The Vanishing East End

London is an ever changing city. It has to be. As a major financial hub it needs to be at the forefront of the latest technology, and its office buildings need to be, architecturally speaking, with the best of them.

Thankfully, the likes of Norman Foster and Richard Rogers have seen to it that the modern London skyline is both varied and intriguing.

The Swiss-Re building (Foster) on the City of London’s eastern fringe is a prominent landmark that is well known the world over and is, in many ways, a tourist attraction in its own right.

Just a stone’s throw from Mitre Square, where the murder of Catherine Eddowes, Jack the Ripper’s fourth victim, took place on 30th September 1888, stands The gleaming silver structure of the Lloyd’s building (Rogers). Again this is now an intricate London fixture that City workers pass on a daily basis, often without paying it a second glance.

Yet, whenever, one of these new buildings goes up, a little bit more of old London is lost.

This is especially true of the East End, where, now that the green shoots of recovery have seen the work on many buildings that that was halted, when the recent recession came a-calling, now resume.

Several Jack the Ripper sites are being affected by this latest property boom.

The site of the murder of Mary Kelly, which took place on 9th November 1888, is now preparing to re-emerge as something altogether more modern than what was there before.

To be honest, the disappearance of what was there before is no great loss and it will be nice to see the area’s latest transformation.

Likewise, the ugly post war buildings that surrounded Mitre Square are now in the process of being demolished and a new development is destined to spring up on the site.

Ripperologists have, over the last few years, been up in arms at the loss of these sites.  Petition for their preservation were mooted.

Yet neither of them, in their most recent incarnations, bore any resemblance to what they were like at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders, and what is planned in their place will, no doubt, be a lot more aesthetically pleasing.

The point about Jack the Ripper’s London is that it belongs in the shadows and the imagination.

It is not about physical localities, nor does it have a tangible form in the shape of bricks and mortar.

It is a subject to study, and think about. To ponder and argue over.

It is as elusive as the murderer himself and, as such, it belongs in our imaginations, where it is safe from the demolition ball and the property developer, and where the Victorian East End will never vanish.