Today, in 1888, the funeral of Jack the Ripper’s final victim, Mary Kelly, took place. She had been murdered in her room in Miller’s Court, of Dorset Street, on the 9th November 1888, and the 10 days that had elapsed since her death had seen a wave of panic surge through the streets of the East End.
Even Queen Victoria had become exasperated by the police inability to catch Jack the Ripper and she had written to the prime minister, Lord Salisbury, to tell him in no uncertain terms that:-
“This new most ghastly murder shows the absolute necessity for some very decided action. All these courts must be lit, & our detectives improved. They are not what they should be.”
But, the whole of the East End seemed united in grief when, at midday on 19th November 1888, several thousand people gathered outside St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch, as the church’s bell began tolling a mourning knell.
A little after 12.30pm a coffin of elm and oak was carried from the church on the shoulders of four men. As the crowd watched, many of them grief-stricken, the coffin was placed on a horse-drawn hearse. At this point the crowd surged forward and those at the front were able to read the simple inscription on the casket’s brass plate:-
MARY JEANETTE KELLY, DIED NOVEMBER 9, 1888, AGED 25 YEARS.
Three large wreaths, marks of respect from those who drank in the same pubs as Mary, adorned the coffin. A card on one of them bore the message “A last tribute of respect to Mary Kelly. May she rest in peace, and may her murderer be brought to justice.”
As the police forced a path through the milling throng, the cortege set off for St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Leytonstone. Anguished faces looked on as the melancholic procession trundled through the streets of the East End. According to newspaper reports “the sight was quite remarkable, and the emotion natural and unconstrained.”
So many people turned out to escort Mary Kelly on her final journey that, despite being a distance of only six miles, it took till two o’clock for the cortege to finally reach the cemetery.
Here it was met by The Reverend Father Columban and the coffin was lifted from the hearse and lowered into a grave in the north-eastern corner of the cemetery. Within moments the grave had been filled in and Mary Kelly, the last of Jack the Ripper’s victims, had been laid to rest.
Today, the exact location of Mary’s burial place is unknown. A memorial stone can be found in the approximate vicinity of the cemetery where she was laid to rest.
People from all over the world still continue to visit the grave and leave tributes, such as flowers, teddy bears, dolls and even bottles of gin.
If you wish to do likewise you will need to take the tube to Leyton Station and the cemetery is a few minutes walk away.
Here, like many who have made a pilgrimage here, you can spend a few moments in peaceful contemplation, you might even shed a silent tear as you read the simple, though poignant, inscription on her memorial stone “IN LOVING MEMORY OF MARIE JEANETTE KELLY, NONE BUT THE LONELY HEARTS CAN KNOW MY SADNESS, LOVE LIVES FOREVER.
You can visit Mary Kelly’s grave by following the directions in this blog.