THE ST GEORGE IN THE EAST’S MORTUARY
As if the story of Jack the Ripper wasn’t already macabre and haunting enough, how about we throw a dilapidated mortuary into the mix? In the churchyard of St George in the East stands a rundown brick shed which was once a mortuary with a sinister history that connects it to London’s most infamous serial killer.
What happened here in relation to the Jack Ripper crimes?
On 30 September 1888, Jack the Ripper claimed his third victim, Elizabeth Stride, also known as ‘Long Liz’, on nearby Berner Street. Although it might not look like much now, this building, built in 1876, once served as a small mortuary before it was converted into a Nature Study Museum in 1904. As this was the closest mortuary to the scene of the crime, it was here that Elizabeth’s body was brought.
In the aftermath of the murder, it would have also been here that police officers and witnesses would have had to come to investigate the crime and identify the victim. It was also here where the post-mortem examination of Ms Stride was carried out by a Dr Blackwell the following day.
Elizabeth’s body was discovered close to 1am by a steward at a local Workers’ Club. He drove into the yard on his two-wheeled cart when his horse shied unexpectedly. It was not until the steward lit a match to see what had distressed the horse that he saw Ms Stride lying on the floor of the yard with blood still flowing from a wound in her neck. It was thought she had been killed just moments before he arrived.
Just an hour later, there was also a second victim. Catherine Eddowes had been murdered within walking distance of the first crime. This sent London into a panic as it was the first time two murders attributed to the Ripper had taken place in one night.
Where is the St George in the East Mortuary?
St George In The East
14 Cannon St Rd
You can find the Anglican Church of St George in the East at 14 Cannon Street Road, between The Highway and Cable Street in the Borough of Tower Hamlets, in the East End of London. The old mortuary itself is the dilapidated brick shed you’ll see in the churchyard, next to an information board which gives some insight into the history of the tumbledown structure but does not allude to the Jack the Ripper connection.
The closest tube station is Shadwell which is on the DLR line and is just a 3-minute walk away. In the close vicinity of the St George in the East Church you’ll find Wilton’s Music Hall, London’s oldest and last surviving grand music hall which offers guided tours and also hosts regular multi-arts performances.
What is St George in the East Mortuary in the present day?
Although the old mortuary and subsequent Nature Study Museum itself was closed and left to ruin during WWII, the St George in the East Church is still going strong and has an active congregation to this day. The church was hit by a bomb during the Second World War Blitz on London’s Docklands in May 1941, which destroyed the interior, but the walls and distinctive ‘pepper-pot’ towers survived. The church was designated a Grade I listed building in 1950, and in 1964 a modern church interior was constructed inside the existing walls.
How has the location changed since 1888?
The mortuary was originally constructed to serve the local area in 1876. It remained a mortuary until 1904 when the building was converted into a Nature Study Museum which formed part of the Whitechapel Museum. It housed exhibits including live fish and amphibians and stuffed birds, mammals and butterflies. During the summer months, the museum welcomed up to 1,000 people a day, mostly made up of groups of local school children. However, the museum closed during WWII and the building has been empty ever since.