1888 Whitechapel Murders reopened in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper
- Credit: Ripper Convention
A major Jack the Ripper convention is being staged in London’s East End where the Victorian serial killer stalked, marking the 125th anniversary of the Whitechapel Murders and their social impact on the deprived population.
It poses the controversial question of whether the Ripper, who killed and mutilated at least five prostitutes between August and November, 1888, could be seen in hindsight as a “social reformer”—ghastly though his actions were.
“No-one would have looked at the East End’s chronic deprivation if it hadn’t been for the Whitechapel Murders,” said convention organiser Rick Cobb.
“London society wasn’t interested in what life was like in the East End before 1888, until Jack the Ripper stalked the streets.
“They had always seen the East End as a terrible place to avoid.
“But social reformers came flooding in after the murders, all wanting something done to relieve the poverty.”
He added: “Even Queen Victoria wrote to the Prime Minister to do something about it.
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“You could say Jack the Ripper was the catalyst that started the East End’s social reform.”
Delegates and researchers arrive from all over the world to hear nine leading authors giving presentations and lectures during the three-day event starting Friday.
The convention includes the 125th anniversary of Mary Kelly’s killing on November 9, 1888, the last and the worst mutilated of the canonical victims, whose body was found in her lodging room in Miller’s Court behind what was once Dorset Street, off Commercial Street.
Tours are planned to the scenes of the Whitechapel Murders. The others murdered were Polly Nicholls in Bucks Row, today’s Derward Street, Annie Chapman in Hanbury Street, Lizzie Stride in Berner Street, today’s Henriques Street, and Cathy Eddowes in Mitre Square.
Author and historian Martin Fido hosts a an evening of questions and answers at Dirty Dick’s pub in Bishopsgate on Friday.
The main part of the conference is Saturday at the old Shoreditch Town Hall when Melanie Clegg unravels Mary Kelly’s story, followed by a visit led by Philip Hutchinson to Shoreditch St Leonard’s Church opposite, where her funeral service took place, and the mortuary where he body lay.
Bob Hinton then lectures about witness George Hutchinson, the last person to see Kelly alive—apart from Jack the Ripper.
An evening conference follows at the Mumbai Square Restaurant close to the murder scene of Cathy Eddowes and near the graffiti found in Goulston Street that many believe was scribbled by the Ripper on the night of the double killings of Eddowes and Lizzie Stride. It is followed by an eerie talk by Prof Neil Storey on “Whitechapel After Dark.”
The convention ends Sunday at Mile End’s Genisis cinema. CSI Whitechapel author John Bennett talks about the Ten Bells pub in Commercial Street, the haunt of East End prostitutes who fell prey to the Ripper. Two psychologists take the stage—Prof Glenn Wilson on serial killers and what makes them tick and Jon Rees on the problems of eye-witness recollections.
The convention ends with keynote speaker Sir Christopher Frayling, historian and Arts Council president, on “the Shadow of the Ripper” and the impact of the Whitechapel Murders on social reform in the East End.