THE LEGACY OF THE LEGEND
WALKING TOURS OF THE MURDER SITES:
A Boston Daily Globe (US) reporter, accompanied by Mr B, a City of London police officer, made a walking tour of some of the murder sites - Mitre Square, Berner Street, Buck`s Row, Hanbury Street - and his report was published in Boston Daily Globe on 10 December 1888:
After the dreadful crimes so placidly perpetrated in Mitre Square and Berner street, I conceived an ardent desire to visit and see for myself the region...
I mentioned [this] to a friend of mine, Inspector R of the City Police... "Where do you want to go?", he asked. "Well", I replied, "I want to go to Mitre-
square, Buck`s-row, Berners-street, and Hanbury-street...". "I can manage that for you", he said. "One of our men, Mr B, is a thoroughly efficient and
highly respectable and intelligent officer, and he can go round with you". I thanked the worthy inspector who introduced me to Mr B... and arrangement
was made... that I should meet the officer on the next night by the Law Courts.
The next evening, we met at the appointed place... We hailed a `bus and soon we left the glare and bustle of the Strand and Fleet Street far behind.
At Leaderhall-street, we got down and just at the end of that street and Whitechapel-road is a narrow street, which leads into Mitre-square. At night, it
is comparatively deserted, and, moreover, is badly lit, the corners being completely enveloped in gloom and another thing is that there are few thorough
-fares leading in or out of the square.
The next place we visited was Berners-street.. to get there we had to cross Whitechapel-road and go down Commercial-street.. In another few minutes
we were in what my companion tersely described as a beastly locality. A long, ill-paved, narrow badly-lit street. The lamps are few and far between and
show a flickering, sickly yellow light.. the darkness seems trebly bad... houses are small and squalid... We cross over. Mr B points out a door apparent
-ly leading into a house but, when he pushes it open, I see, to my astonishment, that it encloses a court or narrow alley. I peep down it and as well as
I can see in the blackness - for there is no lamp in the entry - I notice that there are houses at each side. Filthy, ramshackle cottages, evidently let out
in tenements... "You see", says Mr B, "there are any amount of these alleys about and while the police are patrolling the streets, Lord only knows what
goes on in the courts that branch from the main thoroughfare. For instance, we passed a couple of constables a few minutes ago; well they are not able
to visit, and properly inspect, every alley in Berners-street. Why, we should want at least a score of men for that duty alone. Look how dark the entries
are. If a murder were committed in the street, the murderer could easily escape observation by staying in one of the alleys till the hue and cry was over,
and then, he could mix with the crowd and get off." By this time, we have got to a building, which Mr B informs me, is the club rendered notorious by
being so near the scene of the Berner Street Tragedy, whilst opposite is a stone block which is a board school. Next to the club is a pair of high wooden
gates, which open inwards into the stable yard. On the right is the club, the windows of which are all lit up, and further on, is the side door. Opposite are
three small, whitewashed cottages. The place is so narrow that if the hapless victim had made the least noise it must have been heard, despite the sing
-ing and merriment that were going on in the club. A girl of about 14 barefooted and bareheaded with white frightened face and sharp furtive eyes, comes
out of one of the houses... "the woman was found there", she says, with infinite gusto smacking her lips at the chance of repeating the tale of horror to
an interesting listener, "`er head was on that short stone post, and `er legs was just over the iron railings, and blood and gore was all down there", and
pointed out the various spots mentioned with great relish. "Do you live here?" we asked. "Yes sir, in the second cottage", she answered. "And did you
not hear anything?", queried Mr B. "Not a sound, sir", says the girl "nobody else down here heard nothing neither. You know, sir, I think..." But we were
fated never to hear what the girl thinks, for a voice calls out "Lizer!" and she promptly vanished into the cottage...
We reach Buck`s Row, and I may, at once, admit that I was agreebly surprised by it. The street is fairly wide, well paved, and not badly lit. The houses
are small, but the majority are clean and respectable looking, and seem to be inhabited by the hard working poor. In fact, it is a very superior locality to
Berner-street. The actual spot of the tragedy, although rather in the shade, is still open. There is a house with green shutters. Next to it is a pair of wood
-en gates; slantingly opposite is another lamp. Between the lamp by the gate, lying in the road itself, was found the barbarously mutilated body of the
second victim of the recent murders. To my mind, this is the most mysterious crime of the lot, for it seems improbable that so ghastly as act could be
perpetrated in a comparatively well-lit, thickly populated street like this, without some trace of the assassin being found or some clue to his whereabouts
being discovered. A door is open of one of the houses, and it gives us an opportunity of seeing an interior, so scrupulously clean, so bright and cheerful,
that the remembrance of the black deed that took place outside to be even yet more horrible. We have seen all there is to see. We leave Buck`s-row,
on our way to Hanbury-street...
Hanbury Street is a very different locality to any we have been in. It is long and narrow and unevenly paved. The houses are rather high, the majority dirty
and the whole lot swarming with inhabitants... We are now near the scene of the murder; there are few shops, but any number of these common lodging-
houses... On our left is a house with the legend "Comfortable beds" written on a board outside. Opposite is the lodging-house from which the hapless
victim of the Hanbury-street tragedy was turned away to meet her death, because she had not the four pence for her bed...
I look stealthily at my watch and I find that it is getting late, so we proceed to direct our footsteps toward Whitechapel-road, which is the first stage of my
return journey homewards... We are now in Commercial-street and seems to me a very paradise after the slums we have left... mist has cleared away, if
it were not for the all-pervading and abominable smell of fried fish, the air would be delightfully fresh in comparison with Hanbury-street. Whitechapel-road
itself, is a great delight to me - it is wide and noisy and presents all the appearance of a fair. Either side of the road is a long row of stalls, brilliantly lit up
with portable gas... Men lounge about here, but they give me the idea of idling after work is done, for they have very little of the raffish look of their Berners
and Hanbury-street compeers. In short, the East End cannot be judged from the flourishing and busy Whitechapel-road. It is the places that branch off
from it that are so vile. It is the places where the moral sewage flows till they become hideous cesspools of vice and crime. Fine ladies, and white-handed
gentlemen, will do no good down here; indeed nothing will remedy the evils while lighting is deficient, sanitary conveniences absent, and these filthy dark
I say goodbye to Mr B at the Aldgate station and thank him, as well as I may for his courtesy and kindness and for his presence, which has kept me from
insult and robbery in what he describes as "one of the (if not the) worst localities in London". As I return to my hotel, I think with a thrill of disgust of the
many things I have seen and heard during my night`s slumming in Whitechapel.
A Pall Mall Budget
reporter made a walking tour - visiting the murder sites in George Yard, Buck`s Row,
Mitre Square, Berner Street and Hanbury Street, went to Dorset Street [off which was the murder site in Miller`s Court], and the murder sites in Castle
Alley, and Pinchin Street. His report, "Murderland Revisited: A Tour of
Jack the Ripper`s Haunts in Whitechapel", was published in Pall Mall Budget on 9 October 1890:
I went first to the scene of the very first murder - the landing of the common lodging-house in George-yard, where Martha Tabram`s dead body, shocking
-ly mutilated, was found on the morning after a Bank Holiday. It is true that on recommendation of the coroner`s jury who investigated the circumstances
of her death, a lamp was fixed there, and, it is true also that, it exists at the present time. But then, lamps can`t be alight all night in common lodging-
houses - so the landlords say - and, if what some of the tenants say be true, after 11 or 12 o`clock at night the lamp is turned out and, in every essential
respect, the landing assumes the appearance it bore when Martha Tabram was done to death there... Policemen seldom, if ever, visit that landing now: it
is no part of their beat, the only contingency to be faced by any would-be murderer who should take his victim there after midnight tomorrow would be the
arrival of one of the occupants of the upstairs tenements... and, even that contingency, is a very improbable one, for the occupants are nearly all of them
unskilled labourers, the exigencies of whose work leave them no opportunity for midnight dissipations.
Then, take next, that blank wall in Buck's-row where the next victim was butchered. Nothing whatever, in the way of change of any kind, has taken place
there. The wall is just as blank, the light at night is just as indistinct, the Row at midnight is just as denuded of civilians and policemen, as when the un-
fortunate woman Hyde [sic Mary Ann Nichols] was stabbed and mutilated there. It was rare even before the murder, to find any pedestrians in Buck's-row
after midnight; it always had a bad name for robberies and assaults; it was given up, by general consent, to the cluster of houseless unfortunates, who
were in the habit of sleeping there. After the tragedy, even unfortunates fled from it, its pavements only resounded at night to the measured tread of the
temporary police patrol. But now, unfortunates have forgotten the fate of their "pal", the police patrol has been withdrawn and passers-by at night are rarer
than ever. It might perhaps be a slight exaggeration to say that the murderer of Annie Hyde [sic Mary Ann Nichols] would find it just as easy to repeat his
hellish work tomorrow night, for a police "point" has been established a little nearer Buck's-row than formerly; but, at all events, can be safely said that
the operation would be attended with but the merest fraction of increased difficulty. A curious illustration, or rather proof, of this statement occurred in the
course of my investigation. About 1 o'clock on one morning, I happened to be near Buck's-row, when my attention was attracted by violent screaming,
evidently from that locality. I proceeded there and found, lying on the pavement within twenty yards of the scene of the murder, a woman, evidently pretty
far gone in drink. She was bleeding from a wound in the temple, sustained perhaps in her fall to the ground, and had taken an hysterical fit of screaming.
It was actually between four and five minutes before a policeman arrived on the scene to know "what all the row was about". He tried on finding her condit
-ion to "move her on", but the woman violently resisted and even attacked him. Assistance was evidently necessary then to take her to the police station,
and the writer, with hearty goodwill, set about blowing a police-whistle, which he had with him. Yet, with all that hullabaloo, another three minutes were
required for a second policeman to put in an appearance. It was only a drunken woman, you say? True. But, it might have been a victim screaming in her
last agonies and eight minutes to get two policemen together on the very scene of a former murder is a big start to give the quick heeled Ripper. It would
make all the difference between his capture and his getting safely off with another murder added to his long record.
Mitre-square - the scene of probably the worst butchery of all - is, undoubtedly, better patrolled than it used to be; beats have been shortened, the police-
man's bullseye flashes its light all round the square too frequently to allow of deliberate and cold-blooded butchery as occurred there before. But then the
Metropolitan police force can take no credit for that. credit, if any, belongs to the very much better organized and much more adequate City police.
The self-same Sunday morn that heralded discovery of the Mitre-square victim was the one that found another unfortunate lying in the gateway in Berner-
street, St. George's East with her throat cut. It is true, since that time, the gateway has been religiously closed after the last van has entered it. But the
vans are sometimes very late in arriving, and what is there to prevent a murderer decoying another victim there? When you push open the gate, it is as
dark as Erebus; when the gate is pushed back, there is an effectual screen from any prying passer-by, although passers-by, who are constituted very
largely of the foreigners who reside in the locality, are far too scared to ever peep inside that gate with its terrible history; and, finally, there is always sing
-ing or some other form of entertainment going on at the International Club next door, to effectually drown a faint shriek. But, what about the policeman on
the beat, you say? The police, on that beat, have got so tired of opening that gate, and finding nothing there since the murder, that they have, long ago,
despaired of ever finding anything, and, consequently, pass it now with the most complete indifference. And, even should, by the most remote possibility,
the murderer be disturbed by anybody opening the gate from the street entrance, he is by no means caught in a trap, for there are plenty of backyards
that can be scaled and a great many courts and passages leading to Berner and other streets to be easily reached. On the whole, then, that gateway in
Berner-street would form a very safe place for any operations of the Ripper just now.
Next, there is that mysterious house in Hanbury-street... evidence, given at the inquest on the disembowelled body found in its backyard, revealed the
fact that unfortunates, somehow or another, seemed to possess a right of way through the passage, and so into the yard. One would have thought that,
after such a revelation as that, some steps would at least have been taken to put a stop to such a scandal. But, no. After midnight, there is nothing what
-ever to prevent anybody from lifting the latch of the door and proceeding by way of the passage, to the very spot where the Ripper, in a paroxysm of fury,
plucked out the entrails of another victim... The premises are nothing more than a "doss house" on a small scale; its residents change nearly every day,
nobody would presume to question the right of any one to pass through the passage, and so into the fateful yard, where, as before, a murder could be
committed now with comparative impunity. And yet, what an outburst of popular indignation there would be, if another butchery occurred on the self-same
spot that reeked before with the blood of a murdered woman!
What is true of the house in Hanbury-street is true also, in lesser degree, perhaps, of the lodging-house in the court off Dorset-street where discovery of
another mutilated victim cast a gloom on the Lord Mayor's festivities of two years ago. It was the boldest stroke of all, when the Whitechapel fiend decoy
-ed his victim there. And what boldness, or rather absolute wantonness, accomplished before, it can doubtless accomplish again.
There is some prospect, at last, of the vile hole known as Castle-alley, where the last murder occurred, being swept off the face of the earth, for the White
-chapel Board of Works have lately decided to convert it into a public thoroughfare.
But the archway in Pinchin-street remains in precisely the same condition in which it appeared when the sackful of human remains was found beneath it.
That archway, it may be remembered, forms but one of several, some of which are partially boarded up from the street and which form at the present time,
an acknowledged resort of unfortunates, who ply, almost undisturbed, their degraded trade there.
Even the miserable little shed, with worm-eaten boards and utter lack of any conveniences for post-mortem or other examinations, despite the lashings of
humanitarian and sanitarian writers which the local authorities were at one time compelled to undergo remains just the same now as when the juries were
ushered into the ''mortuary" as it is called with the grimmest of humour, to examine the dead bodies of the victims deposited there. Or rather, to speak the
literal truth, the shed is more mouldy, more foul-smelling, more worm-eaten and more useless for its purpose than ever. It is, but fair to say, however, that
the Board of Works have got so far as the plans and the site of a new mortuary - and not, assuredly, before it was needed.
But, are the conditions precisely the same for the perpetration of murders as was the case two years ago - are intended victims to be decoyed as easily
as then?", some sceptical reader may ask. The personal investigations of the writer have convinced him that, should the Whitechapel Terror appear in our
midst again, on the same murderous mission, he would find the conditions precisely the same as before, his victims just as easily decoyed, and just as
numerous. The unfortunate class in Whitechapel and St. George's, or rather the lower unfortunate class from whom the victims were chiefly recruited - for
there are distinctions even in degradation - is just as numerous as ever it was. They form the very dregs of humanity. Better conditions of trade, and better
conditions of labour, affect their numbers not at all. They drift down through a life of shame, until they become veritable pariahs, even among the unfortun-
ates in other parts of London; until the streets of Whitechapel become their only home and immorality, in its very worst form, their only resource. The very
worst of disorderly houses will seldom open their doors to them, and the practising of their vile trade, in the courts and alleys and archways of the district,
constitutes their only resource against absolute starvation. Prowling through this district for the greater part of nearly every night, and sleeping for the rest
of the night in one or other of these plague spots, they have the locality of each at their fingers' ends and long experience has made them equally well ac-
quainted with the exact time at which the policeman on beat passes each of these places. What need of decoying these creatures? The very exigencies
of their degraded calling make them accessories to their own murder. God help them when they get in a would-be murderer's hands.
Journalist Kit Watkins made a walking tour of
the murder sites of Buck`s Row, Hanbury Street, and Miller`s Court. Her
report was published in the Toronto Mail (Canada) on 27 Feb 1891:
it was getting late and we wanted to go down Whitechapel way, so we took a bus and soon were jolting down the main road. The change in the streets
and people was wonderful. Here, as we walked up through the courts and slums made so infamously famous by that wretched murderer of wretched
women, one could see, on every side, depraved, vicious faces, the skulking walk, the suspicious eyes and retreating forehead and chin that betoken, if
not crime, at least fatal weakness.
We passed through Buck's Row where one unfortunate was done to death, and went up Hanbury Street; a foul, stinking neighbourhood where the child-
ren are stunted little creatures with vicious faces and.. the women's faces would frighten one far more than would the worst specimen of man I have ever
seen. Here you go through a cat's meat shop, and come into a narrow yard, in one corner of which another wretched victim was found murdered.
But the most fearful of all these fearful places is Dorset Street, Spitalfields, where in a dismal court, the entrance to which is so narrow that but one can
pass at a time, the woman Kelly was so terribly butchered some years ago... A woman, who is a called "Lottie", lives in the room where the crime was
committed, a dark narrow room opening on the court with no communication with the upstairs part of the tenement house. "I was her friend", said Lottie,
speaking with difficulty, because of a broken and battered nose given her by a kick from her husband's heavy boot, "two nights before the murder, she
came to my room. I was living farther up the court then, and 'Lottie', says she, 'I'm afraid to be alone tonight, because of a dream I had that a man was
murdering me. Maybe I'd be the next.' She said it with such a laugh, ma'am, that it just made me creep - 'they say Jack's busy again down this quarter'
and, sure enough, ma'am, she was the next. I heard her through the night, singing - she had a nice voice - 'The violets that grow on mother's grave' - but
that was all we 'eard." The woman seemed to have no repugnance to sleeping in the room, although black stains on the walls and the mark of a man's
head near the window were gruesome sights. She began a graphic description of the murdered woman's appearance, but we stopped her. Other women
began to gather presently, and grew voluble, and seemed to gloat over the hideous details like birds of prey. They had hard, hard faces with an evil look
on them - the demands for money for beer, the curses, profane language, jokes about the awful fiend who had done his deadly work there; the miserable
shrewd faced children listening eagerly - it was all horrible beyond expression. There was a sort of apathetic matter of fact wickedness about the women
that had a fearful aspect. There was no flaunting, no sign of feeling, because so many of their number had met with dreadful deaths. There was only a
dull, everyday sort of expression of immorality on their faces and in their manners, as though such things as vice and murder were common matters and
to be expected at any time, that was inexpressibly shocking. The only sign of feeling shown was when the beer appeared and they all clustered greedily
round to drink it.
Gladly, we made our way from that wretched court and went up the street, past the crowded gin shop at the corner... filled with "gay" women and vicious
men, and awful child faces. We watched a woman, with a baby in her arms, take off its miserable under-skirt, leaving it in a thin cotton wrapper, poor
shoes and ragged socks, and cross hurriedly to the pawn-brokers opposite. "Maybe she is hungry", said my friend, as she fumbled in her cloak pocket
for stray pennies, "let us wait a minute." She came out, the wretched, shivering baby crying with cold and want, and, with the few halfpence she got for
the child's things, went into the public house and called for drink. It was a dreadful, dreadful sight, and will give a feeble picture of the misery and want
caused by the demon drink. Further up, we saw a comical little boy, a dirty ragged little "Sheeny", standing gravely before a big looking glass which had
just been unpacked and was outside a second hand dealer's shop, washing his face by spitting on a filthy handkerchief... rubbing the same all over his
cheeks and nose and eyes. "Oh, such a dirty little boy as never yet was seen." Sure enough, he was, and a comical imp too, for when he had finished
"cleaning himself", he began to dance slowly, a sort of Spitalfields can-can, `til one very high kick sent him flying backwards into a gutter. An old woman
sat on a doorstep opposite Spitalfields Church, and never shall we forget her face. You could trace her whole history in it. She had been pretty once and
then, no doubt, there was the gay life on the Strand, and about the clubs - at the Argyll Rooms, perhaps, when that place was flourishing - the theatre
suppers and champagne; the gradual descent to Leicester Square, and tripe suppers with hot gin and water; then citywards and eastwards to Liverpool
Street and finally here she is, old, ugly repulsive; her features coarsened by drink and debauchery with an awful despair on them; the mouth, thin lipped
and drawn; the eyes sunken and bleared without eyelashes; the cunning, vicious soul looking out greedily, suspiciously, at every one; the hungry, bird
of prey, peaked nose that once had been a beautiful aquiline; the despairing droop of the shrunken figure, the entreaty for money to "buy a dram" as we
passed; the envious clutching and feeling of one's dress. "You're rich ladies. I was once like you, Help a poor old body, do 'ee now." It was the picture
of the end of a shameless and degraded woman with through it all, the mark of purity that should have been hers, the mark of her sex for all she seem-
ed a sexless thing; something that told us she had been a mother; the mark of womanhood, degraded indeed and fallen, but still womanhood, made a
sight one shall not soon forget. But let us leave these dreadful places forever and turn to the healthy, bright, busy streets again, and try to shake off the
feeling of horror and dismay that oppresses one. We go on and on, till here we are in pleasant Cheapside again...
19 APRIL 1905
Samuel Inglesby Oddie, Deputy Coroner of West London, and a few friends, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, accompanied by
three City detectives, made a walking tour of the murder sites. Oddie wrote of the walking tour in his book, Inquest, published by
Hutchinson & Co in 1941:
Dr Gordon Brown, the City of London Police Surgeon, was a friend of mine and it was from him that I obtained these gruesome details [of the murders].
He was good enough to offer to show me the scenes of these horrible murders and very kindly allowed me to bring some friends. So on 19th April 1905
we all met at the Police Hospital, Bishopsgate. The party consisted of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Professor Chorton Collins, H B Irving, Dr Cross, myself,
and three City detectives, who knew all the facts about the murders. We were shown the actual places where each crime was committed...