25 February 2010 (Thursday) - Jack the Ripper

Two of us set off early this morning for a spot of breakfast before the day’s main event. We’d heard that The George in Ashford opened at 9am to do a cooked breakfast. They advertise the fact on their website, and in their window. They don’t. They open at 10am. We had McBreakfast instead.

We popped into Timpsons and had some badges made up – you can’t beat a good wind up, and then once we’d met Matt we set off for the High Speed Train. In two years time this train will be known as “The Javelin”, but not for two years. Or so I’m reliably informed by those who know about trains (bless!) But it’s worth taking the high speed train – if there are three or more of you, you get a discount so’s you can go on the thing and have unlimited underground travel for twenty quid. That’s cheaper than the slow train.

Forty minutes (or so) later we met up with Terry and Irene (St Pancras station is HUGE!!) and we all took the tube to Whitechapel where we started the day’s challenge. Matt had downloaded an on-line tour of the area in which Jack the Ripper had struck over one hundred and twenty years ago. There are organised tours, but they aren’t cheap (and we had Matt) so off we went. Turning right as we left Whitechapel tube station we totally failed to find the first point of interest. Having walked up and down the road a few times we found the “small dark alley” described in the guide. On the other side of a locked gate…

We found a way to get to the other end of the alley (which was similarly barricaded) and then we tried to follow a route anticlockwise around an old school house. Only to find another locked gate. Clockwise, we decided, would have to do, and we set off and walked straight past the site of the first murder. It wasn’t long before we were finding all sorts of street names that didn’t appear on our instructions. And it was at this point that were approached by the “normal people” who’d overheard us talking of Jack the Ripper, realised what we were doing, and asked if they could book to go on a tour themselves. I was *so* tempted to give them Matt’s phone number.

We re-traced our steps, and within minutes found ourselves at the site of the first murder, and from then onwards we carried on without any problems or mishaps whatsoever. We proceeded through a rather dodgy council estate to the site of the second murder. There is now a brewery there, and we adjourned for ten minutes to the Pride of Spitalfields for a pint of lunch. Then onwards along Brick Lane, which would seem to be curry heaven. This place is running a curry festival in September – I shall be going back.

The third murder took place in what is now a school’s playground, and after a ten minute diversion for McDinner we found the aptly named road of “Batty Street” where Doctor Francis Tumblety used to live. Francis Tumblety is credited with being one of the likely candidates to have been the Ripper. I though it was the Marquis of Granby, but it turned out that was a pub. I’d got confused with the Duke of Clarence who’d long since been exonerated of any possible involvement with the murders. And with the Marquis of Granby, I expect too.

By now it was three o’clock, and the rain had started. By one of life’s happy co-incidences we happened on The Dispensary, a building which was a hospital at the time of the Ripper’s murders, and so it is likely that Francis Tumblety worked there. An ideal place to shelter from the rain – the building in which the Ripper possibly worked seemed to be rather apt. The fact that the place is now the CAMRA Pub of the Year for the local area had absolutely nothing to do with our decision to stop there.

After a pint of “Old Chestnut” (dark and thick) we decided that the rain wasn’t going to ease off. And we had two choices. We could carry on with our planned outing, or we could hide from the rain. We decided that carrying on with the tour would be the manly thing to do. Irene was a tad vague about doing “manly things”. I explained that it consisted of two main points. Firstly making sexist comments at girlies that you thought you could probably run away from, and secondly standing up to do a tiddle. She seemed happy with the explanation, and no one realised that I actually failed on both counts.

We carried on with the tour. On to Mitre square, the scene of the fourth murder, and then round to the Ten Bells where the fifth victim was last seen alive. A rubbish pub – no ale(!). We then spent five minutes in a car park looking at the lowered kerb. The lowered kerb being the only indication of where the last murder took place.

With our tour complete I found myself somewhat reflective. I’d enjoyed the tour – but then I enjoy any day out with my friends. But I felt somewhat disappointed. The first murder site was a rather dilapidated flower bed. The second is now underneath a brewery. The third is underneath a school playground. The fourth is another flower bed and the last is under a car park. None of them are marked in any way. I was expecting to see plaques commemorating the deaths. Jack the Ripper is an integral part of British heritage. We’d walked a good three miles along a route which is obviously followed by many people interested in Jack. We even met an organised party on our travels. But we didn’t see a single sign, notice or marker relating to this episode from history.

And the tour itself did require an awful lot of application of imagination. The murders took place in 1888. Admittedly a very long time ago, but not *that* long? I think it’s fair to say that my house was built then. As was large areas of current day Ashford. I was rather disappointed to find that pretty much all of the areas we’d visited had been completely demolished, bulldozed and rebuilt during the last one hundred and twenty years.

But having done the trip, I’d certainly do it again.

We then made our way to Liverpool Street, and after a quick half in the Railway Tavern (too noisy!) we said our goodbyes to Terry and Irene. We then made our way to Covent Garden for Happy Hour in Pizza Hut, and then went shopping in the rain, finally getting the high speed train to be home for 9pm. A tiring day, but I’d do it again…

1 comment:

  1. Definately worth going back to brick lane for a curry Manky Old bean............ some of the best in Old London Town says I. Glad you had a nice day out though and sounds like it was fun in a macabre sort of way