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A Grim Almanac of Jack the Ripper's London 1870â"1900
By Neil R. Storey
The History PressCopyright © 2013 Neil R. Storey
All rights reserved.
1 January 1886
The body of Edwin Bartlett was found by his wife Adelaide. The doctor was called and Edwin's father demanded a post-mortem be carried out on his apparently healthy son. It revealed that Edwin had been killed by a large dose of chloroform. The case of the Pimlico Poisoning was to become infamous in the annals of criminal history, and the relationship revealed between Mrs Bartlett and Revd George Dyson scandalised Victorian society. Further gasps were heard as the sexual proclivities of the Bartletts were discussed in court, including such explosive revelations as no fewer than six contraceptive devices found in Edwin Bartlett's trousers and a sexual relations and family planning book at the Bartletts' Claverton Street apartment. Beyond the scandal the bare facts of the case hinged on the administration of chloroform. If such a chemical had been given to Edwin Bartlett by force or deception it would have would left his throat and digestive passages burnt on the way to his stomach; but there was no evidence of this. The chemical was only found in his stomach. With 'no evidence to show how or by whom the chloroform was administered', Adelaide Bartlett was found not guilty. Sir James Paget commented after the verdict, 'Mrs Bartlett was no doubt properly acquitted. But now it is to be hoped that, in the interests of science, she will tell us how she did it!'
2 January 1880
An inquest was held at Islington Coroner's Court, Holloway Road, concerning the death of Micah Boyce (44) of 87 St James Road, Holloway. Her death, according to her husband John, a journeyman butcher, had occurred after a fall down the stairs with a lamp in her hand. The fluid from the lamp set her clothes alight. Mrs Boyce was taken to the Great Northern Hospital on Chelsea Road; shortly before she died from her burns she stated she had actually been hit on the head with the lamp by her husband. A small incised wound was found on her head which may have been caused by the lamp or a fall. The jury returned the verdict that 'the deceased died from burns, but whether they were accidentally or otherwise inflicted the evidence was insufficient to show'.
3 January 1899
The execution took place of Johann Schneider (alias Richard Mandelknow), a German baker, convicted of the murder of Conrad Berndt in the bakery on William Street, Hampstead Road. The crime was described at the time as 'atrocious'. It was stated that Mr Ross, the master baker, had taken pity on Schneider and given him a night's refuge. During that night, without warning, Schneider had stunned Berndt, one of the bakers, and thrown his body into the bakehouse oven. It was from there that it was recovered in a charred condition. Schneider then ransacked the premises in search of goods and money. When the benevolent Mr Ross arrived the following morning, he enquired where Berndt was and Schneider said he had gone upstairs for a rest. Schneider then struck Ross on the head and stabbed him in the chest. Luckily the alarm was soon raised and Ross was given first aid, which enabled him to recover from his wounds. Schneider was tried and found guilty of the murder of Berndt. By the time of the execution he was in such a weak and helpless state he had to be carried to the gallows and supported on the trap by warders. A drop of 7ft 6in was allowed. Executioner James Billington was assisted by his eldest son Thomas. Death was recorded as instantaneous.
4 January 1889
The findings of the inquest held at Guy's Hospital on the body of John Kellard (23) were published. On Christmas Eve 1888 Kellard had joined a group drinking at the Queen's Head in Tanner Street, Bermondsey. It was noted he was 'slightly elevated' when he came in. All agreed to pay 2d into a kitty for drinks and Kellard went round with the hat. He thought there was 2d short and at once charged another in the group named Alexander M'Kie with not having paid his contribution. There was a dispute, the money was checked again and found to be right but Kellard would not admit he had made a mistake and picked a fight with M'Kie, using abusive language and all manner of accusations to goad him. The landlady begged him to stop using bad language and offered to stand him a glass of whatever he liked if he would 'give over the jangling'. Declining her offer, Kellard pulled off his coat and offered to fight M'Kie for 5s a side. M'Kie said he didn't want to go to work with a black eye. Kellard persisted and took the challenge to the street where they put up fists under the railway arch. The punches flew and Kellard fell heavily but got up again. M'Kie warded off a blow and Kellard fell with a heavy thud, striking his head on the kerb. He became insensible and was conveyed to Guy's Hospital in a hansom cab. He did not recover consciousness and died a few days later. His body was found to be covered in bruises and the falls he had suffered had cracked his skull. The coroner's court jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against M'Kie and he was ordered to appear before the next sessions.
5 January 1880
Charles Surety (29) was executed at Newgate for the murder of the 2-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, Mary Ann Pepper. As public executioner Marwood was about to prepare Surety as he stood on the gallows trap, a letter marked 'OHMS' and 'Immediate' was delivered to the prison governor. Purporting to come from the Home Office, it ordered a reprieve for Surety. One cannot help but wonder what went through the murderer's mind as he awaited his fate on the gallows while the governor and the under sheriff discussed the authenticity of this missive. (It is not recorded how long they took over their deliberations.) They decided it was a forgery and ordered that the execution proceed. It later emerged that the letter was a forgery concocted with no clear motive by a Dr Whiteford, who was sentenced to two months' imprisonment and a fine of £50 for attempting to obstruct the course of justice.
6 January 1897
Reports appeared of the previous day's execution of Henry Brown (32), a carpenter, at Wandsworth Prison for the murder of his wife. The Browns lived on Linon Road, Clapham. During an almighty family row, Brown went berserk, smashing his wife's skull with a coal hammer and killing her almost instantly. He then turned on his aged mother-in-law with the same weapon, causing her horrific injuries, and finally attempted suicide by stabbing himself in the region of the heart with a shoemaker's knife. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death. Brown's mental state was assessed by Dr Nicholson, formerly of Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, and Dr Brayn, the present superintendent of the same institution, but their report 'was unfavourable to a reprieve'. The execution was carried out by James Billington; a drop of 7ft 3in was recorded.
7 January 1886
Richard Dadd, a painter famous for his fairy-tale paintings, died on this day. His old home at 15 Suffolk Street, St James's is now marked by a blue plaque. Few people realise Dadd was actually a killer. Despite studying at the Royal Academy and becoming a competent painter, he earned little money and lived from day to day on a diet of ale and hard-boiled eggs. Dadd became increasingly deluded, believing that he was being called on by divine forces to do battle with the devil. On a trip with his father to Cobham in 1843, he killed the old man with a razor and knife. Ordered to be placed in Bethlem Hospital for the Criminally Insane, known to most as 'Bedlam', Dadd was later moved and became one of the first inmates in the newly built Broadmoor Asylum in Berkshire. It was here he painted some of his best-known works, such as The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke and Contradiction: Oberon and Titania. He was kept at Broadmoor until he died.
8 January 1889
Postman Charles Osborne Dunn (28), indicted for stealing a letter containing postal orders to the value of 10s and 5s, and waiter Charles Dowse (33) accused of knowingly receiving the same, appeared at the Old Bailey. Neither could get his story straight. Their incompetence and guilt were so obvious the jury took very little time to return a guilty verdict. Dowse, the receiver, got 18 months and Dunn, the thieving postman, was sent down for five years' penal servitude – stealing from the Royal Mail was a very serious offence.
9 January 1900
First execution of the twentieth century. Louisa Masset (33) was executed by James Billington at Newgate. Louisa claimed she had handed over some £12 and placed her son Manfred in the care of a Mrs Browning, who had just started a 'children's home' (Browning was almost certainly a baby farmer). Manfred was found later the same day in the ladies' waiting room of platform three on Dalston Junction station wrapped in a black shawl. He had been battered with a brick and suffocated. The shawl was traced to Masset and a witness stated they had seen her on London Bridge station at a time consistent with her committing the crime. Masset said she was in Brighton at the time of the murder and the witness must have been mistaken. The jury decided she was guilty beyond reasonable doubt and she was sentenced to death. It is said that as the hour of execution approached, Louisa agreed her sentence was just, but it could be argued this was not a confession to the murder but the concurrence of a penitent mother who had unwittingly sent her beloved son to his doom.
10 January 1888
An inquest was held at Coroner's Court, High Street, Borough, on the death of Fanny Alden (69), a widow and a member of the sect known as the Peculiar People, whose headquarters were on Bath Street, London Road. A large number of her brethren were present in court and one of their number, Eliza South, gave evidence. She stated that Mrs Alden's health had declined for about seven weeks before her death. The coroner enquired if she had sought medical aid to which South replied, 'We only did what we consider necessary according to our belief. She had laying on of hands by the elders and we gave her all the nourishment we could.' Dr Jones, who had conducted the post-mortem, stated death had been due to serious apoplexy but noted the body was very thin, seriously ulcerated and showed old pleurisy. In summing up, the coroner castigated the sect for their neglect of Mrs Alden and threatened that if the case had been stronger he would have sent it to the criminal court. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence. After the verdict was passed, Elder Brooks was brought before the coroner but he would not accept the warning and stated they would continue to do as they had done; the jury cried, 'Scandalous!' As Brooks attempted to lecture the court on his beliefs, the coroner declined to listen, stating that, 'the ways of these people were quite peculiar enough for me'.
11 January 1888
James Ostler, a chemist's assistant, who ran and lived on the premises of A.J. Brown's chemist at 55 Trafalgar Road, East Greenwich, walked into the kitchen to discover his 2-year-old son lying on the floor, with his wife Louisa (23), the boy's mother, standing over him; the boy's head had been severed from his body. James asked, 'What have you done?' She replied, 'My Jim; I've only one life to take.' Ostler sent his wife upstairs and sent a neighbour to summon the police. Mrs Ostler was heavily pregnant and had been suffering from increasingly severe religious delusions. Before she was arrested, her sister asked her why she had committed such an act; she replied she had a command from God to offer a sacrifice so that the whole world should be redeemed. Inspector Lander of Park Row Station soon arrived, followed by Dr M'Gavin, who, upon entering the shop, saw Ostler serving a customer. Seeing the surgeon Ostler shouted, 'My wife's insane and has killed my child.' (Note that this horrible slaying did not stop Ostler from attending to his customers.) When attended by the doctor, Mrs Ostler said, 'The child has two natures; one is a human nature, and the other is a beast's nature. The beast's nature must be cut out.' Removed to the workhouse infirmary, she was found to be 'of unsound mind' and committed to the asylum.
12 January 1889
An article in the Pall Mall Gazette names a George Hutchinson as a potential Ripper suspect. Hutchinson, a resident in a lunatic asylum in Elgin, Illinois, had escaped and killed a woman in Chicago. The mutilations he inflicted were said to be very similar to those inflicted on the Ripper victims. He was recaptured but escaped again in 1884 or 1885. Curiously, another George Hutchinson was acquainted with Mary Kelly before her murder but did not come forward until after her inquest, claiming he was not aware of the murder. (This explanation stretches credulity because the streets of the East End, packed with people for the Lord Mayor's procession, were alive with stories of this, the latest and most horrible of all the Ripper murders.) His statement seemed contrived, and his detailed description of the last man seen with Mary has passed down the generations of Ripperologists as one of the best; perhaps it was too good. Some modern Ripper authors suggest that it could just as easily been Hutchinson that was the Ripper and that his description of the man was an attempt to deflect attention away from himself.
13 January 1885
Horace Robert Jay (23) was executed at Wandsworth for the murder of his fiancée, Florence Julia Kemp (18). Jay and Kemp had been 'walking out' together for some time, but it appears Jay was becoming increasingly protective and jealous of his future wife. After a number of arguments, Jay appeared to have settled down and Florence was happy to accompany him back to his lodgings in Clapham to select apartments in view of their impending marriage. While she was there screams were heard and concerned neighbours who shared the dwelling stormed into Jay's room to find him in the act of cutting Florence's throat with a razor; he then slashed his own. Both were removed to St Thomas's Hospital but only Jay survived. Despite an energetic defence put up by Charles Matthews, who argued his client was not mentally responsible for his actions, Jay was found guilty and sentenced to death. Executioners hate any damage to the necks of their customers and great care was taken by Berry over the drop (lest the head be torn off). A drop of just over 7ft was given and death was instantaneous by dislocation, but the wound was reopened although reports were quick to point out that 'there seemed very little blood'.
14 January 1892
This day saw the death of Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence (right), eldest son of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), eldest grandson of Queen Victoria and thus second in the line of succession to the throne of England. Known to the Royal family as 'Eddy', he was widely nicknamed below stairs as 'Collar and Cuffs', because of his dandyism. It has also been suggested that the young prince occasionally enjoyed a walk on the wild side of the East End. Eddy became one of the more modern suspects involved with the Jack the Ripper crimes. It has since been proved beyond doubt that the Prince was in Yorkshire, Scotland and Sandringham at the time of the Ripper killings. Unfortunately, the Prince was not so innocent of complicity in the 'Cleveland Street Scandal' in 1889 (see 6 July, p. 103). Prince Eddy was just 28 years old when he died of pneumonia at Sandringham.
People of the Streets: Tater Men
Baked potato sellers or 'tater men', with their distinctive call of 'nice floury taters', would normally be found near pubs and 'four ale bars' (where beer was only fourpence a quart). They would sell baked 'taters heavily dusted with salt' (and a dab of yellow grease they euphemistically called 'butter') to those building up a thirst or leaving the hostelries. Two sizes were offered, 'tops' (large penny spuds) and 'middles' (smaller halfpenny ones); hot potatoes were often the only supper a poor family could afford. The machinery of the trade, a baking oven often formed from an iron baking box with a chimney and looking not dissimilar to a steam engine, was simple and easily pushed as a handcart or pulled by a donkey. Their pitches, like those of many street sellers, would often have been handed down from generation to generation. Any interlopers would soon be met with shouts and, if necessary, fists and stall-wrecking from others in the established street-trading community in the area, the idea being that if someone attempted to usurp a pitch, the other traders would do the same to them.
16 January 1888
The Revd George Bancroft Butterfield was arrested in South Kensington for begging and being drunk. After he was taken into custody, a number of begging letters were found in his possession. He appeared in court in the same shabby cassock he had been arrested in and apparently suffering from the effects of drink. It appeared that the reverend had once held a good appointment at Mossley near Manchester but had 'lost his position'. Comment was made that Butterfield had 'ill-treated his wife' and she was now 'reduced to earning a living by charring'. The inebriated fallen cleric was sentenced to the house of detention for a week.
Excerpted from A Grim Almanac of Jack the Ripper's London 1870â"1900 by Neil R. Storey. Copyright © 2013 Neil R. Storey. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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