In 2003 I studied Jack the Ripper for my Directing and Design class in university. However, when I went to London in 2004 I didn’t go on a Jack the Ripper walk. During this visit I decided to remedy that!
Someone at my work recommended London Walks, and told me about Donald Rumbelow – the “internationally recognised […] leading authority on Jack the Ripper“. He leads the tour on Sunday evenings, so I decided that I’d do the walk on a Sunday.
So did a lot of other people.
They had 2 tour guides show up, but most of the people stayed with Rumbelow – including me. And for good reason too – he’s really good. I learned things that I never found during my (*coughtotallythroughcough*) research in school.
For example – did you know that in 1888, the “city” of London was not the same as the “rest” of London? The City (or the Square Mile) is in the centre of London and is the original London, as founded by the Romans.
This is important because it gives some insight into why the police found it difficult to solve these cases. There was the City Police, who looked after the City, and the Metropolitan Police who looked after everything else. They didn’t like to work together, and since some of the incidents happened between both areas bureaucracy got in the way.
The tour takes you to the church where the victims most likely tried to “find employment”, and the areas where victims were found and important evidence was discovered.
In Mitre Square we learned how this was probably the closest he came to getting caught.
We also visited the site where the leather apron and the Goulston Street graffito (“The Juwes [sic] are the men that will not be blamed for nothing”) was found.
And we walked past the “Ten Bells”, the pub that some of the victims frequented, and which is still in operation today.
I really wanted to take notes, but it was dark and I was occupied taking pictures and listening intently. Although I really do wish that I’d taken notes – he was super informative.
The most frightening moments of the night incidentally had nothing to do with the Ripper. We were standing near where Mary Kelly’s apartment used to be and a football game must have let out – with lots of very excited people who were ready to smash things in their excitement. We were down a side-street, between the building and a car park; and the excited sports fans were very happily destroying the barrier-arm-thing at the front of the street. Rumbelow was great during it, though, and told us not to pay attention and to just keep listening to him. Eventually the crazy people had enough destruction and went away.
At the end of the tour I bought Rumbelow’s book and had him sign it. Then, since most of the group had no idea where we were, Rumbelow offered to walk us to the Liverpool Street Station.
I wish I’d done a bit of a refresher course before going on the tour, because I would have asked more questions. I’m really glad that I decided to do the tour with a professional, though, instead of just bumbling around on my own, looking for sights that may or may not be in this area (i.e. my usual way of doing things).