In 2015 I paid a visit to Mitre Square to film it for posterity before the bulldozers moved in and demolished the buildings that surrounded it and, in so doing, changed the look of it for good.
You can watch the film before reading the article of how the Square has changed through the ages.
THE MURDER OF CATHERINE EDDOWES
Mitre Square was the location of the murder of Catherine Eddowes in the early hours of 30th September, 1888.
Her body was found lying in the Square’s south-west corner by Police Constable Watkins at 1.45 am.
THE SQUARE AT THE TIME
At the time of the murder, the Square would have been deserted and in almost complete darkness, and there can be little doubt that this was the reason that Jack the Ripper carried out the horrific murder here.
By the morning of Sunday, 30th September, the Square had been sealed off by the City of London Police, and a minute examination of the crime scene had been carried out.
However, as word spread through the locality that there had been another Whitechapel murder, sightseers flocked into the immediate vicinity in the hope of getting a view of the scene, albeit a large police presence made it impossible for any of the spectators to actually get close to the spot where the murder had occurred.
THE BUILDINGS OF THE SQUARE
Those who were able to look into Mitre square from Mitre Street, would have seen the huge bulk of the Kearley and Tonge warehouse dominating its north side.
This was where George Morris, the night watchman whom Constable Watkins had alerted that he had found a body on the opposite of the Square from the warehouse, was working at the time.
Morris would later tell a reporter from The Illustrated Police News, that he was totally mystified as to how the killer could have carried out the crime without him (Morris) actually hearing anything:-
“…It was only on the night that he remarked to some policeman that he wished the ‘butcher’ would come round Mitre Square and he would give him a doing; yet the ‘butcher’ had come and he was perfectly ignorant of it.”
THE SQUARE REDEVELOPED
Over the years, Mitre Square has seen numerous redevelopments, and its appearance is now almost completely unrecognisable from how it was in 1888, and on into the 20th century.
When I started conducted Jack the Ripper tours, in 1982, a modern an ugly 20th-century office block stood on the site of what had been Kearley and Tonge’s warehouse.
Later, a nondescript flower bed was placed on the site where the murder actually occurred, and I always felt that the flowers themselves made a fitting, though unintentional, memorial to poor Catherine Eddowes.
CREEPY BY NIGHT
Although Mitre Square wasn’t particularly attractive as a location, it did have a certain atmosphere to it, especially by night, and to stand there during the hours of darkness was, it must be said, something of an eerie experience.
You can get the past ambience of the Square from this fantastic photograph of it, which was taken by Sean East in 2006.
In 2016 the entire north, east and west sides of Mitre Square were demolished as part of a major redevelopment.
Over the next few years, the new Square began to take shape, and a new office block rose over the north side over what had once been the site of the Kearley and Tonge warehouse.
I have to admit that the current state of Mitre Square has a far more attractive feel to it than its predecessor ever did.
There is an abundance of greenery, plenty of seating on which the local office workers, and those who visit the Square on Jack the Ripper tours, can sit and relax.
But, I do have to admit to feeling a little saddened, not to mention a great deal of nostalgia for the old Mitre Square as it used to be.
But then, progress is progress, and, no doubt, there were those who lamented the loss of the Square as it was during all its incarnations since September 30th, 1888.
THE MURDER REMEMBERED
However, there is one aspect of the redevelopment of the Square that has made it unique amongst the Whitechapel Murders site.
In 2019 an information board was placed on the wall of the Sir John Cass School, which lines the Square’s south side.
As well as providing a history of the site, it also features a brief synopsis of the murder of Catherine Eddowes, thus making Mitre Square the only one of the murder sites to have any official recognition as a Jack the Ripper murder site.
VISITING MITRE SQUARE
If you would like to visit Mitre Square, you will need to make your way to Aldgate Underground Station. Turn right out of the Station, walk past the church of St Botolph, and you will see the red-brick building that is the Sir John Cass School.
Mitre Square is tucked away behind the school.