Monday, 9 November 2009

Jack the Ripper Walk – London 8.11.2009

Staff, with students and their friends and families from our university went on a ‘Jack the Ripper’ tour in London yesterday.
I thought you might like to know about ‘Jack’ and his evil doings, so I will do a summary of the tour in daily instalments.
Our tour guide was Lesley, and she joined us outside Tower Hill tube station. We followed her to the ruins of the medieval wall that divided the paupers of the east end from the rich of the financial district. At the time of the ripper the east end was heaving with homeless people. There was high unemployment, and people were starving. The life expectancy of a man was 30 years and 55% of children died before the age of five. Women turned to prostitution to survive. Today there are 14 million people in London, and 5,000 – 6,000 prostitutes. In 1888 the population of London was 1 million, and there were 40,000 – 60,000 prostitutes, and one in seven houses were brothels. There were high rates of alcoholism, and many people drank ‘gin’ a grain based, 120% proof drink that killed 2/3 of its consumers. The east end was a site for ‘sex tourism’. It is possible the ripper was an outsider, but in 1888 the area where the murders occurred was a warren of alley ways dating from medieval times, and the ripper may have had local knowledge enabling him to slip away unnoticed…’like the London fog, he evaporated into the night’.
So you have an area of abject poverty, with lots of prostitutes and alcoholics.
The police force was unprepared for the ripper. The city police and the Metropolitan police were divided, and did not cooperate fully. Serial killers were not really known then.
Prostitutes charged up to a maximum of 4d. for a ‘knee trembler’. Many were 40+ years old and homeless alcoholics – filthy, and diseased.
The murders took place between 31st August and 8th November 1888.
The tour took us to the actual sites of two of the murders, and we stood on the spot in Mitre Square where Catherine Eddowes was murdered. We were taken to the area near St Botolph’s church where the prostitutes and customers congregated.
We walked along claustrophobic alleyways and finished the tour at ‘The Ten Bells' pub.

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