The Homes Of East Enders

The murder of Alice Mackenzie took place in Castle Alley, off Whitechapel High Street, in the early hours of the morning of the 17th of July, 1889, and the inquest into her death took place over the course of the next few weeks.


Like the victims who had been murdered the previous autumn – who are now generally referred to as the canonical five victims of Jack the Ripper – Alice Mackenzie had resided in the common lodging houses of the district.

On the 14th of August, 1889, during his summing up at the inquest, the Coroner Wynne Edwin Baxter, drew the court’s attention to the conditions in the district where the murder had taken place.

He opined that if no other advantage came from these mysterious murders, they would probably wake up the church and others to the fact that it was the duty of every parish in the West to have a mission and localise work in the East End, otherwise it would be impossible to stop these awful cases of crime.

There were not only cases of murder there, but many of starvation.

At least he hoped these cases would open the eyes of those who were charitable to the necessity of doing their duty by trying to elevate the lower classes.

A photograph of Coroner Baxter.
Coroner Wynne Edwin Baxter


The Hackney and Kingsland Gazette, on Wednesday, 21st August 1889, published a letter from a local vicar which expanded on the sentiments that had been expressed by the coroner:


Having only just seen your valuable paper, which contains the coroner’s summing up in the case of the last East End murder, may I be allowed to make one or two remarks which, in justice to some of my parishioners, I feel ought not to be passed over?

A very sad and in many respects very true description is given of the state of things existing in the parish of Spitalfields; but it is hardly true just to say, “There are 20,000 of the same character, not one of whom is capable of elevating the others.”


Of the 20,000 in my parish there are not a few Gentile families living respectable, honest, God-fearing lives; becoming smaller, I must allow, owing to the recent terrible events; also a large proportion of poor Jews, whose hardships are known only to a few, who, together with ourselves, not only fear but deplore what has happened at our very doors.

A fortnight ago, one of the local police stated that he had never seen such state of things anywhere else, and could only suppose that, “God spared the place for the few righteous that dwelt therein.”


Still the few are there, and they are capable of elevating to some degree the others.

As to the remedy.

Touching the moral aspect of the question, it is not more church accommodation that is wanted, but living agents; men and women with consecrated lives, content to work under regularly constituted organization, avoiding spasmodic effort on the one hand and overlapping on the other.


Better dwellings will do something, but not everything; there must be the sympathy of warm and loving hearts, together with ready hands, to help wisely, promptly, cautiously.

There need be no case of starvation.


Of the 48 common lodging houses finding their centre around Flower and Dean Street in this parish, containing a population of 6,000 souls, 46 are regularly visited and a religious service held in each every Sunday evening, and I believe no case can exist in the parish needing help which would not, in the ordinary course of things, come under the notice of one or other of our visitors within a given fortnight so.

Still, we are greatly in need of helpers and help.


I trust that the coroner’s appeal will not be made in vain, and I thank him in the name of the poor people for it.

What we need most of all at the present time is a house where our workers can reside in the parish, amongst the people whom they seek to elevate, and whom they are most likely to influence by their daily constant, and self-denying example.


I plead for £2,000 to purchase a suitable freehold premises for this purpose; who will help to raise this sum? This would confer a real and lasting boon upon this parish, and it is surely not too much to ask considering all the civilized world knows our circumstances only too well.

Most gladly will I supply information.


Rector. The Rectory, Spitalfields.