The Funeral Of Frances Coles

The last name on the Whitechapel Murders file was that of Frances Coles, who was murdered on Friday the 13th of February, 1891.

Her funeral took place on Wednesday the 25th of February, 1891, and, in its next day’s edition, The Newcastle Evening Chronicle provided its readers with a details report of the events of the day as they had unfolded.


“Yesterday, the funeral of Frances Cole, the victim of the last Whitechapel murder, was made the occasion of the gathering of vast crowds in the East End and in the East London Cemetery, where the interment took place.

It is noted as a curious circumstance that whereas the population of the eastern portions of the metropolis have displayed scarcely any concern in the proceedings connected with the investigation of the crime committed in their midst at Swallow Gardens, on the 13th inst., the liveliest interest was manifested in the burial of the deceased.

Sketches showing the murder of Frances Coles.
From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.


On Monday, when it was originally intended that the ceremony should take place, nearly 15,000 people flocked to Plaistow only to be disappointed.

Yesterday afternoon the brilliant sunshine and spring-like weather, which succeeded the dispersal of the fog, induced a much larger number of persons to journey to the graveside, whilst all along the five or six miles of route, from Whitechapel to beyond Canning Town, the streets were lined with spectators.


Naturally the mob was thickest and most typical of the locality at the Mile End “Waste,” where factory girls, boys, and men and women inhabiting the congested streets branching from the main roads congregated during the dinner hour, waiting for the arrival of the mourning coaches from the city, and the appearance of the hearse from the yard attached to the Whitechapel mortuary.

A brisk trade was done in “In Memoriam” cards, and the kerbstone vocalists invited patronage by their rendering of the latest patriotic songs of the day.

Chief Inspector West was on the scene with a large staff of police at his command.

Illustration showing the murder of Frances Coles.
From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The funeral arrangements had been entrusted by the father of the deceased to the London Common Lodging House Mission, and it was from the offices of this society in Ludgate Circus that three carriages started.

The first contained Mr. Coles, the father, and Miss Mary Ann Coles, the sister of the murdered woman ; Mr. A. H. Shepherd, one of the vice-presidents of the mission; Mr. John Harvey, the hon. secretary; and the Rev. D. Thomas, of Grove Road, Victoria Park.

In the second were Mrs Harvey, Mrs Bordman, and Mrs Day, representing the lady workers of the mission; and in the third Mr F. C. Paynter, honorary solicitor; Mr Maysmith, and Mr Johnson.


These carriages stopped on the way to the mortuary at Whitechapel Church for the addition of black velvet trappings to the horses; thence the road was taken at a walk, until, at a signal, the open hearse, which was standing in the yard, was driven into the main road, and led the head of the procession, a body of police clearing a path for it.

About 500 people marched on each side of the hearse, which fully exposed the polished elm and white-metal mounted coffin to view. The plate was simply inscribed with the name of the deceased, the date of her death, and her age (26).

A few wreaths were placed about it, one of them having been sent from Maidstone.


The route to the cemetery, after leaving the Mile End Road, was by way of Burdett Road, into the East India Dock Road, at the junction of which large numbers of people were collected, and thence across the iron bridge to Barking Road, the time occupied in traversing the distance being nearly an hour and a half.


In the cemetery fully 20,000 people had assembled, and the majority of these, when it was noticed that the hearse was taking the lower road through the grounds, made a wild stampede across the grass, tumbling down in their haste, shrieking and laughing in the most unseemly manner.

Mr. Murray, superintendent of the cemetery, had, however, made effectual arrangements to ensure the utmost decorum in the immediate vicinity of the grave.

A securely roped-off inclosure marked the spot, and half a dozen policemen kept the crowd from encroaching upon its limits.

The site assigned to the last resting-place of Frances Coles is within a few yards of the graves of Elizabeth Stride, and the mutilated remains of the unknown woman whose dismembered body was discovered in Pinch in-street in the autumn of 1889.


The burial service was short and simple, being conducted by the Rev D. Thomas, who in his prayer supplicated the Almighty “to bring to the bar of justice the cruel hand that smote the death blow,” so that right might done, “and that which cried from the very ground for vengeance might be heard and answered.”

He knew that they all felt, as he himself felt, the most righteous indignation towards the assassin whose hand committed the deed. Whether it were he who stood charged, or whether it were not, he prayed with all his heart that the murderer might be found, and that he might he visited with just condemnation.

The tragic close of the deceased’s life provided matter for the serious consideration of them all.

The Rev. gentleman’s discourse was interrupted by fervent “Amens.”


Mr. Harvey, the next speaker, was also listened to attentively.

He said that many had criticised the step which the Mission had taken, but he was convinced that had it failed to come forward as it had done they would have fallen short in the practical part of their Christianity.

The great aim of the society was the salvation of men and women in the common lodging houses, and if it ministered to them in their poverty, misery, and sin, was it out of place that the Mission should pay the last sad tribute of respect to those whom it looked upon as its congregation, and whom he and his fellow workers desired to be respectably buried?


Mr. Paynter. the hon. solicitor said a few words, saying that Mr. Coles had assured him that his daughter had never given him any trouble or pain during her life.

The father who appeared in a feeble state and shed tears abundantly, took a last look at the coffin, and was then led away to the carriage in waiting.

Happily, he did not see the crowd surge over the ropes and nearly throw the two attendant policemen into the open grave.”