Christmas Day 1888

The big news in the East End of London over the Christmas period, 1888, was that another murder of a woman had been committed in Clarke’s Yard, off Poplar High Street, on December, 19th, 1888. All though we now now that the victim was Rose Mylett, the police were still trying to identify her by Christmas Day, 1888, and, in consequence, various names were being given for her in the press accounts of the crime.

The Illustrated Police News, on 29th September, treated its readers to a festive front cover, albeit, given the nature of the the readership, a few mentions of murders were allowed to creep into the celebrations!

The front cover of the Illustrated Police News from Christmas, 1888.
The Front cover Of The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, December, 29th, 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board and Richard Jones.


Aside from that, not a great deal appeared to be happening in London, and on Thursday, 27th December, 1888, the London correspondent of The Western Times, looked back on what he though must have been the dullest Christmas Day in living memory:-


London, Tuesday Night.

“Never in the memory of the traditional oldest inhabitant, I should think, has London known a duller and drearier Christmas Day than this.

After a gloomy morning, rain began to fall in the afternoon, and tonight it is descending in torrents while the streets are empty and desolate.


It was quite a relief this evening to see a detachment of the Guards marching from the West End to take up their nightly duty as Custodians of the Bank of England, a survival of the Chartists day, when an attack on the Bank was always feared and when the Socialists of the time thought that to capture the stronghold of capital would make everything straight.

It never seems to have occurred to anybody that the guard is no longer necessary and so the soldiers go on performing a totally uncalled for duty.


This is on a par with the sentry who sometime ago was to be seen marching in front of a house in the neighbourhood of Whitehall. At first nobody knew the reason, but after some time it was discovered that many years before, something like fourteen, a military commission sat in this building.

To give the deliberations an appearance of importance, a military guard was put on. The Commission finished its labours, but nobody thought of countermanding the sentry, so year after year a soldier paced before the house.


Not only is the weather dull, but there is an absolute dearth of news. It was long ago that peace and goodwill towards men were on the surface, at all events so generally in the policy of the Continental Powers at Christmastide.

Except our own little war in the Soudan and the trouble at Zanzibar, the world is at peace.


There is not even a clanking of armour, and the limited liability companies in which some of our most eminent officers are interested for the production of deadly weapons, must be anticipating a reduced output and absence of dividend.

On the other hand the condition of trade is generally satisfactory, and the railway traffic receipts I notice continue to show a steady return, although it be a small increase on last year.”


On Tuesday, 25th December, 1888, readers of The Dundee Courier were updated on the latest known facts about the Poplar Murder, not least amongst them being the fact that the police were still inclined to the belief that it hadn’t been a murder at all:-

Detective Inspector Wilding, chief detective officer at Bow Police Station, has charge of the case of supposed murder at Poplar, and the most vigilant inquiries are being prosecuted with the object of unravelling the mystery, the number of police on the district having been augmented.

Notwithstanding the medical evidence at the inquest, the police authorities of Poplar and Bow districts affect to disbelieve that a murder has been committed, their explanation being that the woman died as the result of excessive indulgence in drink, whilst as to the mark on her neck, said to have been caused by strangulation, it is contended that it might easily have been made by a light frilling dress collar.


The deceased woman was very much given to drink, and thus came be known “Drunken Liz,” but the police say that she was otherwise quiet and well behaved.

The yard in which the body was found is enclosed by means of two high doors, which it appears have latterly been shut at night owing to having been made a place of resort, but from inspection of the yard and its surroundings it is clear that any person might gain access to it from the rear, and thus avoid a busy thoroughfare like High Street.


A later telegram says:- From inquiries made by the police, under the direction of Detective Inspector Wilding, who has the case in charge, it is now practically certain that the murdered woman was known as Lizzie Davis, and also went under the name of Rose Millett.

Some time ago, she was an inmate of the Sick Asylum at Bromley, and her little girl, now six years old, was then sent to school at Sutton, where she still remains. The deceased woman spoke frequently of the child, whom she called Florrie or Flossie.

It is stated also that Davis has a mother living somewhere in the neighbourhood of Bamer’s Row, Whitechapel, but the police have not yet verified this.

With regard to the eardrop, which it was supposed the murderer had taken away, it transpired that the woman on leaving her lodgings was wearing only one ornament, and this was found on the body.


Dr Brownfield, Divisional Police Surgeon of Poplar, has made a startling suggestion in reply to inquiries made to him by a reporter regarding the murder of the woman found dead in Clarke’s Yard, Poplar.

Asked whether he thought the crime was the work of the Whitechapel murderer, Dr Brownfield said:-

“The question is whether there is not another and still more striking point of resemblance. If this murder was the work of the same man, the question is whether strangulation is not the beginning of all his operations. Does he strangle or partially strangle them first, and then cut their throats afterwards? If his object is mutilation, he could cut their throats so much more cleanly and deliberately, and this would explain, too, how the murderer would be able to do this work without getting covered with blood. The question is whether he did not intend to cut the throat, as in the other cases, but was disturbed, and had to leave his work half finished.”

It is remarked that, in the case of Annie Chapman, Dr Phillips found that the woman had been suffocated, or partially so, before her throat was cut.

This suggestion has caused much sensation in the district.”