3 September 1888
Yesterday the lists of the names of those persons liable to serve as special and common jurymen in England and Wales during the year were exhibited on the doors of every church, chapel, and other public places of worship over England and Wales, where they can be inspected by every one, and where they will remain during the next two Sundays. Every person whose name appears in these lists will be liable to serve as a juryman except those who are over 60 years of age, and those among others who are exempt by reason of being peers, Members of Parliament, judges, clergymen, Roman Catholic priests, members of the bar, solicitors, officers of the Law Courts, coroners, doctors, the household servants of Her Majesty, the officers of the Post Office, Customs and Inland Revenue, Magistrates, and their staffs, and others. During the last week in this month the justices of the peace in every division in England and Wales will hold a special petty session for the purpose of correcting the lists, and of allowing any objection to serve which may be substantiated.
Miss Beatrice Potter contributes to the September number of the Nineteenth century some "Pages from a Work girl's Diary," describing a week's experiences in a sweater's shop in Whitechapel. After a weary search she obtains work as a "trouser finisher." The work room is long and irregularly shaped, somewhat low and dark near the entrance, but expanding into a lofty skylight at the further end. Close by the door, and well within reach of the gas stove (used for heating irons), two small but high tables serve the pressers; a long low plank table, furnished with a wooden rail for the feet, forms on either side of it, chairs top and bottom, runs lengthways for the trouser finishers; a high table for the basters; and, directly under the skylight, two other tables for machinists and vest hands complete the furniture of the room. Some thirty women and girls are crowding in. There is a general babel of voices as each "hand" settles down in front of the bundle and the old tobacco or candle box that holds the cottons, twist, gimp, needles, thimble, and scissors belonging to her. They are all English or Irish women, with the exception of some half dozen well dressed "young ladies" (daughters of the house) one of whom acts as forewoman, while the others are already at work on the vests. The forewoman calls for a pair of trousers, already machined, and hands them to me. I turn them over and over, puzzled to know where to begin. Besides, I have no cotton, thread, twist, or gimp. The woman next to me explains - "You'll 'ave to bring trimmings; we h'aint supplied with them things yere; but I'll lend you some, jist to set off with." At this moment the "missus" sweeps into the room. The sardonic and enigmatical expression of her countenance puzzles me with its far off associations, until I remember the caricatures, sold in City shops for portraits, of the great Disraeli. She wears a stamped cotton velvet of a large flowery pattern; a heavy watch chain, plentiful supply of rings, and a spotlessly clean apron. The "lady" next to me is already my friend. She is a neat and respectable married woman, with a look of conscious superiority to her surroundings. Like all the trouser hands, she is paid by the piece; but in spit of this she is ready to give me up time in explaining how I am to set about my work. I feel nervous and very much on trial. The growing heat of the room, the form so crowded that one must sit sideways to secure even a limited freedom for one's elbows; the general strangeness of my position - all these circumstances unite to incapacitate a true hater of needlework for even the roughest of sewing. As the morning wears on, the noise increases. The two pressers have worked up their spirits, and a lively exchange of chaff and bad language is thrown from the two lads at the pressing (immediately behind us) to the girls round our table. Offers of kisses, sharp despatches to the devil and his abode, a constant and meaningless use of the inevitable adjective, form the staple of the conversation between the pressers and the younger hands; while the elder women whisper scandal and news in each other's wars. From the further end of the room catches of music halls songs break into the monotonous whirr of the sewing machine. There is a free giving and taking of each other's trimmings, a kindly and general supervision of each other's work - altogether a hearty geniality of a rough sort.
"One o'clock," shouts a shrill boy's voice. "Stop work," order the mistress. The pressers are already off, the mistress and her daughters retire into the kitchen; the greater number of women and girls turn out into the street, while one or two pull baskets from under the table, spread out before them on dirty newspapers, cracked mugs, bits of bread and butter, cold sausage or salt fish, and lift, from off the gas stove, the teapot wherein their drink has been stewing since the early morning. Heartily thankful for a breath of fresh air and a change from my cramped posture, I wander up and down the open street, and end my "dinner hour" by turning into a clean shop for a bun and a fresh cup of tea. Back again at two.
"You must work sharper than this," remarks the mistress, who is inspecting my work. I colour up and tremble perceptibly as I meet the scrutinising gaze of the hard featured Jewess. She looks into my eyes with a comically puzzled expression, and adds in a gentler voice, "You must work a little quicker for your own sake. We've had worse button holes than these, but it don't look as if you'd been accustomed to much work." Women (outdoor hands) troop in with bundles of finished trousers. "I'd have nothing but indoor hands if I knew where to find them and had a room to put them into," she mutters, as she turns over garment after garment. "Just look at this work, it's all soap! Now, girls, be quick with your work," continues the mistress, as she throws the bundle on to our table - "all this to be done extra before Friday."
At length tea time breaks the working day. Pence have already been collected for the common can of milk; innumerable teapots are lifted off the gas stove, small parcels of bread and butter, with a relish or a sweet, are everywhere unrolled. My neighbours, on either side, offer me tea, which I resolutely refuse. Two hours afterwards, and I have finished my second pair. "This won't do," the mistress says, as she looks over both pairs together. "Here, take and undo the band of that one. I'll set this one to rights. Better have respectable persons who know little to work here than blackguards who know a lot." "Eight o'clock by the brewery clock," cried the shrill voice. This is most welcome to me. The heat since the gas has been lit is terrific, my fingers are horribly sore, and my back aches as if it would break. The women bundle up their work; one or two take it home. Every one leaves her trimmings on the table, with scissors and thimble. Outside, the freshness of the evening air, the sensation of free movement, and rest to the weary eyes and fingers constitute the keenest physical enjoyment I have ever yet experienced.
Friday morning, and I am hopelessly tired. I am "shaky like all over," my fingers, worn in places into holes, refuse to push the thick needle through the objectionable substance; damp hands stretch the thin linings out of place; my whole energy is riveted on my work, with the discouraging result that it becomes worse and worse. I bungle on without help until I have finished after a fashion. "This will never do, " angrily remarks the mistress. And then, perceiving the culprit by her side, she adds, "This won't do - this work won't suit me; you want to go and learn somewhere first. This will never do - this won't suit me," she repeats slowly as she pulls the work to pieces. Is it over fatigue, or is it the perfect realisation of my position as a disgraced work girl? An ominous lump rises in my throat and my eyes fill with tears. There is a dead silence. The younger hands look up from their work sympathetically. Meanwhile the Jewess has screwed up her left eye and is looking at me through her eye glass. The deep furrows of inherited experience again relax in favour of personal feeling. But this time it is human kindness instead of human fury. She beckons to me. In a second I am by her side. "I'll see what I can do with you. If you like to stay and work on threepence halfpennies, the same as I give the outdoor hands, you can take better work when you're fit for it. Sarah, give her a pair of threepence halfpennies. I'll alter these for you. You sit between these two young ladies and they'll show you."
Directed and encouraged by the kindness of the girls sitting next to me, I work on in a calmer frame of mind, listening to the conversation of my neighbours. Among the younger hands at this end of the table it chiefly concerns the attraction of the rival music halls, or the still more important question of their different "blokes." For monotonous work and bad food have not depressed the physical energies of these young women. With warm hearts, with overflowing good nature, with intellects keenly alive to the varied sights of East London, these genuine daughters of the people brim over with the frank enjoyment of low life. During the day their fingers and eyes are fully occupied; in the evenings, on holidays, in the slack season, their thoughts rush out and gather in the multitudinous excitements of the East end streets; while their feelings unburden themselves in the pleasures of promiscuous lovemaking. You cannot accuse them of immorality, for they have no consciousness of sin. There is only one fall possible to them - drink, leading slowly but inevitably to the drunkard's death.
The police have not yet discovered any clue regarding the murderer of the woman, Mary Ann Nicholls, who was found dead in Buck's row on Friday morning. The body was identified on Saturday by the deceased woman's father, husband, and son. At the inquest the woman's father said the deceased and her husband had not been living together for many years. The deceased had five children, and he did not know that she had been leading a dissolute life. The evidence of the constable who found the deceased, and the testimony of the doctor who examined the body having been taken, the inquest was adjourned. A carman, named Paul, has stated that he saw the body before it wad discovered by the police, and that he told a constable about the matter, but that the officer went about his ordinary duty.
A Worcester correspondent writes:- "Planters are now very anxious about the weather, which is very cold for the time of year, and has been very rough, and complaints are made that the plantations in this district suffered a good deal from the gale of Tuesday night. Messrs. J.H. Meredith and Co. report that the plantations remain generally in the same doubtful and varying condition as during the last few weeks. In some gardens the hops are fully developed, promising fair quality and only requiring fine, warm weather to make them ready for picking in about ten days' time. Elsewhere blight still increases, and in such places the result can only be a small crop of inferior quality."
On Saturday Mr. Wynne E. Baxter, the coroner for South east Middlesex, opened an inquiry at the Working Lads' Institute, Whitechapel road, into the circumstances attending the death of a woman supposed to be Mary Ann Nicholls, who was discovered lying dead on the pavement in Buck's row, Baker's row, Whitechapel, early on Friday morning.
Inspector Helston, who has the case in hand, attended, with other officers, on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department.
Edward Walker was the first witness called. He said:-
I live at 15 Maidwell street, Albany road, Camberwell, and have no occupation. I was a smith when I was at work, but I am not now. I have seen the body in the mortuary, and to the best of my belief it is my daughter, but I have not seen her for three years. I recognise her by her general appearance and by a little mark she had on her forehead when a child. She also had either one or two teeth out, the same as the woman I have just seen. My daughter's name was Mary Ann Nicholls, and she had been married 22 years. Her husband's name was William Nicholls, and he is alive. He is a machinist. They have been living apart for some length of time, about seven or eight years. I last heard of her before Easter. She was 42 years of age.
The Coroner - How did you see?
Witness - She wrote to me.
The Coroner - Is this letter in her handwriting?
Witness - Yes, that is her writing.
The letter, which was dated April 17, 1888, was read by the Coroner, and referred to a place which the deceased had gone to at Wandsworth.
The Coroner - When did you last see her alive?
Witness - Two years ago last June.
The Coroner - Was she then in a good situation?
Witness - I don't know. I was not on speaking terms with her. She had been living with me three or four years previously, but thought she could better herself, so I let her go.
The Coroner - What did she do after she left you?
Witness - I don't know.
The Coroner - This letter seems to suggest that she was in a decent situation.
Witness - She had only just gone there.
The Coroner - Was she fast?
Witness - No, I never heard anything of that sort. She used to go out with some young women and men that she knew, but I never heard of anything improper.
The Coroner - Have you any idea what she has been doing lately?
Witness - I have not the slightest idea. I never turned her out. She had no need to be like this while I had a home for her.
The Coroner - How is it that she and her husband were not living together?
Witness - When she was confined her husband took on with the young woman who came to nurse her, and they parted, he living with the nurse, by whom he has another family.
The Coroner - Have you any reasonable doubt that this is your daughter?
Witness - No, I have not. I know nothing about her acquaintances, or what she had been doing for a living. I had no idea she was over here in this part of the town. She has had five children, the eldest being 21 years old and the youngest 8 or 9 years. One of them lives with me, and the other four are with their father.
The Coroner - Has she ever lived with anybody since she left her husband?
Witness - I believe she was once stopping with a man in York street, Walworth. His name was Drew and he was a smith by trade. He is living there now, I believe. The parish of Lambeth summoned her husband for the keep of the children, but the summons was dismissed, as it was proved that she was then living with another man. I don't know who that man was.
The Coroner - Was she ever in the workhouse?
Witness - Yes, sir; Lambeth Workhouse, in April last, and went from there to a situation in Wandsworth.
By the Jury - The husband resides at Coburg road, Old Kent road. I don't know if he knows of her death.
The Coroner - Is there anything you know of likely to throw any light upon this affair?
Witness - No. I don't think she had any enemies; she was too good for that.
John Neil, police constable, 97 J, said - On Friday morning I was proceeding down Buck's row, Whitechapel, going towards Brady street. There was not a soul about. I had been round there half an hour previously, and I saw no one then. I was on the right hand side of the street, when I noticed a figure lying in the street. It was dark at the time, though there was a street lamp shining at the end of the row. I went across and found deceased lying outside a gateway, her head towards the east. The gateway was closed. It was about nine or ten feet high, and led to some stables. There were houses from the gateway eastward, and the School Board school occupies the westward. On the opposite side of the road is Essex Wharf. Deceased was lying lengthways along the street, her left hand touching the gate. I examined the body by the aid of my lamp, and noticed blood oozing from a wound in the throat. She was lying on her back, with her clothes disarranged. I felt her arm, which was quite warm from the joints upwards. Her eyes were wide open. Her bonnet was off and lying at her side, close to the left hand. I heard a constable passing Brady street, so I called him. I did not whistle. I said to him, "Run at once for Dr. Llewellyn," and seeing another constable in Baker's row I sent him for the ambulance. The doctor arrived in a very short time. I had, in the meantime, rung the bell at Essex Wharf, and asked if any disturbance had been heard. The reply was "No." Sergeant Kirby came after, and he knocked. The doctor looked at the woman, and then said, "Move the woman to the mortuary. She is dead, and I will make a further examination of her." We then placed her on the ambulance, and moved her there. Inspector Spratley came to the mortuary, and while taking a description of the deceased turned up her clothes, and found that she was disembowelled. This had not been noticed by nay of them before. On the body was found a piece of comb and a bit of looking glass. No money was found, but an unmarked white handkerchief was found in her pocket.
The Coroner - Did you notice any blood where she was found?
Witness - There was a pool of blood just where her neck was lying. The blood was then running from the wound in her neck.
The Coroner - Did you heard any noise that night?
Witness - No, I heard nothing. The farthest I had been that night was just through the Whitechapel road and up Baker's row. I was never far away from the spot.
The Coroner - Whitechapel road is busy in the early morning, I believe. Could anybody have escaped that way?
Witness - Oh, yes, sir. I saw a number of women in the main road going home. At that time anyone could have got away.
The Coroner - Someone searched the ground, I believe?
Witness - Yes, I examined it while the doctor was being sent for.
Inspector Spratley - I examined the road, sir, in daylight.
A Juryman (to witness) - Did you see a trap in the road at all?
Witness - No.
A Juryman - Knowing that the body was warm, did it not strike you that it might just have been laid there, and that the woman was killed elsewhere?
Witness - I examined the road, but did not see the mark of wheels. The first to arrive on the scene after I had discovered the body were two men who work at a slaughter house opposite. They said they knew nothing of the affair, and that they had not heard any screams. I had previously seen the men at work. That would be about a quarter past three, or half an hour before I found the body.
Henry Llewellyn, surgeon, said - On Friday morning I was called to Buck's row at about four o'clock. The constable told me what I was wanted for. On reaching Buck's row I found the deceased woman lying flat on her back in the pathway, her legs extended. I found she was dead, and that she had severe injuries to her throat. Her hands and wrists were cold, but the body and lower extremities were warm. I examined her chest and felt the heart. It was dark at the time. I believe she had not been dead more than half an hour. I am quite certain that the injuries to her neck were not self inflicted. There was very little blood round the neck. There were no marks of any struggle or of blood, as if the body had been dragged. I told the police to take her to the mortuary, and I would make another examination. About an hour later I was sent for by the inspector to see the injuries he had discovered on the body. I went, and saw that the abdomen was cut very extensively. I have this morning made a post mortem examination of the body. I found it to be that of a female about 40 or 45 years. Five of the teeth are missing, and there is a slight laceration of the tongue. On the right side of the face there is a bruise running along the lower part of the jaw. It might have been caused by a blow with the fist or pressure by the thumb. On the left side of the face there is a circular bruise, which also might have been done by the pressure of the fingers. On the left side of the neck, about an inch below the jaw, there was an incision about four inches long, and running from a point immediately below the ear. An inch below on the same side, and commencing about an inch in front of it, was a circular incision terminating at a point about three inches below the right jaw. This incision completely severs all the tissues down to the vertebra. The large vessels of the neck on both sides were severed. The incision is about eight inches long. These cuts must have been caused with a long bladed knife, moderately sharp, and used with great violence. No blood at all was found on the breast either of the body or clothes. There were no injuries about the body will just about the lower part of the abdomen. Two or three inches from the left side was a wound running in a jagged manner. It was a very deep wound, and the tissues were cut through. There were several incisions running across the abdomen. On the right side there were also three or four similar cuts running downwards. All these had been caused by a knife, which had been used violently, and been used downwards. The injuries were from left to right, and might have been done by a left handed person. All the injuries had been done with the same instrument.
The inquiry was adjourned till today.
Up to a late hour mast night the police had made no arrest in connection with the Whitechapel tragedy, and inquiries of the detectives officers have elicited the information that, not withstanding the assiduous investigations of the police, no clue has yet been obtained upon which it would be possible to work with any prospect of unravelling the mystery. It has been stated in some quarters that there is reason to suspect the existence of a murderous gang of men in the Whitechapel district to whom this and other tragedies might possibly be traced, but the police give no credence whatever to the theory. There was great excitement in the locality on Saturday afternoon on the opening of the Coroner's inquiry, and this was intensified later on when a statement appeared in the evening papers to the effect that an arrest had been made in the neighbourhood of Spitalfields. It is true that the police took a man into custody close to Spitalfields Church, but his arrest had nothing whatever to do with the case now under investigation, although a rumour got abroad that he was wanted for the murder of Mrs. Nicholls. As the police are not in a position to call a single witness to give any material evidence, it is not likely that the inquest will be closed today.
On Saturday evening, after the inquest on Mary Ann Nicholls, the eldest son of the deceased woman arrived at the Whitechapel Mortuary and recognised the body as that of his mother. He was respectably dressed, and seemed much affected at her untimely end. He is by trade an engineer, and lives with his grandfather, Mr. Walker, but for some time has not been on speaking terms with his father. When the separation between the deceased and her husband took place, Mr. Walker did what he could for the children. About an hour after the son arrived the deceased woman's husband, Mr. W. Nicholls, came to see the body. He is a machinist, working at Perkins and Bacon's, printers, Fleet street. When the meeting between the father and son took place, neither of them spoke to each other, till the deceased's father said to Mr. Nicholls, "Well, here is your son, you see, I have taken care of him, and made a man of him." The father then spoke to him, and said, "Well, I really did not know him; he has so grown and altered." Then the husband went into the mortuary to see if he recognised the deceased. He came out looking very white, and simply said, "Well, there is no mistake about it. It has come to a sad end at last."
It has been ascertained that the unfortunate woman was one of those who last year were in the habit of sleeping in Trafalgar square, and when a clearance of the nightly visitors was made, it being found that she was destitute, and had no means of subsistence, she was admitted as an inmate to the Lambeth Workhouse. After her discharge from the workhouse and subsequent disappearance from service at Wandsworth, little was known of her whereabouts by her relations. Lately it seems that she had been lodging in a common lodging house in Thrawle (sic) street, Spitalfields, leading an immoral life. The conclusion now arrived at is that the woman met with her dreadful fate where her body was found. That the lower portion of her clothes were not stained with blood is due to the fact that the three dreadful wounds in the abdomen, believed to have been first inflicted, had bled inwardly. Another theory is, that from the moment the woman was last seen till the discovery of the body by the police constable sufficient time would not have elapsed to have admitted of the murder taking place in a house and the dragging of the body to a distance.
Mr. Robert Paul, a carman, has made the following statement:- It was exactly a quarter to four when I passed up Buck's row to my work as a carman for Coven Garden Market. It was dark, and I was hurrying along, when I saw a man standing where the woman was. He came a little towards me, but as I knew the dangerous character of the locality I tried to give him a wide berth. Few people like to come up and down here without being on their guard, for there are such terrible gangs about. There have been many knocked down and robbed at that spot. The man, however, came towards me and said, "Come and look at this woman." I went and found the woman lying on her back. I laid hold of her wrist and found that she was dead and the hands cold. It was too dark to see the blood about her. I thought that she had been outraged, and had died in the struggle. I was anxious to be punctual at my work, so I went on and told the other man I would send the first policeman I saw. I saw one in Church row, just at the top of Buck's row, who was going round calling people up, and I told him what I had seen, and I asked him to come, but he did not say whether he should come or not. He continued calling the people up, which I thought was a great shame after I had told him the woman was dead. The woman was so cold that she must have been dead some time, and either she had been lying there, left to die, or she must have been murdered somewhere else and carried there. If she had been lying there long enough to get so cold as she was when I saw her, it shows that no policeman on the beat had been down there for a long time. If a policeman had been there he must have seen her, for she was plain enough to see. Her bonnet was lying about two feet from her head.
Maria Herman, 50, married, and living in George yard, Whitechapel, was charged with attempting suicide by throwing herself out of a window. A constable of the H Division said that on the previous night he was called to George yard, being told that a woman had thrown herself out of a window. He found the prisoner lying on the ground, and the window above - on the first floor - was pointed out to him as the one from which she had thrown herself. She had sustained an injury to her head, but was not seriously injured. Mr. Bushby remanded the prisoner until Friday next.