday, December 29th, 1888, was anything to go by:-

“A serious stabbing affray took place early on Wednesday morning in Dorset Street, Whitechapel, and a labourer named Henry Buckley, of 28 Dorset Street, is now in the custody of the Commercial Street police on a charge of feloniously wounding.

The circumstances of the case are somewhat singular.

It would appear that a man named Patrick Manning accompanied a woman in a cab from Euston Road to 37 Dorset Street, and Buckley, who was an acquaintance of the woman, interfered, ultimately, it is alleged, drawing a knife and stabbing Manning in the left thigh.

The injured man bled profusely and was taken to the London Hospital.

The wound was found to be of a serious nature but is not likely to cause the man’s detention for any length of time.

Buckley will be brought up at Worship Street.”

A sketch showing Dorset Street.
Dorset Street, Spitalfields. From Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, 2nd June 1901. Copyright The British Library Board.


On Saturday, 29th December 1888, The Warwickshire Advertiser and Leamington Gazette opted to adopt a censorious tone with regards the people of Whitechapel in a brief article that took a critical look at how they had celebrated the Christmas just gone:-

“The district from which the Whitechapel fiend has drawn his victims was on Wednesday the scene of terrible debauchery, which, unfortunately, characterises that portion of London during this season of the year.

The gin palaces were thronged with women reeling under the influence of drink, and the police officers who have been stationed for many years at the East End of the Metropolis declare that the terrible series of crimes which have been perpetrated during the present year has had no effect in deterring or softening the women of the unfortunate class who infest certain thoroughfares in Whitechapel.

On the contrary, they appear to pursue their calling with as great callousness and brutality than ever.”