Located just of The Highway, you will find the stunning white-stone church of St George-in-the-East, a stunning local landmark, that was designed by the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, and which is considered by many to be his finest East End Church.
Surrounding it, there is a lovely churchyard, which has the distinction of having been one of the first London burial grounds to be transformed into a public garden, and people have been coming here to take the air since 1871.
TOMBSTONES BY THE WALL
Scattered about the churchyard you will find groupings of tombstones from the former graveyard of the church, some of which are, to say the least, readable and curious.
Others are now crumbling, and their inscriptions are unreadable – done for by the passage of time and the pollution that this district of London has been prone two for several hundred years now.
THE FORMER MORTUARY
Located in the churchyard, there is a tumbledown brick shed, which becomes more ruinous and more decayed with every year that passes.
If you take the rouble to look at the stone above its decaying door, you will see the words “Nature Study Museum” carved into it. And that’s what this place was between the early 1900s and the Second World War.
That’s when it was closed, as a temporarily measure.
But, as is so often the case with “temporary measures”, it became a permanent measure, and thus this curious little brick shed now has the look of abandonment about it, whilst nature has reclaimed much of the empty shell, and saplings and weeds now spout from what passes for a roof.
THE FORMER MORTUARY
However, prior to becoming a nature study centre, this building was, in fact, a mortuary; in which capacity it acquired a direct, albeit macabre, link to the Whitechapel Murders, which are now remembered mostly as the Jack The Ripper atrocities.
PEOPLE COME TO VIEW THE BODIES
One of the strange things about the public reaction, is just how many people arrived at the churchyard in order to try to gain admission to the mortuary to view the body.
Admittedly, some of them came in the hope that they would be able to identify the deceased women; but an awful lot of them came purely and simply out of morbid curiosity, many seeking a cheap thrill at the thought of seeing the bodies of the victims of a killer whose notoriety was becoming universal.
A PIECE OF HISTORY
As such, this little red-brick building is, without doubt, a piece of history, which makes the neglect that it appears to suffer from a great pity.
There have, over the years, been plans mooted to turn it into a variety of useful buildings, but none of them have come to fruition, and the building continues to decay, and, it has to be said, attracts next to no attention from those who come to enjoy the tranquiity of the churchyard in which it squats.
OUR FILM ABOUT IT.
We have made a film about the mortuary, which you can watch below. It gives a full history of this East End curioisity and takes you on a virtual walk around its crumbling and timeworn exterior.