|A Ripper Notes Article
|This article originally appeared in Ripper Notes. Ripper Notes is the only American Ripper periodical available on the market, and has quickly grown into one of the more substantial offerings in the genre. For more information, view our Ripper Notes page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripper Notes for permission to reprint this article.
Andrew J. Spallek lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a frequent visitor to London and has studied the Whitechapel murders for more than 15 years.
Jack the Ripper's last victim was buried well over one hundred years ago. We cannot talk to her. We cannot express our sympathy to her. Is there a way we can at least honor her memory, her very identity, as well as that of Jack's other known victims? The closest we can come to the victims today is to visit their burial sites. Fortunately, even with the passage of more than a century, four of the "canonical five" victims have graves that are accessible to the public and clearly marked. They are buried in three different London cemeteries. Locating these grave sites takes a bit of hunting and some good directions, but they can be found.
A few years ago when I began my quest for the graves of the canonical victims I discovered, much to my surprise, that this is a bit of a controversial topic. Some people, for reasons that mystify me, are appalled at the notion that someone should be interested in visiting the graves and photographing them. Perhaps it seems macabre. Perhaps some misconstrue it as disrespect. Maybe it just seems pointless to some. If you are one of these individuals, stop reading this article now. If, however, you share with me an interest in honoring these victims and paying tribute to their memories by visiting their graves, then by all means read on!
In this article we will visit the grave sites of four of the five canonical victims, giving directions to the interested reader for finding each of them. All of these cemeteries are in safe areas of London. None are in the immediate Whitechapel area.
Four of the burial sites of Jack the Ripper's five canonical victims are presently marked and accessible to the public. These victims are Mary Ann Nichols (City of London Cemetery at Manor Park), Elizabeth Stride (East London Cemetery), Catherine Eddowes (City of London Cemetery at Manor Park) and Mary Jane Kelly (St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Leytonstone). Annie Chapman was buried in Manor Park Cemetery, nearby but not to be confused with the City of London Cemetery at Manor Park. The site of her common grave has been lost due to its multiple re-use over the years. Photographs of these grave sites can be found on the Casebook: Jack the Ripper web site.1
Searching for the Graves
I began my personal search for the victims' graves in 2003. Not knowing how receptive the management of these cemeteries would be to such inquiries, I resolved to find the graves on my own, without asking for help. I have now been told that the folks at these cemeteries are usually most helpful. But if you are like me, the hunt for these forgotten "unfortunates" is part of the experience.
I began with the information given in the article then available at the Casebook web site. It wasn't a lot to go on. On my first try in the Spring of 2003 I failed to find Stride's grave at East London and failed to find either grave at the City of London Cemetery, spending the better part of my final day in London searching. I arrived at East London Cemetery in the morning and made a systematic search but failed to find any graves from the Ripper's era. I journeyed onward to Manor Park and spent the afternoon searching that vast City of London burial ground. I had a general idea of the location of the two graves, but again I struck out.
I resolved that on my next trip to London I would find at least one of the graves. Armed with a better understanding of where to look, I did locate and photograph the graves of Nichols and Eddowes in the Summer of 2003. But since that London trip was for business rather than for pleasure, I ran out of time. Kelly and Stride would have to wait for yet another trip. By the Spring of 2004 I had saved enough money to take my whole family to London. On the last day of that trip, after suffering yet again through the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and enjoying fish and chips at Covent Garden, I talked my wife and two children into going to find the remaining graves. Again armed with a better understanding of their location, we located the graves of Mary Kelly and Elizabeth Stride.
City of London Cemetery at Manor Park: Mary Ann Nichols & Catherine Eddowes
Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols was buried in a common grave at the City of London Cemetery at Manor Park on September 6, 1888, almost one week after she was murdered by Jack the Ripper on August 31.
Even though this is now generally considered by many to be the first murder in the series, at the time it was considered the third (with Emma Elizabeth Smith and Martha Tabram being publicized as the first victims). Much public attention had been drawn to the brutality of this murder, and the funeral procession attracted large crowds. The exact time of the hearse's arrival at the mortuary was kept strictly secret, and a rouse was carried out in order to be sure of getting her body out of the mortuary without undue interference from the crowd. The crowd pressed closer in order to take in the scene, but people were prevented from getting too close by a police guard under the direction of Inspector Allisdon of H Division. The cortege then wound its way north to Manor Park as onlookers expressed their sympathy. The mourners were Polly's father, Edward Walker, his grandson (presumably Polly's nephew), and two of Polly's children.2
Catherine Eddowes was murdered by Jack the Ripper on September 30, 1888, the second of two murders early that morning attributed to Jack. She was buried in an unmarked grave at the City of London Cemetery at Manor Park on October 8. By now the attempts at secrecy would have proved futile. The public turned out in droves for the procession, and members of the press were even included in the procession itself. The Daily Telegraph of October 9 gives this comprehensive and touching account:
The funeral of the victim of the Mitre-square tragedy took place yesterday afternoon. In the vicinity of the City mortuary in Golden-lane quite a multitude of persons assembled to witness the departure of the cortége for the Ilford cemetery. Not only was the thoroughfare itself thronged with people, but the windows and roofs of adjoining buildings were occupied by groups of spectators. The procession left the mortuary shortly after half-past one o'clock. It consisted of a hearse of improved description, a mourning coach, containing relatives and friends of the deceased, and a brougham conveying representatives of the press. The coffin was of polished elm, with oak mouldings, and bore a plate with the inscription, in gold letters, "Catherine Eddowes, died Sept. 30, 1888, aged 43 years." One of the sisters of the deceased laid a beautiful wreath on the coffin as it was placed in the hearse, and at the graveside a wreath of marguerites was added by a sympathetic kinswoman. The mourners were the four sisters of the murdered woman, Harriet Jones, Emma Eddowes, Eliza Gold, and Elizabeth Fisher, her two nieces Emma and Harriet Jones, and John Kelly, the man with whom she had lived. As the funeral procession passed through Golden-lane and Old-street the thousands of persons who followed it nearly into Whitechapel rendered locomotion extremely difficult. Order was, however, admirably maintained by a body of police under Superintendent Foster and Inspector Woollett of the City force, and beyond the boundaries of the City by a further contingent under Superintendent Hunt and Inspector Burnham of the G Division. The route taken after leaving Old-street was by way of Great Eastern-street, Commercial-street, Whitechapel-road, Mile-end-road, through Stratford to the City cemetery at Ilford. A large crowd had collected opposite the parish church of St. Mary.s, Whitechapel, to see the procession pass, and at the cemetery it was awaited by several hundreds, most of whom had apparently made their way thither from the East-end. Men and women of all ages, many of the latter carrying infants in their arms, gathered round the grave. The remains were interred in the Church of England portion of the cemetery, the service being conducted by the chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Dunscombe. Mr.G.C. Hawkes, a vestryman of St. Luke's, undertook the responsibility of carrying out the funeral at his own expense, and the City authorities, to whom the burial ground belongs, remitted the usual fees.
The cemetery in which these victims lie is known by various names (e.g. City of London Cemetery, Ilford Cemetery). It is quite easy to access using public transportation. Take the Central or Jubilee Underground lines to Stratford and switch to the mainline First Great Eastern Railway toward Shenfield. Take this train three stops to Manor Park. Upon exiting the station at Manor Park, turn left and walk down the main road, Forest Drive, a short distance and you will arrive at the Cemetery's main gate.
Enter this gate and follow the signs toward the traditional crematorium. Follow the roadway called "Gardens Way" to the right and you will find Eddowes' marker on the left side of this road (square 318). Look for a small, round metal plaque that is flat on the ground. Nichols' marker is across the roadway on the other side, not far away. The location of both grave sites is at the edge of the Memorial Garden, an area now used for the interment of cremated remains. For this reason you will not find traditional graves or headstones in this area. This is what gave me difficulty on my first attempt at locating them, as I had been looking for vertical headstones. These markers show only the approximate location of the common graves in which these two victims were placed. The exact location is not precisely known and may be under the roadway. Eddowes and Nichols lie in a very beautiful garden area.
The opening hours for the City of London Cemetery at Manor Park are:
Manor Park Cemetery: Annie Chapman
Annie Chapman was murdered by Jack the Ripper on September 8, 1888. Her funeral was held on September 14. Again the utmost secrecy was maintained to dissuade the public from making a spectacle and interfering with the procession. No mourning coaches followed the hearse, the relatives meeting the procession at the cemetery gates. Annie was buried in a black-covered elm coffin with the inscription: "Annie Chapman. Died September 8, 1888. Aged 48 years."3 Annie's common grave at Manor Park has been re-used and thus no longer exists. I have not visited this cemetery, but I am told the staff will direct you to the area where she was buried, although the precise spot us unknown.
To reach Manor Park Cemetery, follow the directions given above to the Manor Park railway station. Turn left upon exiting the station at Forest Drive and then immediately turn left again and follow Whitta Road to the cemetery entrance.
The opening hours for Manor Park Cemetery are:
October - March:
April - September:
East London Cemetery: Elizabeth Stride
Elizabeth "Long Liz" Stride was murdered by Jack the Ripper on September 30, 1888, the first of Jack's two murders early that morning. She was buried on October 6. Little is known of the details of Stride's funeral except that expenses were paid by the parish undertaker, a Mr. Hawkes. Presumably this is the "G.C. Hawkes" mentioned in the article quote above regarding Catherine Eddowes' funeral. Stride was buried at East London Cemetery in grave 15509, square 37.
East London Cemetery is a bit more complicated to access via London's public transport system. Take the District, Hammersmith & City, or Jubilee Underground line to West Ham. Upon exiting the station turn right and then immediately turn left at the main road, Manor Road. Long way: walk down Manor Road to Gainsborough Road. Turn left at Gainsborough Road and follow it until it intersects Alden Avenue (actually, Gainsborough Road, Alden Avenue, Ronald Avenue, and Grange Road all come together here). Continue more or less straight ahead on Grange Road until you reach the cemetery entrance. Short cut: walk down Manor Road until you reach Milner Road. Turn left on Milner Road and walk past the schoolyard, which will be on your right. As the road curves to the right you will see a crosswalk at a footpath which leads into a public recreation area. Enter the recreation area and follow the footpath straight ahead until you reach a football (soccer) field. Off in the distance you will spot the cemetery grounds at this point. Turn right and take the footpath out of the recreation area and then turn left and follow Grange Road to the cemetery entrance.
Once inside the cemetery you will find a more or less oval-shaped drive. Turn to your left (near a tombstone with the name "Allen") and walk around this oval drive to a location that would correspond to about 9 or 10 o'clock if the oval road were the outline of a clock's face, looking down from above. Stride's grave is marked with a traditional tombstone several yards to the left of the drive (i.e., outside the "oval"), just to the left of an unpaved access path. It will be visible from the drive if you have a keen eye.
Elizabeth's tombstone was erected many years after her burial and has been vandalized over the years. A replacement stone now stands at the head of her grave. The grave itself is bounded by a cement outline, so I presume this is the exact location of her remains rather than an approximation. When I visited on a rainy March afternoon in 2004 I saw the sad sight of a cheap plastic ornamental cherub that someone had placed on Elizabeth's grave. The head of this cherub was partially severed. I don't know if this was someone's idea of a tasteless joke, an act of vandalism, or simply accidental damage. I propped up the drooping head with a stone and put things in order as best I could.
Another interesting fact is that the remains of the "Pinchin Street Torso" are also interred here. This headless and armless torso of a woman was found under a railway arch in Pinchin Street on September 10, 1889, one year after the Ripper murders. This is generally not believed to have been a murder committed by Jack the Ripper. However, the police had these remains specially preserved prior to burial in case there might be a future possibility of identification.4
Some accounts say that non-canonical victim Frances Coles (murdered February 13, 1891) is also buried in this cemetery. When I checked with a representative of the cemetery, however, she could not confirm that Frances Coles (or any known alias) was buried there. The Eastern Post & City Chronicle of February 28, 1891, states that Frances was buried at East London Cemetery on February 25. The article also states that "several thousand people" gathered inside the cemetery. It is, frankly, difficult to imagine a gathering of several thousand people in this relatively small cemetery. It is also unbelievable that such a remarkable funeral would not rate a mention in other newspapers. Some facts seem to be amiss.
The opening hours of East London Cemetery are:
St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Leytonstone: Mary Jane Kelly
The grave of Mary Jane Kelly is perhaps the easiest of the canonical victims' graves to find. Mary was murdered by Jack the Ripper on November 9, 1888. The only victim to have been a Catholic, she was buried at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery at Leytonstone on November 19, 1888. Her grave was number 66, row 66, plot 10, a "public grave." Mary was buried in a coffin of elm and oak with metal fittings. On it were two crosses and a heart made of "heartsease and white flowers" and an inscription: "Marie Jeanette Kelly, died November 9, 1888, aged 25 years." The funeral expenses, which must have been great, were paid by a Mr. H. Wilton, longtime clerk to St. Leonard's of Shoreditch, in which was situated the mortuary where the grossly mutilated remains of Mary had lain. The Daily News of November 20, 1888 continues the account:
The funeral procession, which left Shoreditch Church at a quarter to one, made but slow progress through the crowds of people and vehicles. All along the route through Whitechapel and Cambridge Heath signs of sympathy were to be seen on every hand. The cortège reached St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Leyton, a few minutes before two o'clock. It was met by the Rev. Father Colomban, O.S.F., who led the way, preceded by two acolytes and a cross-bearer, to the north-east corner of the burial ground, where the interment took place. There was only a small attendance in the cemetery.
To find St. Patrick's, take the Central Underground line to Leyton (not Leytonstone). As you exit the station, turn left on Leyton High Road and walk to the first street, Calderon Road. Turn left on Calderon Road and then left again at the third street, Elmore Road. Walk until you arrive at the next street, Langthorne Road, and turn right. At this point you will have arrived at the corner of St. Patrick's Cemetery.
Proceed down Langthorne Road to the cemetery entrance. Enter the cemetery and walk right around behind the church. Keep following the footpath and bearing to the right until you see a rubbish collection point (it may be difficult to spot if no rubbish bags are present). At the rubbish collection point look to your right and you will see a statue of a young football player. Mary's grave is just a few graves to the right of this statue. It is marked with a headstone inscribed "Marie Jeannette Kelly." Most of the time, Mary's grave is cluttered with gifts left by visitors. Most of these are in good taste, but you will often find a gin bottle among them, as Mary was known to be a heavy drinker. The headstone is probably not in the exact location of Mary's grave but it is very close. Sadly, the grave has been vandalized over the years and previous headstones stolen.
The opening hours for St. Patrick's Cemetery are unknown.
I hope you enjoy your quest for these poor victims' graves. When you find them, please pay your respects quietly and reverently. Leave something tasteful as a tribute if you are moved to do so. Above all, show respect for the graves of others and for mourners who may be visiting the cemetery, especially if a burial is taking place. Do not litter. Observe all posted cemetery rules.
Those of you who live in London undoubtedly know your way around and will perhaps prefer to travel by car. Those who are like me, that is, who are not Londoners and who are terrified at the thought of driving on the left side of the road, will want to use London's excellent public transport system. In these days of terrorist threats, exercise due caution but also realize that you are probably still safer on the Underground than behind the wheel of a car.
Some of you might want to know how to find the murder sites themselves. Frankly, the best way to do this is to take one of the many Jack the Ripper walks that are offered by various groups. I advise you to consult reviews as these tours vary widely in quality. Finding the murder sites on your own is difficult due to the twisting, winding nature of the roads in the East End and also because many of the streets have changed names since 1888. I would suggest seeking out Mitre Square (Eddowes) and 29 Hanbury Street (Chapman) if you want to see one or two of these sites on your own. These are the easiest to find. Some people are wary of walking through the East End, thinking of it as a dangerous area. I have been through several times during daylight hours and have encountered no problems whatsoever. But do exercise caution if you venture into the Whitechapel area on your own, and do so during daylight hours.
My advice when traveling in London is to purchase a Travelcard. A Travelcard for zones 1-3 will get you from Central London to all the cemeteries covered in this article. It will also get you to almost any tourist sight you might want to visit. If you are traveling from North America, the least expensive time to fly is during the months of February and March. I am normally able to fly from St. Louis to London for less than $500 round trip during this period. In Summer the air fare nearly doubles.
While we cannot talk to these poor victims of Jack the Ripper, we can at least pay our respects as we visit their graves. Their murderer has become a household name, the embodiment of savage butchery. In a Victorian era remembered for its opulence and extravagance, these women lived in pitiful squalor and misery. Perhaps it is time that the victims receive some simple honor of their own, perhaps the honor of having their graves visited by those who come to convey a 21st Century tribute to their miserable Victorian existence. I count myself fortunate to have been able to do so.
2) The Eastern Post and City Chronicle, September 8, 1888 and East London Advertiser of the same date.
3) Daily News, September 15, 1888. See also other newspapers of that date.
4) The plan originally called for the torso to be placed in a tin "vessel" which would then be charged with "spirits" (presumably alcohol) and soldered to be air-tight. However, this plan failed when the tin plate worker who was engaged by police inspector Henry Moore, a Mr. John Allers, informed the police that he could not solder the tin vessel without allowing the spirits to escape. The solution was that a "case, properly constructed" should be made by Mr. Allers at a cost of 12/-. At 2 PM on October 4, the torso was placed inside and the case was "effectually soldered down." The case was then handed over to the Sanitary Authorities who placed it in a "black painted wooden box" to which a metal plate was affixed with the inscription: "This case contains the body of a woman (unknown) found in Pinchin Street St. Georges-in-the-East 10th Septr./89." The case was buried in grave number 16185, square 45 on October 5, 1889. The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000), 514-515. A representative from the East London Cemetery did confirm for me that the cemetery records show the burial of an unidentified female on October 5, 1889, but also said that the site of this unmarked grave has been re-used many times and no trace remains of it. It would be interesting to know whether any trace of the remains are intact. However, exhumation is at best impractical.
|Dissertations: Finding the Victims Graves
|Dissertations: The West of England MP Identified