Whitechapel

All posts tagged Whitechapel

Wapping-Police-Museum-Header
When you approach Wapping Police Station from Wapping High Street, the modest building looks fairly innocuous. Almost dwarfed by the buildings of Aberdeen Wharf on the right and St John’s Wharf on the left, it is perhaps difficult to imagine that this is the birthplace of the oldest police force in the world.

In the East End of eighteenth century London, importers were losing £500,000 of goods (that is a staggering £46 million at today’s rates) each year to theft. Estimates are not available for the theft of exports…

A way was sought to prevent or at the very least reduce the level of crime, and a proposal was put forward in 1797 to create a body of men who could patrol the Thames by John Harriot, an Essex Justice of the Peace. Following his plans being put before the West India Merchants and Planters Committees, funding was obtained and the creation of the Marine Police began on 2nd July 1798 in the building that still houses the Marine Support Unit of the Metropolitan Police.

An initial force of around 50 river officers were trained and armed. They needed to be. It was estimated that almost 11,000 of the 33.000 people who worked the river trades were known criminals. The reaction to the new force was understandably hostile as the river thieves found that were losing an easy living.

Wapping-Police-Museum

Wapping Police Museum

A riot took place outside the station when around 2,000 men arrived with every intention of torching the place with the magistrates and some police officers inside. Whilst Harriot was able (and brave enough) to successfully disperse the riot, one of his officers, Gabriel Franks, was shot and died later in hospital. He became the first recorded police death.

The government became convinced of the benefits of the Marine Force (particularly after receiving letters confirming that the deterrent of a regular, patrolling force was working) and in July 1800 moved the force from private to public control. The force flourished, and became well established in the East End. In 1811, it was a Marine Police Force Officer who was first on the scene of the dreadful Ratcliffe Highway Murders. Eventually in 1839, the control of the Marine Force (together with other independent law enforcement groups like the Bow Street Runners) passed to the newly formed Metropolitan Police Force.

Nowadays, the station is home to the Marine Police Unit who continue to patrol the Thames – but the building also houses the wonderful Thames River Police Museum. This is to be found in what used to be the old carpenters workshop, and gives a fascinating glimpse into the origins of the world’s oldest police force.

Visits can be made to the Museum, on a strictly appointment only basis, and the request must be made in writing. Tours are run by two retired members of the River Police who guide you around the various exhibits, and upon entering the museum visitors are confronted with a wide range of historical artefacts. Many models exist of the type of vessels that they’ve used in the past, together with old nautical uniforms, weapons, trophies and such like.

Wapping-Police-Museum-Exhibits

Wapping Police Museum Exhibits

One item that takes pride of place is the ensign of the ill-fated paddle steamer Princess Alice. This steamer, returning from an evening trip to Gravesend on 3rd September 1878 was struck by the coal carrier Bywell Castle and split in two. She sank within four minutes and over 650 people perished in the cold and polluted water of the Thames.

It was recommended at the enquiry into the Princess Alice disaster that the Thames Division should have steam launches to enable them to respond quicker to emergencies rather than the rowing boats that had been previously used…

 

 

 

 

Should you wish to visit the museum, please send your enquiries to:

Thames Police Museum
Wapping Police Station
Wapping High Street
Wapping, London, E1W 2NE

And enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope.

Barbara Windsor Header
The young blonde actress looked about her bemusedly. The cold damp field didn’t look very Hollywood to her – even the mud had been painted green to look like grass and she was starting to sink slowly into it.

Although it was a bitterly cold February morning, all her co-actors were wearing nothing but bikinis and swimsuits and were being addressed by the director, Gerald Thomas, on the set of ‘Carry on Camping’.

Barbara Windsor in Carry on Camping

Barbara Windsor in Carry on Camping

‘Right love, we’ll attach some fishing line and a hook to your bra, and Bert, the props man will pull it off’

So with only Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques (and essential film crew) in front of her, a 32 year old Barbara Windsor created one of the most memorable comedy vignettes to have appeared in British film history.

Born Barbara Ann Deeks in August 1937 – in the London Hospital, in Whitechapel Road to parents John and Rose Deeks, Barbara’s family had both East End and Irish connections. Barbara’s paternal great-grandmother had fled from the terrible Irish potato famine and had settled in the East End, eventually finding employment as one of the infamous match girls.

Barbara Windsor was an only child, and her mother made no bones of the fact that she had been hoping for a boy. When John Deeks left to fight in the war, Barbara was evacuated to Blackpool.

Barbara was taken in by Florence and Ernest North, and Florence soon spotted some potential in young Barbara, writing a letter to Rose Deeks asking to be allowed to send her to Norbreck Dancing School with her own daughter Mary.

Once there, Barbara took to singing and dancing like a duck to water, and upon returning to London, her mother paid for elocution lessons and enrolled her in the Aida Foster Acting School in Golders Green. She made her stage debut at 13 and aged just 15 made her West End debut in the chorus of the musical ‘Love from Judy’, a role she continued for two years.

In 1954, aged 17, Barbara Windsor made her film debut in ‘The Belles of St Trinians’, before continuing her stage career with Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in Stratford East, performing in ‘Fings Ain’t Wot They Use To Be’ and Littlewood’s film, ‘Sparrers Can’t Sing’.

It is probably for her career in the immensely successful ‘Carry On’ series of films that Barbara Windsor became a star. She recalls in her autobiography ‘All of Me – My Extraordinary Life‘ that she had an argument with co-star Kenneth Williams in her first film, where he accused her of fluffing her lines. In a scene which required him to wear a beard, she drew herself to her full four feet ten and a half inches and shouted out “Don’t you yell at me with Fenella Fielding’s minge hair stuck round your chops, I won’t stand for it”.

Kenneth Williams was said to have clapped his hands together and grinned, saying ‘Haaaah – isn’t she wonderful?’ They became lifelong friends.

Barbara Windsor went on to make nine Carry On films, although she is so memorable many people think she actually appeared in a lot more.

Barbara Windsor with Ronnie Knight and Reggie Kray

Barbara Windsor with Ronnie Knight and Reggie Kray

Barbara’s off stage life was complicated as that on screen, with a string of affairs, a total of five abortions (three before she was 21) and three marriages. She lost her virginity at 18 to a ‘flash Arab’. Her affair with her Carry On co-star Sid James has been well documented and she was also romantically linked to Bee Gee Maurice Gibb.

Her first marriage was to small time crook Ronnie Knight, and through him, she became associated with the Krays, initially going out with the twins older brother Charlie (who she described as looking ‘a bit like Steve McQueen’), before sleeping with Reggie Kray. She later married Stephen Hollings, an actor, in 1986 before their divorce in 1995, and is now married to former actor Scott Mitchell.

Barbara Windsor cemented her East End credentials when in 1994, she appeared as Peggy Mitchell in the long running BBC soap opera ‘Eastenders’, admitting when she joined the soap that she had been a ‘scared little lady’.

Barbara Windsor as Peggy Mitchell

Barbara Windsor as Peggy Mitchell

She continued to play a major part in the show, winning the British Soap Award for Best Actress honour in 1999 until a tearful farewell on the 10th September 2010 (although she did make a small comeback for one episode in 2013).

Her awards didn’t finish there however, as she was made an MBE in the 2000 New Years Honours List.

In 2012, Barbara Windsor became patron of the Amy Winehouse Foundation.

Brady Street Jewish Cemetery Title
If you had asked anyone in the East End where Brady Street Jewish Cemetery was in the late 1800s, they would have stared at you blankly. Unsurprising really, as the thoroughfare now known as Brady Street was then known as North Street, and some years before that, Ducking Pond Lane.

A short stroll away from bustling Whitechapel Tube Station, Brady Street is a nondescript aside off the Whitechapel Road, but behind a high brick wall on the western side of the road hides a quiet and calm cemetery – part of the strong Jewish influence that had come to dominate Spitalfields and the surrounding areas.

Yiddish signs were already an everyday sight in the Victorian East End – theatre posters and newspapers of the time carried the language and Jewish culture began to permeate the already ancient buildings. By the turn of the century, for example, there were 15 kosher butchers in Wentworth Street alone.

A number of smaller synagogues called ‘chevras’ had been built in the area and these provided welfare to the Jewish community as well as being a place of worship. It became obvious therefore, that the Jewish people in the area needed somewhere to bury their dead.

Old Map of Brady Street Cemetery

Map showing the ‘Jews Burial Ground’ in North Street

Brady Street Jewish Cemetery (It was marked as the much brasher ‘Jews Burial Ground’ in maps of the day) was originally leased by the New Synagogue at the end of May 1761 – The freehold transferring to them when they bought it in 1795.

When the cemetery became full in the 1790s, the decision was made to place a four foot layer of fresh earth over the central part of the site, creating a flat topped mound, called the ‘Strangers Ground’ which was used for subsequent burials. Because of the additional layer, the headstones are placed back to back to identify the ‘occupants’ of the graves.

Eventually, the site was given notice that burials should discontinue from the beginning of February 1856. The closure date was extended a number of times, but the cemetery eventually closed on 31st May 1858.

However, in 1980, the local council began proceeding to apply for a compulsory purchase order so the site could be redeveloped. As the law stands, any cemetery that has had no internments for 100 years can have its occupants removed and the land reclaimed for commercial use.

Victor Rothschild's Tomb

Victor Rothschild’s Tomb

In order to protect the cemetery from this fate, a one off internment took place in 1990; that of the third Baron, Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild, who was buried by his ancestor Nathan Mayer Rothschild – founder of the British branch of the Rothschild banking dynasty. As a result of this action, the site cannot be developed until at least 2090.

Access to the cemetery is limited, but you can still see into one corner by peering through the ivy covered wrought iron gateway near its entrance.

Wainwright-Header
The men and women of the East End were well used to bad smells. The noisome vapours of the tanneries (who frequently used dog turds in their preparation of the tanned hides) hung around Spitalfields like an invisible fog, but as summer turned into the autumn of 1875, people passing Henry Wainwright’s warehouse and packing depot at 215 Whitechapel Road wrinkled their noses at the appalling stench that emanated from his premises. What was that god-awful smell? Appalled Londoners were soon to find out…

37 year old Henry Wainwright appeared to be a highly respectable, hard-working businessman who had inherited his family’s brush-making business at 84 Whitechapel Road, in the East End of London.

Henry Wainwright

Henry Wainwright

As well as being a successful manufacturer and warehouse owner, Henry was a temperance lecturer, living with his wife and four children in a comfortable house in Tredegar Square. But Henry Wainwright was not all he appeared to be on the surface. Despite his apparent comfortable home life, Henry had a more complicated side.

Henry Wainwright had met a young, attractive 20-year-old milliner’s apprentice called Harriet Lane in 1871. Totally infatuated, he set up a home for her as his mistress in a property at 70 St Peter Street, Mile End, where Harriet took to calling herself ‘Mrs Percy King’. Over the course of the next two years, the love-struck pair had a couple of children. However, the financial cost of trying to run the two homes was playing havoc with Henry’s financial situation.

He tried moving Harriet and the two children to cheaper accommodation in Sidney Square, but this did little to alleviate the problem, and Henry Wainwright found himself moving ever closer to bankruptcy. By 1874 his business was starting to founder, and his debts were mounting.

To compound the problem, Harriet liked to drink, becoming loud and demanding when she had had a few too many. She was continually demanding additional money from Henry to help support his two illegitimate children, and eventually she began to threaten to expose their affair to his wife if he did not increase payments.

Harriet Lane

Harriet Lane

In desperation, Henry began to hatch a plan and turned to his brother, Thomas, for assistance. Without divulging his eventual intentions he asked Thomas to pretend to woo Harriet through a series of written letters, which Thomas duly did, using the pseudonym Edward Frieake.

At 4pm on Friday 11th September 1874, an excited Harriet arranged for a couple of friends to look after her children and she left the property in Sidney Square. Wearing a grey dress (with new shiny black buttons she had sewn on that morning), a black bonnet, and a black cape trimmed with lace and velvet, she carried a new umbrella and had her night clothes wrapped in a neat parcel. From then on, all communication with her friends ceased, and she appeared to vanish into thin air.

Later that day, a small group of men working outside Henry Wainwright’s warehouse at 215 Whitechapel Road heard what they thought to be three gunshots. A cursory examination of the immediate area failed to discover the cause, and they continued with their work…

When the friends expressed concern over Harriet’s disappearance, Henry Wainwright stated that he had given Harriet 15 Shillings and informed them that to the best of his knowledge, she had travelled to Brighton. Shortly afterwards, the friends received a letter from ‘Edward Frieake’ explaining that he had asked the young Harriet to marry him and they were going to Paris to live together…

Twelve months passed, but despite Harriet’s disappearance, Henry Wainwright’s financial situation continued to cause him problems. Finally, he made the fateful decision to sell the warehouse at 215 Whitechapel Road, where passers-by had started to notice the obnoxious odours.

On September 11th 1875, Wainwright went to the warehouse and used a spade to loosen the earth on a shallow grave that had been dug just below the floorboards. He had used lime chloride in an attempt to cover the foul stench of the rotting human remains he had buried there almost exactly one year ago. Using a small hatchet, he proceeded to dismember the decomposing body and wrapped the pieces into two heavy parcels, covered in black American cloth and tied with rope.

Henry Wainwright Newspaper Clipping

A Newspaper Clipping detailing the Henry Wainwright Murder

Wainwright then enlisted the help of an unsuspecting employee, Alfred Stokes, who he asked to help him move the two parcels. Stokes agreed, but was unable to contain his disgust at the two heavy, foul smelling packages Wainwright produced. Stokes was told to wait with the parcels while Wainwright went for a cab. While he was away Stokes stole a peek inside the largest parcel. As he opened it, the first thing he saw was a human head, and then a hand which had been cut off at the wrist. Appalled, he quickly repacked the parcel and waited until Wainwright returned.

Wainwright put the two parcels into the cab, instructed Stokes that he would see him later that evening, and departed. Stokes pursued the cab on foot until he saw two police constables by Leadenhall Street—He drew their attention to the cab, begging them to stop it, but they laughed at him and said, “Man, you must be mad”.

Stokes continued to run after the cab as it turned over London Bridge, eventually stopping outside the Hen & Chickens. He alerted two other police constables; PCs Turner and Cox, No. 48 and No. 290 and said “For God’s sake run after the man with the high hat with the parcels in his hand, there is something wrong.” This time, the two constables took Stokes’ protestations at face value, and as he left the cab, they accosted Wainwright.

As PC Turner reached for one of the packages Henry Wainwright said “Don’t open it, policeman, pray don’t look at it, whatever you do don’t touch it”. The policeman pulled the cloth package open and discovered that it contained part of the remains of a human body. As Cox went to get the cab, Wainwright attempted to bribe the police constable saying, “I will give you 100 shillings, I will give you 200 shillings and produce the money in twenty minutes if you will let me go“.

Henry Wainwright was subsequently charged with murder, and the police also tracked down and arrested his brother, Thomas. A search of the warehouse at 214 Whitechapel Road revealed the site of the shallow grave and patches of what appeared to be old blood.

In his testimony to the police, Alfred Stokes suggested that the body in the parcels was that of the missing Harriet Lane. Harriet’s family identified the body, although the features were largely unrecognizable. Shiny black buttons on the clothing matched those sewn on by Harriet the day she had left Sidney Square and some jewellery found in the warehouse grave was thought to have belonged to her. The victim had been shot in the head with a small calibre pistol, and the throat cut afterwards. Henry Wainwright was known to possess a gun of a type consistent with the murder weapon.

At his trial at the Old Bailey in November 1875, Henry Wainwright claimed that he had no idea what the parcels contained. His flimsy defence was that he had been asked by a mystery man to take the parcels from the warehouse for a sum of money. The jury deliberated, found Wainwright guilty and he was duly hanged on 21st December, 1875, at Newgate Gaol. His brother, Thomas Wainwright, was sentenced to seven years penal servitude as an accessory after the fact.

The discovery of Harriet Lane's Body

The discovery of Harriet Lane’s dismembered Body

Ratcliffe-Highway Murder
Ratcliffe Highway no longer exists as it did in the early part of the 19th Century East End. It derived its name from the red sandstone cliffs which descended from the high ground, where the road was situated, down to the marshes at Wapping in the south.  Nowadays it is simply called ‘The Highway’ but then it was one of the main routes leaving London and was the site of two horrendous murder scenes that claimed a total of seven victims.

A little before midnight on the 7 December 1811, Timothy Marr, a Drapers shop owner, sent his maid Margaret Jewell out for some oysters (regarded as a much more modest meal than by today’s standards) and to run a small errand to pay a bakers bill.

He remained in the shop with his wife Celia, their 3 month old son and his young apprentice called James Gowan.

Margaret returned empty handed having failed in both her errands and found the front door locked and the house in semi-darkness. Hearing footsteps on the pavement behind her, she hammered the door knocker violently and in doing so, gained the attention of a George Olney, a local night watchman, who came out to find the source of the commotion.

Olney too, tried the door, but to no avail. His knocking roused the neighbour, a Pawnbroker called John Murray, who climbed over the adjoining wall at the rear of the building. The back door lay ajar and a weak light shone from inside the premises. Murray tentatively let himself in and entered the shop. The sight that met his eyes would stay with him forever…

He later recounted that “the carnage of the night was stretched out on the floor and the narrow premises so floated with gore that it was hardly possible to escape the pollution of blood in picking out a path to the front door”.

Ratcliffe_Murder_map

The Ratcliffe Highway Murder Location

He first discovered James Gowan, the young apprentice, who was lying on the floor about five or six feet from the stairs, just inside the shop door. The young boy’s skull was completely smashed, his blood was dripping through the floorboards, and his brains had appeared to have been pulverised and thrown about the walls and across the counters of the shop.

Appalled, Murray rushed to the front door to let the night watchman in, but in doing so he came across another dead body, that of Celia Marr. She was lying face down on the floor, and she too, had suffered massive head trauma, and was still bleeding profusely. Murray quickly let in Olney and the pair began searching for Marr. They found the shop owner behind the counter, battered to death. Murray and Olney then rushed to the bedroom of the infant Timothy. Both men recoiled in horror as they found the baby dead in his cot. The entire side of his face had been crushed and his throat had been slit so severely that his head was nearly severed from his body.

The first Police Officer on the scene was from the Marine Police Force (the Metropolitan Police had yet to be created) and he was baffled by what he saw as a lack of motive. Nothing in the shop appeared to have been stolen, there was still a quantity of money in the till and a large amount of cash stored in a bedroom chest of drawers was untouched.

Looking for a murder weapon, Horton found a chisel and a long handled shipwright’s hammer, commonly called a maul, covered in blood, and with human hair sticking to it…

Twelve days later on the 19th December at a Tavern called the King’s Arms in New Gravel Lane, a short distance from the original murder site, a crowd of people were startled by the cries of ‘Murder – they are murdering the people in the house’ and the sight of a near naked man climbing down from the first floor windows using knotted bedsheets. The man, John Turner, was a lodger and as he reached the ground he was shaking and crying uncontrollably.
John Turners Escape

The crowd soon forced open the doors to the tavern to find the owner and publican, John Williamson, his wife Elizabeth and their maid Bridget Harrington. All three had been murdered violently. As before all showed evidence of massive blows to the head, fracturing their skulls and once again all three had had their throats cut, with Elizabeth Williamson’s neck being severed down to the bone.

A ramshackle force of constables from various parishes and a group of Bow Street Runners was quickly convened, and it soon began a series of arrests. In fact, following rewards being offered both by government and various public bodies, over 40 false arrests were made before a leading suspect came to the attention of the officials. A seaman called John Williams who had lodged at a public house called the Pear Tree, just off The Highway in Wapping, was noted by his roommate to have returned after midnight on the nights of both sets of murders. The roommate claimed Williams had a long standing grievance against the first victim Mr Marr from when they were both shipmates.

Post Mortem sketch of John Williams

Despite the scarcity of anything but purely circumstantial evidence against Williams, he was duly arrested and held to appear in front of Shadwell Magistrates. He never came to trial. On the 28th December, John Williams used his own scarf to hang himself from a bar in his cell. However, this was not about to stop the judicial process in its tracks, and the hearing continued, with the court finally deciding that Williams had indeed been guilty of the horrendous crimes. His suicide merely served to convince the court of his guilt, and he was duly convicted as the sole perpetrator of the murder of the seven victims.

However, the case has a more unusual footnote. Although Williams was now dead a group of citizens took the law into their own hands ‘to ensure that his corpse could not rise to repeat his crimes’. As a result, Williams’ body was taken by open cart and paraded past the scenes of the crimes. The group finally halted at the crossroads formed between Cannon Street and St Georges Turnpike, where a small grave had been dug. The body was then bundled into the open grave – and a stake driven through John Williams’ heart. Quicklime was added, the pit was then covered over, and the burial concluded.

NB – The eagle eyed amongst you may recognise this murder as forming the basis of a story in the TV Series – Whitechapel

Israel Lipski

Israel-Lipski-Header
Shortly before lunch on Tuesday 28th June, 1887, the Whitechapel Police burst through the door of 16 Batty Street, having been alerted by other tenants that the occupier, a young woman called Miriam Angel had not been seen that morning. Upon entering the room, the police found the woman lying naked, dead on her bed with evidence of Nitric Acid burns around her mouth, and over her hands and breasts. She was found to be six months pregnant at the time.

Lying partly hidden under her bed was the unconscious body of Israel Lipski, a Polish Jew who lived in the same house. Given a sharp slap to the face, he awoke, and was duly arrested by the Police for the murder of the victim.

Israel Lipski (1865 – August 21, 1887) was born Israel Lobulsk, and had lived in the East End of London for some time.  Described as a mild-looking, open-faced young fellow of just 22, Lipski worked as an umbrella stick salesman who employed two other Jews, Harry Schmuss and Henry Rosenbloom. After being dragged from beneath the bed, it was discovered that Lipski too, had some acid burns inside his own mouth, and Lipski protested his innocence claiming the crime had been committed by Schmuss and Rosenbloom. Nevertheless, the Police placed him under arrest while he lay in the London Hospital, Whitechapel Road.
Israel Lipski under the bed

Lipski was tried and sentenced to death, but the trial was dogged with controversy, with claims of anti-Semitism levelled at the Judge and Jury. The then Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, showed apathy towards Lipski’s plight and he was duly hanged at Newgate Prison Yard on the morning of August 21st 1887.

So, was Lipski innocent? Reproduced below is an account of the trial taken from the Southland Times in October 1887 and the reader can decide for themselves.

“The prisoner and his victim (a young married woman named Miriam Angel) lived in the same house in Batty Street, Whitechapel, Lipski occupying a top back room, where he carried on the trade of a manufacturer of walking sticks, having a man and a boy as his assistants. On the morning of the 28th of June the husband of Miriam Angel rose at six, and went to work, leaving his wife in bed. At seven o’clock Lipski let into the house the boy who worked for him, and then went out himself to make some purchases. Among these was an ounce of nitric acid or aqua Fortis, which he procured from an oilman in Backchurch Lane. About nine o’clock Lipski asked his landlady to fetch him some coffee, it was duly brought but Lipski was not in his room, and on the landlady calling upstairs to him the boy replied that his master was not there. The theory of the prosecution was that just about this time Lipski had entered the room where Miriam Angel was in bed.

About eleven in the forenoon the people of the house began to be uneasy about Mrs Angel, who usually came down between eight and nine. Soon afterwards the handle of the door was tried, and it was found to be locked on the inside. The door was burst open, and the woman was found lying dead on the bed.  A medical man, who was at once sent for, deposed that when he was called Miriam Angel had been dead about three hours. There was no rigor mortis. She was without clothes, and her hair was dishevelled; there were stains of nitric acid on her mouth, her face, her breasts, and her hands, which were covered by the burning fluid. The right eye was discoloured, and over the right temple was a patch of extravasated blood, where the muscle had been reduced to a pulp by the infliction of (the doctor held) at fewest four violent blows. Stepping over the corpse and looking down between the bed and the wall, in search of the bottle of poison which he naturally thought must be somewhere about, the medical man espied Israel Lipski lying in his shirt sleeves on his back, partially under the bed. He was unconscious, but on the doctor hitting him a smart slap on the face he opened his eyes wide. The police took him towards a window, and it was then seen that his lips were stained with nitric acid. He was asked in English and German what he had taken, but he made no reply. He was removed to the hospital, but, as from the first he had been the object of suspicion, the police never left him until he was formally charged with the murder, and a constable in plain clothes sat by his bedside day and night until he was convalescent.
Israel Lipski

Meanwhile a post-mortem examination of the remains of Miriam Angel had been made. It was found that the back of the throat was charred, and that a considerable quantity of nitric acid had gone down through the larynx and the trachea into the stomach, indicating that it had been poured down the throat while the victim was in a state of insensibility. But how, it may be asked, did she become insensible? The doctor was of opinion that the four blows on the temple had been fully sufficient to stun the deceased young woman, and that it was not until she was stunned that the poison had been administered to her. It was estimated that half an ounce of aqua Fortis had been given to her and that the immediate cause of death was suffocation by the acid going down the windpipe and closing the air passage. As regard Lipski, the medical evidence was to the effect that he had taken scarcely enough aqua Fortis to produce unconsciousness, but that the state of syncope was the result of mental perturbation.

In fine, the hypothesis of the prosecution amounted to this: that there was a small window commanding a view of Mrs Angel’s room; that the murderer, whoever he was, had seen Mrs Angel in bed from that window; that he came downstairs and entered her room for an immoral purpose; that, foiled in his design, he dealt his victim the blows which had produced insensibility, and that he then poisoned her, and ultimately, frenzied by horror, remorse and shame, endeavoured to commit suicide himself. The bottle which had contained the nitric acid was found; but it is not known whether the key was in the door, which was found to be locked inside. If the key was there, there can be no possible doubt as to Israel Lipski having been the murderer of Miriam Angel. The assistant to the oilman in Backchurch Lane swore that, to the best of his belief, the man who on the morning of the 28th June purchased from him a pennyworth of aqua Fortis was Israel Lipski, who explained that he wanted the stuff for the purpose of staining canes, and that the oilman’s assistant warned him that the acid was poisonous.

This explanation was as feasible as it would have been had Lipski said at the oil shop that he was a copperplate engraver, and that he required the aqua Fortis to bite in a plate withal. But what did he want in Miriam Angel’s bedroom in his shirt sleeves and with a bottle of aqua Fortis upon him; and, if the key were in the lock of the door which was found to be fastened on the inside, who on earth except Israel Lipski could possibly have committed the murder? Stains of nitric acid were found on his coat, and, singularly enough, there were acid marks on the clothes of Miriam Angel’s husband; but these marks, it was suggested, might have been caused by their having come in contact with the coat referred to. How did they come in contact? One of the most damaging features of the evidence against Lipski is the falsehood he told about having had a sovereign in his pocket on the morning of the murder, when it was conclusively proved that when arrested he only had a few shillings from his landlady. Next in importance in the array of facts marshalled against Lipski, was his own extravagant and incredible version of the affair. It was Inspector Final, of the Metropolitan Police, who was on duty at the Leman Street Station when Lipski was brought in on the morning of the murder partially insensible, and it was this official who found in his pocket only three shillings in silver and a pawn-ticket. The Inspector visited Lipski at the hospital, where the prisoner made, through an interpreter, the statement that at seven in the morning of the 20th a man who had worked for him came to him and asked for employment, and that he told this person to wait until he had bought a vice for use at his labour. He added that the tool-shop where he meant to buy the vice was still closed; that as he was going along he met another German workman, whom he knew, at the corner of Backchurch Lane; he then returned to the tool shop, which by this time was open, but he could not agree with the shopkeeper as to the price of the vice, and came away without it.
Israel-Lipski-Penny-Illustrated

On his way home he again met the man whom he had seen at the top of Backchurch Lane, and who also asked him for work. Lipski told this man that he was going to have his breakfast, but bade him come along a little later on to the workshop, when he promised to engage him. He returned to Batty Street and asked the landlady to make him some coffee, and while it was being made he despatched the first man who had called on him at seven for some brandy.

Down to this point Lipski’s statement is plain sailing enough, but now comes the extraordinary and incredible portion of the narrative. He stated that, coming upstairs to the first floor, the man who had been sent for the brandy, and the man from Backchurch Lane, were opening a box in Mrs Angel’s bedroom; that they seized him by the neck, threw him to the ground, forced open his mouth, poured poison down his throat, saying mockingly “There is your brandy.” Then they asked him whether he had any money, and he replied that he had nothing but the sovereign which he had given the first man to buy brandy with. “Where,” they proceeded to ask him, “was his gold watch?” He replied that it was in pawn, and indeed a pawn ticket for a watch was found in his coat pocket. They threatened him that if he did not give them the watch he would soon be as dead as the woman on the bed, meaning Miriam Angel, and according to his showing they crammed a piece of wood between his teeth to serve as a gag, knelt on his chest, and at last threw him under the bed, where he lay unconscious. It is but fair to the wretched man now in the condemned cell at Newgate to mention that Mr Calvert, the honorary physician at the London Hospital, found on examining Lipski that there was an abrasion in the inside of his mouth, indicating that some foreign substance had been thrust in; but Dr Redmayne, who had used the stomach pump on Lipski, said that the abrasion might have been caused by the instrument in question. Did he struggle while the stomach pump was being used? All that the defence could urge was that, although Miriam Angel had undeniably been killed by nitric acid, there was not sufficient evidence to show that Lipski was the man who bought the pennyworth of corrosive fluid on the morning of the murder, and there was an entire absence of motive so far as Lipski was concerned for the commission of so horrible a crime.

The jury, however, took the view shadowed forth in his summing up by Mr Justice Stephen; that the murderer of Miriam Angel entered her room under the influence of unlawful passion; that, baulked in his design, his passion turned to homicidal fury; and that in a reaction of shame and terror he had taken a dose of the same poison that he had given to his victim. If this theory was probable, continued the learned judge, the murder was much more likely to have been the work of one man than of two. So the jury thought; and they found that the one man was Israel Lipski, and that he was guilty of the cruel murder of Miriam Angel.”

Strange to say Lipski’s counsel was convinced that the condemned man was innocent and exerted himself to obtain evidence to prove him so. So urgent was he that the Home Secretary respited Lipski for a week in order to give his solicitor time to bring proof. Lipski, however, confessed that he did the deed before the week was out and was therefore executed. It was supposed that he must have surprised his victim asleep as she was a young woman of robust physique and more than a match for the puny wretch in a fair struggle.

The Battle of Cable Street
THE BATTLE OF CABLE STREET

In late autumn 1936, an event took place in Cable Street, a nondescript road leading from Leman Street in the East End of London. As the rest of the world braced itself for the outbreak of the Second World War, the Battle of Cable Street in this part of the East End saw scenes of running battles and barricades erected to prevent a march through the area by the British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosley.
Oswald Mosley

Sir Oswald Mosley, the 6th Baronet of Ancoats, was born on the 16th November 1896. He became Member of Parliament for Harrow from 1918 until 1924 and for Smethwick from 1926 to 1931. In 1932, following a disagreement with the then Labour Government’s unemployment policies, he resigned his position and formed the New Party which in turn merged with the British Union of Fascists.

Mosley spent a large part of his private fortune on the British Union of Fascists and tried, through close associations with Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler to set up a British speaking commercial radio station to broadcast propaganda from Germany.

Mosley had instituted a body of black uniformed paramilitary followers – nicknamed The Blackshirts. This corps of individuals served to oversee the BUF party meetings, and they were frequently involved in violent confrontations, particularly with Jewish and other immigrant groups.

The Battle of Cable Street took place on Sunday 4 October 1936, when Mosley led a march into this area of London, which had a high immigrant population. It led to a clash between the Metropolitan Police, who were overseeing the march, and anti-fascists, including local Jewish, socialist, anarchist, Irish and communist groups. The majority of both marchers and counter-protesters had travelled into the area for the purpose of causing as much disruption as possible.

Despite being aware that there was the strong likelihood for violence to break out, the government decided not to ban the march and sent in 6000 Police Officers in an attempt to prevent any disruption of the gathering. However, they were met by around 100,000 anti-fascist protesters.
Police at The Battle of Cable Street

The anti-fascist groups built roadblocks and barricades near the junction with Christian Street in an attempt to prevent the march from taking place. The demonstrators fought with improvised weapons such as sticks, rocks, and even chair legs, and the women in the houses along the street contributed to the riot by throwing rubbish, rotten vegetables and the contents of chamber pots at the police. After a series of running battles, Sir Philip Game, the Police Commissioner disallowed the march from going ahead and both Mosley and the BUF abandoned it to prevent further bloodshed.

The Battle of Cable Street Wall Plaque
Many demonstrators were arrested and while most were charged with the minor offence of obstructing police and fined £5, several of the ringleaders were found guilty of affray and sentenced to 3 months hard labour. The Battle of Cable Street was a major factor leading to the passage of the Public Order Act 1936, which required police consent for political marches and forbade the wearing of political uniforms in public.

From Hell
From Hell

There have been numerous films based, albeit loosely, on the ‘career’ of the East End’s most infamous son, Jack the Ripper.  Given the scope for speculation, it is perhaps surprising that there have not been more – but, for dramatic effect, most are inaccurate in their historical portrayal of facts. There is of course nothing wrong with this, as long as the viewer remembers that they are merely dramatic pieces – it’s the difference between reading a novel or an encyclopaedia.

The 2002 film ‘From Hell’ is one such story. Starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham, this film has a graphic novel feels to it – unsurprising as that is how the story started out. So firstly, why ‘From Hell’? In one of the letters written by the ‘real’ Jack the Ripper, this was the return address he used on the correspondence.

Set in 1888 in the East End of London, the film starts by highlighting the plight of the unfortunate poor who spend their appalling lives in the city’s deadliest slum, Whitechapel.

Street Gangs force prostitutes to walk the streets for a living, and Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) and her small clutch of companions lives their miserable existence, consoling themselves with the fact that things can’t get any worse. However, when their friend Annie is kidnapped the women are drawn into a conspiracy with connections far higher up the social ladder than any of them could possibly imagine.

Annie’s kidnapping is rapidly followed by the gruesome murder of another of their group, Polly, and it becomes apparent that the women are being hunted down, one at a time. Even by the standards in Whitechapel at the time, this murder attracts the attention of Inspector Fred Abberline (played by Johnny Depp with a half decent cockney accent), a talented yet troubled man whose police work is often aided by his ‘psychic’ abilities, an ability he attempts to enhance by frequent visit to the numerous Opium Dens prevalent in the area at the time. Abberline is portrayed as an opium addict and when “chasing the dragon” he is able to have visions of the future, a certain psychic ability that allows him to solve cases.
From-Hell-Cover

Being Hollywood, Abberline becomes deeply involved with the case, which becomes personal when he and the attractive Mary begin to fall in love. However, as Abberline gets closer to the truth, the Whitechapel area is becoming more and more dangerous for his love interest, Mary, and the other girls. Whichever individual is responsible for the gruesome acts of murder and evisceration is not going to give up his secret without a fight….

The film is entertaining enough, but sharped eyed members of the audience will spot a number of errors that seem to have been overlooked for ‘poetic license’ purposes.

We are shown a shot of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. However, it only gained its “Royal” status in 1990 – for the rest of its previous 250 years history, from when it was constructed on its present site in 1757, it was simply called ‘The London Hospital’.

A short while after the second murder, Inspector Abberline refers to “Jack the Ripper”. However, the murderer was not to become known by that name until the double event murder and receipt of the “Dear Boss” letter, which took place 4 weeks later.

Like most film and Television versions of the Ripper murders, From Hell shows the Ripper’s victims as being considerably younger and more attractive than in real life. Sadly, the vast majority of the prostitutes in the East End were gin soaked and riddled with disease, which quickly robbed them of their looks. Hollywood lets us down again….

The Rag Trade
The area of the East End known as Spitalfields has been home to clothing manufacturing businesses (often referred to as ‘The Rag Trade’) for over 250 years.  Started primarily by the Huguenots, religious refugees from Eighteenth century France, the Rag Trade has dominated the area ever since.

Spitalfields represented the most concentrated Huguenot settlement in England and it was said that you were as likely to hear French being spoken in the streets of the East End as the mother tongue of English. In fact, the amount of Huguenot migration from France was so great (estimated at almost twenty five thousand individuals – a huge amount given the population at the time) that it is believed that amongst the current population in the South East of England, more than 90% may have Huguenot ancestors.
Huguenot Wever in the East End

The Huguenots were talented weavers who became very successful and their businesses soon boomed. They invested the money they made to construct the tall, impressive town houses that line the streets of the Brick Lane area (for a chance to glimpse into their world, see the article on Dennis Severs House on this website). With their long windows to let in the maximum amount of light, a factor essential for a weaver, together with their high ceilings, these properties are now highly sought after.

By the nineteenth century the weavers had long gone (primarily due to the joint factors of employment restrictions and mechanisation) and the properties had started to fall into disrepair. The once grand Huguenot homes were then turned into lodging houses where London’s poorest and most desperate could spend the night for a penny. Those who could not even afford the cost of a bed would end up sleeping whilst sitting upright on a bench, their tired and weary bodies held in place by a rope.

The properties became filthy, flea-ridden doss houses where petty crime was rife. Home to gin soaked Whitechapel prostitutes, these sorry individuals would have slept in these common lodging houses whilst Jack the Ripper committed his horrendous murders in the streets outside.

As the French weavers moved out another group of settlers began to move in. Following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, the persecution of Jews in Russia became even fiercer, and a wave of pogroms swept across Russia and neighbouring countries. Many Jewish families fled Eastern Europe between 1881 and 1914, prompted by economic hardship and increasingly ferocious persecution and moved to the East End for a fresh start.

A large numberJewish Tailors in the East End of Jews who landed in England were actually intending to make their way to America, but about 120,000 stayed in this country. Attracted by the East End’s reputation as a place for cheap living, (and by the fact that it had been home to a Jewish population in previous decades), large numbers of Jews settled in Spitalfields, often finding work in the ‘rag trade’. Indeed, by the end of the Nineteenth century, Jews represented about 95 per cent of the population in the Wentworth Street district of Spitalfields and had also settled around Whitechapel, Aldgate and Mile End.

Eventually, the Jewish community moved further out to the suburbs, such as Golders Green and Hendon, and in their wake, the clothing trade was taken over by another ethnic group, that of Bengali Muslims, who remain to this day. Indeed a visit to Brick Lane nowadays finds the senses assaulted with the sights, sounds and smells of the Indian sub-continent.

Sidney-Street-Seige
Just over one hundred years ago, deep in the East End, a pitched gun battle took place in Sidney Street, a thoroughfare just off the Whitechapel Road. The Siege of Sidney Street, which was often called the “Battle of Stepney”, was a notorious gunfight that broke out on 3 January 1911.

It is believed that the protagonists had been responsible for the Houndsditch Murders where, on 16 December 1910, a gang attempted to break into the rear of a jeweller’s shop at 119 Houndsditch.

An adjacent shopkeeper heard the gang hammering to get through the wall, informed the City of London Police (in whose area the shop was), and nine unarmed officers — three sergeants and six constables (two in plain clothes) arrived on the scene. Two officers were hit, and one, Bentley, collapsed across the doorstep. Another officer, Bryant, managed to stagger outside. In the street, Constable Woodhams ran to help Bentley, but was himself wounded by one of the gang firing from the cover of the house, as was Sergeant Tucker, who died almost instantly. The gang then made their escape via the cul-de-sac at the rear of the building.
Sidney Street under Seige

A few weeks later, on 2 January 1911, an informant told police that two or three members of the gang – possibly including the gang’s leader, Peter Piatkow also known as ‘Peter the Painter’ – were hiding at 100 Sidney Street, Stepney. Concerned that their suspects were about to flee, 200 police officers cordoned off the area and the siege began.

At dawn, on the 3rd January, the battle commenced. Although the gang were heavily outnumbered, they possessed superior weapons and a great deal of ammunition. Word was sent to the Tower of London asking for backup, and news of the siege reached the then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, who arrived on the spot to observe the incident at first hand.

Churchill gave authorisation for the calling in of a detachment of Scots Guards to assist the police. Six hours into the battle, a cannon that Churchill had authorised turned up at Sidney Street, when it was noticed that a fire was beginning to consume the building. The fire brigade arrived promptly, but Churchill refused to give them any access to the building.

The police stood waiting, with their guns at the ready, expecting at any moment that the men inside would attempt their escape. However, the door to the building remained closed. Instead, the remains of two members of the gang, Fritz Svaars and William Sokolow (both were also known by numerous aliases), were later discovered inside the building. No sign of Peter the Painter was found. Besides the three policemen, a London fire-fighter also died of his injuries.