Not so long ago, on our Facebook page, I posted a photograph of a lady and asked if people could name her, and say how she was connected to the Jack the Ripper case.
If you didn’t happen to see the post, here is the photograph.
A VARIETY OF ANSWERS
We got quite a few answers as to her identity.
Some thought that she was one of the victims of the Whitechapel murderer, with the favoured names being those of Annie Chapman and Martha Tabram
Others went for Florence Maybrick, the wife of major Jack the Ripper suspect James Maybrick.
Sarah Ann Bishop, the wife of Robert James Lees, was another name that was put forward as a possible identification of the mystery lady in the photograph.
NOT A VICTIM
To even the playing field a little, I then gave a few clues as to who she was.
I stated that she was not a victim, but that she was the wife of somebody linked to the case.
Some wondered if it might be the wife of Mr George Lusk, others that she may have been the significant other of Inspector Frederick George Abberline.
There was also a flurry of speculation that she may have been the wife of one of the suspects, with the name of George Chapman being put forward as a likely contender.
However, she wasn’t related to one of the suspects, but she was, in fact, the wife of somebody who investigated the case – and that somebody was not a detective.
SO, WHO WAS SHE?
Well, she was, in fact, Mrs. Kate Bliss Baxter, the wife of the Coroner, Wynne Edwin Baxter, and the man who presided over the inquests into the deaths of several Whitechapel murders victims.
The photograph appeared in The Sussex Agricultural Express on Friday 17th September 1915, following her death ten days earlier.
The newspaper had already published a full obituary of her on Friday 10th September, 1915:-
DEATH OF MRS. WYNNE E. BAXTER
“We regret to announce that Mrs. Kate Bliss Baxter, wife of Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, passed away Tuesday morning at 170, Church-street, Stoke Newington, N.
The deceased lady, who was 67 years of age, had been ailing for a few months, and though hopes for a complete recovery were not entertained, death at the time stated was not expected.
The news was received in Lewes as with the sense of a personal sorrow, for during many years the welfare of a number of parochial and charitable movements was indissolubly associated with the active and generous interestedness of Mr. and Mrs. Baxter, and their magnificent record in that direction, at both Lewes and Stoke Newington, is being zealously continued by the two daughters – Miss Baxter and Miss Kate Bliss Baxter.
A PRACTICAL WAY OF DOING GOOD
Although Mrs. Baxter was not of South Country parentage – she was the daughter of Mr. Francis Haslock Parker, who was twice Mayor of Northampton, where she was born – she showed a gift for assimilating customs and characteristics that must have been new to her when she came to reside at Lewes after her marriage with Mr. Baxter on June 11th, 1868, at the Parish Church, Stoke Newington, and, having a very deep sense of sympathy and a practical way of doing good, she was able to be of real service to those deserving people and objects that came within the scope of her benefactions.
She performed all those offices so unostentatiously and with such genuine heartiness that she was one of the most welcome ladies in the county town, and she had the rare quality of doing everything in a very acceptable manner.
She greatlv interested herself in Sunday School district visiting, and charitable work in the parish of All Saints, Lewes, during the long period her husband was a churchwarden of All Saints.
GENEROUS AND CONVIVIAL HOSTS
When the Chichester Diocesan Conferences met at Lewes, delegates were entertained to luncheon at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Baxter, who are also remembered for their hospitality to others on different occasions, for instance, during Mr. Baxter’s mayoralty the members, officers, and workpeople of the Corporation, also the officers of the Militia, were entertained by them.
About the year 1884, they removed to London, Mr. Baxter having been appointed Coroner for East London, and, while residents of Lewes felt pleased at his selection for so important office, they could not help feeling regret that the duties necessitated the removal of Mr. and Mrs. Baxter to London.
Their intimates, however, realised that their departing the locality would not cause an interruption to their excellent work, and this view has been fully justified by their subsequent record of parochial and beneficent activity in London.
For many years alter removing, the deceased lady held mothers meetings at Bethnal Green, and acted as Hon. Treasurer of Stoke Newington Mothers’ Union.
Mr. Baxter has been a churchwarden at the Old Parish Church at that place for more than a quarter of a century, and Mrs. Baxter took an active interest in several charitable works in that borough.
PRESENTED AT COURT
From 1881 to 1882 she had the distinction of being the first Mayoress of Lewes, Mr. Baxter having consented to be Mayor at the incorporation of the borough.
But a very great honour indeed had yet to be bestowed on Mrs. Baxter.
It was in 1883 – when she was presented at Court by the wife of the Home Secretary (Lord Cross), on the occasion ot her husband filling the office of Sheriff of London and Middlesex for the first time.
THEIR SILVER WEDDING CELEBRATIONS
In June. 1893, Mr. and Mrs. Baxter carried out festivities for the celebration of their silver wedding.
They entertained the wives and children of the employees of the firm of W. E. Baxter, Ltd., then proprietors of the “Sussex Express,” to a tea and concert at the Corn Exchange, and afterwards, they gave a concert and a dance to nearly 400 of the employees and their wives and friends.
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter were presented with a silver coffee pot and an illuminated address, the latter containing the names of more than 80 directors, officials, and employees of Baxter, Ltd.
In returning thanks, Mr. Baxter recollected that when Mrs. Baxter and he were married they were presented with a silver tea pot bv the employees, etc.
In addition to Mr. Baxter, there are three sons and two daughters left to mourn their loss.
THE CHILDREN FOLLOWED THEIR PARENTS EXAMPLE
Mr. Wynne Baxter, the eldest son; Mr. Reginald Truscott Baxter, M.A., the second son, residing at “Undercliffe” and was recently appointed Town Clerk of Lewes; and the youngest son Mr. Francis W. Baxter, a solicitor in his father’s firm in London.
Miss Baxter, the eldest daughter, stays at “Undercliffe,” and is well known in Lewes for her deep interest in charitable and parochial matters; and the other daughter, Miss Kate Baxter, is also similarly enthusiastic at Stoke Newington.
In fact, that they seem to have an inherent aptitude and capacity for this form of religious and social usefulness, is not at all surprising having regard to their parents’ predilections.
The funeral of the deceased took place at Lewes Cemetery this (Friday) afternoon, following a service at Stoke Newington Parish Church this morning.”
WYNNE BAXTER CARRIED ON
Her husband, although obviously grief-stricken, continued with his duties as Coroner and won the admiration of The East London Observer in the following brief announcement which it published on Saturday, 11th September, 1915:-
“Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the Coroner for East London, has suffered severe bereavement in the death of his wife.
However, in spite of the affliction, he fulfilled his duties at the Stepney Coroner’s Court on Wednesday.”
THE FUNERAL OF THE LATE MRS. WYNNE. E. BAXTER
The Sussex Agricultural Express carried a report on the previous week’s funeral in its edition of Friday 17th September 1915:-
“The funeral the late Mrs. Kate Bliss Baxter, wife of Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, of Stoke Newington, first Mayoress of Lewes, whose death we recorded in our last issue, took place at the Lewes Cemetery on Friday, the body being brought from Stoke Newington to Lewes on a motor hearse.
At Stoke Newington, a service was held in St. Mary’s Parish Church, at which Mr. Wynne Baxter is a Churchwarden.
The service, which was choral, was conducted by the Rector and Rural Dean, the Rev. W. Bryant Salmon, M.A.
The chief mourners were:- Mr. Wynne Baxter (husband), Mr. F. W. Baxter, Mr. R. T. Baxter (Town Clerk of Lewes), sons; Miss E. M. Baxter, and Miss K. B. Baxter, daughters;
The coffin was of polished oak, brass-mounted, enclosing a leaden shell, and having the inscription, “Kate Bliss Baxter, died September 7th, 1915, aged 67 years.”