The Queen And The East End Murders

By October, 1888, with the number of Whitechapel murders having increased with the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowesm both of which took place in the early hours of the 30th of September, 1888, the people of Whitechapel and Spitalfields began looking at the appalling social conditions in some parts of the East End that the atrocities had laid bare, and had made the focus of newspapers across the globe.

All manner of philanthropists and socially concerned citizens were getting involved with the debate as to what should be done to improve the socials conditions, not to mention the degradation and vice that, in the views of many commentators, lay behind the murders.

One person, who had been very active in attempting to change the area for the better, was Henrietta Barnett, the wife of the Reverend Samuel Barnett, Vicar of St Jue’s Church, on Commercial Street.

A photograph of Mr and Mrs Barnett.
Henrietta and Samuel Barnett.

THE CONDITION OF THE EAST-END

In the wake of the Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes murders, Henrietta Barnett had mobilised as many of the women in the East End of London as she could muster, and they had started to talk to the newspapers, with a view to getting the Government, and, in particular, the Home Secretary, Sir Henry Matthews, to actually do something about theĀ  vice that had, in their opinion, been allowed to develop unchecked in the area.

To that end, she drafted a letter on behalf of the women of East London, and this was duly sent to Queen Victoria.

A LETTER TO THE QUEEN

The Morning Post, on Friday, 26th October, 1888, was one of many newspapers that published a transcript of the letter in the following article:-

“During the three days of the week following the Sunday on which the double murder was committed in the East- end, the following petition to the Queen was circulated among the women of the labouring classes through some of the religious agencies and educational centres:-

“To Our Most Gracious Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria.

“Madam – We, the women of East London, feel horror at the dreadful sins that have been lately committed in our midst, and grief because of the blame that has fallen on our neighbourhood.

By the facts which have come out in the inquests, we have learnt much of the lives of those of our sisters who have lost a firm hold on goodness, and who are leading sad and degraded lives.

While each woman of us will do all she can to make men feel with horror the sins of impurity which cause such wicked lives to be led, we would also beg that your Majesty will call on your servants in authority and bid them to put the law, which already exists, into motion to close bad houses within whose walls such wickedness is done, and men and women ruined in body and soul.

We are, madam, your loyal and humble servants.”

The petition, which received 4,000 or 5,000 signatures, was presented in due form, and the following reply has been received:-

THE QUEEN’S REPLY

“Whitehall.

Madam, – I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you that he has had the honour to lay before the Queen the petition of women inhabitants of Whitechapel, praying that steps may be taken with a view to suppressing the moral disorders in that neighbourhood, and that her Majesty has been graciously pleased to receive the same.

I am to add that the Secretary of State looks with hope to the influence for good that the petitioners can exercise, each in her own neighbourhood, and he is in communication with the Commissioners of Police, with a view to taking such action as may be desirable in order to assist the efforts of the petitioners, and to mitigate the evil of which they complain.

I am, madam, your obedient servant, Godfrey Lushington.

Mrs. Barnett, St. Jude’s Vicarage, Commercial-street.”