The Ten Bells – A History

Today John Bennett takes a look at one of the East End’s pubs that is well and truly associated with the Jack the Ripper mystery, the Ten Bells. This is the first of a series of articles whereby our guides will be highlighting points of interest, both historical and geographical to do with the case, so be sure to check back on a regular basis to read new and interesting articles.

Over to you John.

On our Jack the Ripper tour you will be able to walk down streets which have changed little in almost 300 years. By Christ Church Spitalfields sits a neighbourhood contains original Georgian townhouses built in the early 18th century for prosperous French Huguenot silk-weavers; indeed, as our tour winds its way along Wilkes Street and Fournier Street it is like walking back in time. One building stands out amongst these Grade II listed properties and is itself the most famous building from the Ripper story which still stands – The Ten Bells pub at the corner of Commercial Street and Fournier Street.

There has been a pub here since at least the 1740s when it was originally known as the Eight Bells – the pub has usually been named in keeping the number of bells present in Christ Church opposite. The interior is splendidly decorated with ornate tiles and the bar, recently refurbished, has been placed in the centre where it would have been in 1888. According to newspaper reports of the time, Mary Kelly was supposed to have been drinking there with Elizabeth Foster on the night before her murder on 9 November 1888. Elizabeth Stride was apparently thrown out of there for being drunk and disorderly in the spring of 1888 and according to some, Annie Chapman may well have been in there, alone, only an hour before her body was found round the corner in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street.

Because of these stories and its survival, a mock-up of the pub can be seen in the London Dungeon and the Johnny Depp movie ‘From Hell’ also featured it. In fact, so famous has it become that in 1975 it was refurbished as a theme pub and had its name changed to the Jack the Ripper! It may seem strange today, naming a pub after a serial killer, but it just goes to show how much the Ripper has become part East End folklore. It was not to everybody’s taste and in the late 1980s protests saw to it that the name was changed back to the Ten Bells.

It’s a popular place today and if you fancy quenching your thirst after one of our tours and drinking in a little bit of London history it is well worth a visit.