People In The Cellar

I came across a very intriguing article about the Jack the Ripper Murders in a newspaper article from November 1888.

By this time, if we accept that Mary Kelly was the last victim of Jack the Ripper, the murders had come to an end. But the area as a whole was still reeling from the horrors of its “autumn of terror.”

One of the more intriguing things about the Whitechapel Murders is that they took place in one of London’s least desirable quarters. Many of those who lived in the district, including the victims of Jack the Ripper, were, more or less, a forgotten people, whose daily lives were of little interest to the middle and upper classes.

One of the things to strike you when you read about the everyday lives of the victims is just how sad those lives were.

In an age before the welfare state there was nothing to catch these unfortunate women when, largely as a result of an addiction to alcohol, their marriages ended and they, quite simply, slipped through the net and ended up living in the Common Lodging Houses of Whitechapel, supporting themselves with menial tasks and supplementing their meagre incomes by selling themselves on the streets of the East End.

Parts of Whitechapel were, effectively, the skid row of the Victorian Metropolis and it was to its slums and Common Lodging Houses that many undesirables drifted. 

But according to this newspaper article it wasn’t just the rooms of these houses that attracted this transient population. The article tells of whole communities of thieves, recently released mental asylum patients, and other sinister characters who were living in the cellars of the houses of Spitalfields and Whitechapel. According to the article’s author, these people only ever came out at night when they would walk the streets until dawn in search of sustenance, some of them, obviously, resorting to crime in order to survive. The article suggests that Jack the Ripper may have belonged to this nebulous, night time community and that, if this was the case, then the police would have a hard time tracking him down.

Many of these houses are now sought after properties and, in the last 20 years, the area has seen an awful lot of gentrification.

But on our nightly Jack the Ripper Tour, we will recreate the streets of the Victorian East End for you and give you a great insight into what the area was like at the time of Whitechapel Murders.