On Saturday 1st of July 1893, an article appeared in The Era which described an “expedition” made by a group of Parisian journalists into the wilds of Whitechapel.
Contemplating the journey they were told that a trip to Whitechapel was nothing short of a “very exciting curiosity.”
THE MOST DISMAL DENS OF MISERY AND VICE
They had, so the article states, been encouraged in making the trip by their friends, who had told them that “a Frenchman should not leave London without seeing Whitechapel, where Jack the Ripper murdered his victims, and where the most infamous lairs of robbery, the most dismal dens of misery and vice are to be found.
JACK THE RIPPER TOURS CIRCA 1893
I found it particularly intriguing that, as far back as 1893, visitors to London were being encouraged to tour the Jack the Riper murder sites as part of their London itineraries, just as their counterparts can still do,123 years later!
DON’T DO IT!
Anyway, being advised to go there by their countrymen was one thing, but our group of French visitors decided to seek the advice of Victorian Londoners on how they should prepare for their excursion. The general consensus seems to have been to avoid going there if they possibly could! They were advised to put on their shabbiest clothes; take smelling salts with them, to mask the foul odours they were bound to encounter; take heavy walking sticks for protection; and, above all else, they must ensure that they did not get separated from one another.
TAKE A POLICEMAN WITH YOU
It was also suggested that they take a policeman with them as an escort and one was duly arranged for them who, it was agreed, would be their escort into the London slums.
The arrangements made, they enjoyed a hearty dinner, met their police escort – who advised them that “we must be back early, because whenever my wife knows that I have gone on an excursion to Whitechapel she waits up for me, being unable to close an eye until my return.”
So saying, he flagged down three cabs, and the group headed for the East of London, “Jack the Riper and the repulsiveness of London misery” forming the subject of their conversation which, so the article assures us, was “most dismal.”
“We did not wish to admit it,” so the writer explains, “but we were nervous when the drivers were told to stop at the entrance to Whitechapel.”
The subsequent article makes for a delightful read as they encounter a few surprises, delve into the dark alleyways of Whitechapel and visit or pass several of the murder sites where Jack the Ripper slaughtered his victims.
Below, you can read the article in full. So, sit back, and prepare to enjoy a Jack the Ripper tour in the year 1893!
EVEN BETTER TODAY
Of course, Whitechapel has changed beyond recognition since those long ago Parisians ventured into its seething abyss.
Much of it is now trendy and gentrified. Street art and bars abound.
Yet, as those who join us for our nightly Jack the Ripper Walk, circa 2016, discover, there are still parts where the atmosphere is still as it was in 1893, and there are still alleyways and cobbled thoroughfares which, as you walk through them, you can’t help but feel that you have been transported back to the teeming streets of the 19th century streets of East London.