James Monro – The New Metropolitan Police Commissioner

In early December 1888 the sensationalist newspaper stories that had fired the Jack the Ripper scare over the previous few months had largely abated. With no new murders since that of Mary Kelly on 9 November 1888, the papers were focusing on other stories, albeit the mood in Whitechapel remained one of apprehension.

From time to time news of arrests made by the police appeared in the newspapers.


On Saturday, 1 December 1888, for example, several papers reported that a man had been arrested the previous night at the Crystal Tavern on Mile End Road, on suspicion of being the Whitechapel murderer.

Apparently the man had met a woman in the Tavern and asked her to go with him, but something about him alarmed the woman and she refused. The man also met a photographer who was soliciting orders in the pub and he asked him if he could take some photographs “using,”, so one newspaper reported, terms that “induced suspicion.”


He gave his address as Mr Stewart of 305 Mile End Road. No matter all who saw him thought him a suspicious character and he was duly handed into police custody. At the police station he gave his name as Ever. He appeared, so the aforementioned newspaper reported, to be a Polish Jew.


According to later reports he gave a “satisfactory account of himself” to police and was released in the early hours of the morning.


The newspapers were also welcoming a new Metropolitan Police Commissioner to the post in early December 1888. Mr James Monro was taking the helm, following the resignation of Sir Charles Warren in early November 1888.

Police Commissioner James Monro
James Monro


One of Warren’s big problems had been the fact that he didn’t see eye to eye with the Home Secretary, Henry Matthews and so the press were happy to welcome a man who had, over the years, enjoyed a good working relationship with Mathews.


Indeed, according to the Saturday Review:-

 “…by far the best feature of the nomination is that it puts a stop to a conflict of authority….When the Home Secretary and the Chief Commissioner of Police get along in harmony together the business of keeping order in London neither ought to be nor is a difficult one.”

As the Review was happy to point out to its readers, the relationship between Sir Charles Warren and Home Secretary Matthews had been anything but harmonious and the consensus was that London had suffered as a result.

But now, so the paper opined the future looked rosy and the appointment of Mr James Monro would, most certainly, “lead to an increase of efficiency” and “we shall not greatly mind that.”


Sadly, the harmony between the two men proved short lived and, on Saturday June 14th 1890, the newspapers were lamenting the resignation of James Monro over a conflict between him and Home Secretary Henry Matthews.

As the Daily News remarked “He [Matthews] has been particularly unfortunate in his Chief Commissioners. They come and go before his face with a rapidity which shows that he is not skilled in the management of men.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph, pointed out that “…Mr Matthews failed to agree with Sir Charles Warren, and saw that highly capable officer resign his post; and since Mr. Monro succeeded similar divergences of opinion on matters of police discipline and public rights have been developed between Scotland-yard and the Home Office.”

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to lose one Police Commissioner may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness!