In December, 1889, a case was heard at Worship Street Police Court in which one of the witnesses made the bizarre statement that there were many women who had cause to thank Jack the Ripper.
The defendant in the case in question was Mr. William Booth, of the Salvation Army, and it concerned a charge, made by the police, that the “Shelter”, which the Salvation Army had opened in Hanbury Street, was, in fact, a Common Lodging House, and was, therefore unlicensed.
The London Evening Standard provided a full report of the proceedings on 7th December, 1889:-
THE SHELTER IN HANBURY STREET
“Mr. William Booth, of the Salvation Army, Queen Victoria-street, appeared to a summons taken out by the police, for that he, being the occupier of the premises, 194, Hanbury-street, Spitalfields, did receive lodgers, the premises not being registered under the Common Lodging-house Act.
CHARGES FOR SUPPER, BED AND BREAKFAST
Police-sergeant 32 H and Inspector Ferrott, H, said that the premises known as the “Salvation Army Shelter” provided sleeping accommodation for 192 women, and for 3d. a night each adult person could have supper, bed, and breakfast.
A child under ten years was charged 2d. for the same accommodation, and an infant in arms 1d.
THE ACCOMMODATION PROVIDED
The accommodation, however, provided by the “Army” comprised neither bedsteads nor bedding, nor was there any utensil.
The Sergeant said that each sleeper had a “box like an egg-chest,” minus the bottom.
A mattress, made of American cloth and seaweed was in this, and the coverlet was a sheepskin the size of the mattress, the sleeper putting her head through a hole at one end.
A NOCTURNAL VISIT
He had visited the place at ten o’clock one night and had seen 74 persons in the “boxes.”
Some had undressed and some had not.
The sheepskin was the only covering in either case.
In cross-examination he said the place was formerly a large bath-house.
The ground floor was the “hall,” and there the meals were served and meetings held.
It was very airy, but the whole place was kept warm by hot-water pipes.
He had been told that the seaweed mattresses were cleanly, and the same had been said with regard to the leather coverings.
There was a large lavatory, with proper accommodation.
People had been refused because they were unprovided with threepence.
ELLEN EDWARDS EXPERIENCE
Ellen Edwards, a young married woman, showed that she had been sent by a Mr. Tenpenny, a lodging-house keeper, to the “Shelter” on two occasions.
On the first, she had paid 3d., and ” went through” the accommodation provided.
On the second occasion, she asked for a bed at eleven o’clock, saying she was an unfortunate, and had no money.
She was refused assistance.
Mr. Colam suggested that it was because she was not believed, but the Witness pertinently answered that the keeper of the Shelter could not know anything different, Witness going only in an old dress and an old shawl, with, nothing on her head.
WAS IT A COMMON LODGING HOUSE?
The defence was that the premises had been opened as a charity at the time of the “Jack the Ripper” scare, and did not come within the Common Lodging-house Act.
There was no definition of what was a common lodging-house unless it meant a place “open to all,” and the keeper of which was bound to provide accommodation, to the extent of his premises, for all comers.
That, however, was not the case with this “Shelter,” where applicants were selected; and if refused it was, perhaps, because the tale told, as in the case of Mrs. Edwards, was not believed, or because they were drunken and disorderly.
Moreover, many were admitted by tickets, issued by the Army, and the premises were closed at half-past eleven, only pressing cases being admitted afterwards.
MRS. WARD, THE MATRON
Mrs. Ward, the matron of the ” Shelter,” was called and said that the threepence was only for supper and breakfast, the bed not being charged for.
The Witness went on to say that many a woman had “thanked Jack the Ripper” as the cause of such a nice shelter being opened, and she wished to give instances, but was told that it was unnecessary.
“The place was worked at a loss,” she said.
Mr. Bushby, in giving judgment, said that it was quite possible the Legislature might regulate every institution or place where the poor were accommodated in large numbers, but he thought that, at present, an institution of the kind in question did not come within the Act, and he dismissed the summons.”