diamond geezer

 Tuesday, October 01, 2013

JACK THE RIPPER 125
Victim 4: Catherine Eddowes

Mitre Square, Aldgate
Sunday, September 30, 1888


125 years ago, on the last day of September 1888, London's autumn of terror peaked. The man we know as Jack The Ripper claimed his third and fourth victims within the space of an hour, one in Whitechapel and one in the City. This threw two separate police forces on his trail, which hindered rather helped the search. A postcard received by the press on 1st October described these killings as the "double event", a description which endures to this day. And the latter was the most brutal killing yet, despite being carried out in the most public place. So today I'm continuing my quest to visit the five confirmed murder sites as the anniversaries pass, comparing what happened then to what's there now.

The fourth of the Ripper's murders took place in Mitre Square, a gaslit quadrangle on the edge of the City. Holy Trinity Priory once covered the site, before Henry VIII closed it down, and the square today coincides approximately with the monks' cloister. Later developments hereabouts included St James's Church, after which Church Passage is named, but this was demolished in 1874. By 1888 Mitre Square was a mostly non-residential area surrounded by large warehouses and commercial buildings, with a small dingy yard in one corner. Behind one door sat a nightwatchman, but he wasn't watching the square that night, and neither was the off-duty policeman at number 3. Close by was St Botolph's Aldgate, then known as the "Church of Prostitutes" because ladies would parade their availability around its island perimeter. It's all too easy to image Jack storming off frustrated from Berner Street, selecting another victim from the carousel and leading her to her doom.

Catherine Eddowes moved from Wolverhampton to London as a child, then moved back to the West Midlands to start a family. When that relationship failed she returned to Spitalfields, lodging in the same street as victim number three. By all accounts she lived an upright life, though was sometimes over-fond of alcohol which led to increasingly horizontal episodes. The City police took her in at 8pm on the evening of September 29th for being drunk, holding her in the cells at Bishopsgate Police station until she sobered up. Her release came at 1am, approximately the same time that Jack was murdering Liz half a mile away in Whitechapel. Catherine then headed back towards Aldgate High Street where she'd been picked up, only to be picked up again by a man on the other side of the law.

At 1.30am PC Edward Watkins walked through Mitre Square on his beat but saw nothing amiss. At 1.35am three witnesses saw Catherine talking to a man in a grey cloth cap at the end of Church Passage. One would later describe him as 30 years old, 5 foot 7 inches tall, of medium build with a fair complexion and moustache, although there's no reason to believe this was entirely accurate. After missing out earlier in Whitechapel, luck was now on Jack's side and he was able to practise his knife skills on Eddowes undisturbed. PC Watkins returned at 1.45am to find the mutilated body of a woman lying in the darkest corner of the square. Somehow the Ripper had murdered his victim by slashing her throat, then cut open her face, removed her intestines (and other specific organs) and escaped, all in a matter of minutes.
"I believe the perpetrator of the act must have had considerable knowledge of the position of the organs in the abdominal cavity and the way of removing them. It required a great deal of medical knowledge to have removed the kidney and to know where it was placed. The parts removed would be of no use for any professional purpose. I think the perpetrator of this act had sufficient time, or he would not have nicked the lower eyelids. It would take at least five minutes. The throat had been so instantly severed that no noise could have been emitted. I should not expect much blood to have been found on the person who had inflicted these wounds. The wounds could not have been self-inflicted."
Mitre Square still exists, in approximately the same shape, but as a shadow of its former self. Every building that used to stand around the perimeter has been knocked down, the last major redevelopment being in 1980, and today only the cobbles remain. Even these have been moved and realigned, but it's possible that some are originals that the Ripper fled across. The site of Catherine's murder is in the southern corner, beneath the tree, on the kerb close to the flower bed. It's a half-decent bed too, raised on an island of earth along with a trio of lunchtime-convenient benches, ideal for perusing the fated spot. A few feet beyond is the playground of the City's only state primary school, Sir John Cass's Foundation, and alongside on Mitre Street stands a particularly anodyne modern office block. As for the other two sides of Mitre Square they're currently under construction, but look up and there's the Gherkin lurking over the scaffolding, approximately as far away as it is tall.

Of all the five canonical murder sites, only here can the public still freely stand. As such Mitre Square is much in demand by Ripper tours, so most evenings see several parties led inside to hear grisly tales. Whichever tour arrives first gets to stand in the correct spot by the flower bed, while subsequent groups have to cluster on the other side of the cobbles and pretend. Come during the day and you'll catch office staff and construction workers milling through, and maybe hear a few hundred kids at play. Come at the weekend and it's usually very quiet indeed. But come in a couple of years time and things will be very different. The redevelopment of two flanks of the square is planned to create a 17-storey steel and glass office block with ground floor retail space, "the perfect HQ building for any progressive City business", so the brochure says. And at the same time the square will be entirely re-landscaped, with the cobbles replaced by raised lawns and pert shrubberies. Expect Mitre Square to become yet another example of a public space falling under private control - an epidemic in the modern City - and whether Ripper tours will be welcomed has yet to be seen. But with CCTV trained on every corner, and security guards ever ready to pounce, the events of 125 years ago could never be repeated.

All about the Caroline Eddowes murder
Historical photos of Mitre Square
Jack The Ripper Casebook (an extremely detailed website, recommended)
@WhitechapelRealTime - a bunch of historians tweeting the events of 1888 (and well worth following)

• Victim 1: Mary Ann Nichols (31 August 1888)
• Victim 2: Annie Chapman (8 September 1888)
• Victim 3: Elizabeth Stride (30 September 1888)


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Saturday 10 December (1-3pm)
Bow Church Christmas Fair
Festive fair with mulled wine & music at St Mary's in Bow.

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv