Spawned In The Slums

As the Whitechapel murders began – or at least with the dawning of the knowledge that a repeat killer was loose on the streets of Whitechapel – many of the people who lived in the district began complaining about the lack of adequate policing in the East End of London.


On Monday, September the 3rd, 1888, with the district reeling in shock at the murder of Mary Nichols, which had taken place on August 31st in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel, Mr. Henry T. Tibbatts, of 24 Artillery Lane, wrote to the Dailey News to highlight his concerns about the lack of police:-

“I contend, as an East End man, having business premises within a stone’s throw of Whitechapel Church, that our police protection is shamefully adequate, and that the scenes that hourly and daily are enacted in this locality are a disgrace to our vaunted progress.

I myself have witnessed street fights amounting almost to murder in the neighbourhood of Osborn street, Fashion street, &c., and never at any of these critical periods are the police to be found.

Only within the last few days has a most disgraceful scene been enacted close to my own gates in Spitalfields, but then as ever the police were conspicuous by their absence, and such things are of common occurrence.

A gang garrot one of their victims.
An Act Of Garrotting.


It is quite time someone spoke out plainly. I have waited long enough, hoping that some of our representatives in the parish might take the matter up, but the time has arrived when I for one will no longer remain quiet.

I only hope that this may be the means, with your valuable assistance, of calling attention to an altogether extraordinary condition of affairs.”


On the 8th of September, the day on which Annie Chapman was murdered in the backyard of number 29 Hanbury Street, a reader of The Evening News, who signed himself “Ratepayer” fired of a letter to the paper to complain about the lack of adequate policing in London:-

SIR – Another ghastly, heartrending and horrible murder in Whitechapel, this morning.

When is Sir Charles Warren, the incapable and incompetent, to be roused from his lethargy?

The police are not allowed to do any duty now, they are all posted at street corners and there they stop.

The street roughs, rowdies, cut-throats and assassins well know this and have the thoroughfares to themselves and commit all sorts of outrages with impunity, and without fear of detection or even interference.


The streets, outside the City boundary, even in broad daylight, are positively unsafe. You may walk from Goswell-road to the top of Stamford Hill any day you like and never meet a policeman.

The police never find anything out; they are not allowed!

What do we want with a military man at the head of the police – especially a psalm-smiting, Gospel-grinding, and Bible punching specimen like Sir Charles Warren.”


Newspaper articles began delving deeper into the rates of crime in the district, and this, along with the almost incessant reporting on the Whitechapel murders, helped create a picture of the East End of London in the minds of the reading public throughout the country, as a hotbed of wickedness in which no honest or respectable person could ever be safe.

This image of ever-present lurking evil was, of course, exacerbated by the escapades of the unknown miscreant who was carrying out the awful atrocities, and this, coupled with the depictions of the vice and degradation that were coming out of inquests into his deaths of the victims, helped foster a perception of whitechapel as a lawless hinterland, the corrupting influence of which was as dangerous to society at large, as the murderer was to his victims.


As the Reverend Samuel Barnett, the vicar of St Jude’s on Commercial Street put it in a letter to The Times, which was published on the 19th of September:-

“Sir – Whitechapel horrors will not be in vain if “at last” the public conscience awakes to consider the life which these horrors reveal.

The murders were, it may almost be said, bound to come; generation could not follow generation in lawless intercourse, children could not be familiarized with scenes of degradation, community in crime could not be the bond of society and the end of all be peace.

Some of us who, during many years, have known the life of our neighbors, do not think the murders to be the worst fact in our experience, and published evidence now gives material for forming a picture of daily or nightly life such as no one has imagined.”

An illustration showing Samuel Barnett.
Samuel Barnett.


The Times, responding to his letter, no doubt reflected the feelings of many of its readers when it opined:-

“We seem to have listlessly acquiesced in the existence of these kitchen-middens of humanity; to have treated them as though society must keep a receptacle for the collection of its waste material.

We have long ago learned that neglected organic refuse breeds pestilence.

Can we doubt that neglected human refuse as inevitably breeds crime, and that crime reproduces itself like germs in an infected atmosphere, and becomes at each successive cultivation more deadly, more bestial, and more absolutely unrestrained?


And so the people of Victorian Britain came to view the killer as an inevitable outgrowth of the lawless and heathen enclave in which his crimes were occurring, and, in consequence, he impacted society in a way in which no murderer had ever done up to that point, and in which no murderer would ever do again.

“The ghoul-like creature who stalks through the streets of London,” The Star warned its readers, “is simply drunk with blood, and he will have more.”