Thirty Years of Rippering

It seems unbelievable but this June will see the 30th anniversary since I started my Jack the Ripper tour in 1982. Where on earth has the time gone? Mind you, I suppose, in the scheme of things, 30 years isn’t a great deal of time (or at least that’s what I keep telling myself!) after all it’s been over 120 years since the Jack the Ripper murders took place, so a mere thirty years, I suppose, isn’t that significant landmark.

But in terms of Jack the Ripper Walks it is a huge landmark in that the area has changed a huge amount since that day in 1982 when I led my first group of Ripper enthusiasts into the wold hinterland of Jack the Ripper’s East End.

In those days I used to start the tour from Tower Hill Underground Station and managed, somehow to cover a huge amount of ground in the two hours. Once passed Mitre Square the tour headed into the East End itself and this section of the route has seen a huge amount of change.

Grimy old Victorian shops and warehouses lined the route, the Jewish Soup Kitchen was still going strong in Brune Street, and Blooms was still serving up its Salt Beef Sandwiches at the entrance to Gunthorpe Street.

Ye Olde Frying Pan – the pub where Mary Nichols, the first of Jack the Ripper’s victims, drank away her doss money, just a few hours before she was murdered, was still open. It was run my a landlord whose name I have completely forgotten (age does that to you!), but who was an ex boxer and true cockney through and through. His customers were mostly made up of retired locals, who often used to tell myself and my clients (yes we used to make a pub stop there) how they could still remember being frightened of Jack the Ripper when they were children.

Times change. Ye Olde Frying Pan is now the Sheraz Indian Restaurant. The Jewish Soup Kitchen is now luxury (-ish) flats. Most of the old Victorian shops have been demolished and replaced with modern office blocks. And Blooms, that fixture of the Jewish East End has long since closed and a Burger King now occupies the premises.

And, as the area around Tower Hill was modernised, I decided in 1992 to move my Jack the Ripper Tour starting point from Tower Hill to Aldgate East. So now, although many of the businesses have changed, those who join one of the Aldgate East Tours, will still have the thrill of going straight into those old streets into which I first led a tour 30 years ago this June. And, since they’re still as they were then, and, for that matter, still as they were in 1888, you get a much better first impression of Jack the Ripper’s London than we ever did when we began at Tower Hill.