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The Three Nuns, Aldgate

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  • The Three Nuns, Aldgate

    Hi all,

    As a public house that is almost as famous as the ‘Ringers’ in the Jack the Ripper saga, I thought I would find out more about this establishment. I have to admit, that to start off with, I thought that the Three Nuns was a typical East End dive, how wrong can you be?

    I suspect that for most people, their first contact with the Three Nuns is via the infamous Albert (man of a thousand surnames) Bachert and his ‘I met Jack the Ripper’ story in early October 1888. This story also raised the controversy of whether it was the Three Nuns or the Three Tuns in which the incident took place, as news reports named both establishments – about a 50/50 split! I think that there is enough evidence to favour the Three Nuns as the place where the incident took place. The only question for me is, considering Bachert’s propensity for self publicity, did the meeting actually take place? But I suspect that that question is for another thread.

    The Three Nuns has a long history. The first mention that I found is in ‘Medieval Widows 1300-1500’ by Caroline M Barron and Anne F Sutton. In it, they discuss a Johanna Hill, widow of a well known bell founder, who “…may have been acting independently as a brewer, for she appears to have been left brewing utensils in her husbands will, and the Three Nuns was certainly a brewery by 1418.”

    Authors who have written about the Three Nuns say that it the oldest pub in the City and that it is mentioned briefly in Daniel Defoe’s novel ‘A Journal of the Plague Year’. For further info on the novel,

    Over its history, it developed into a famous coaching inn, being the starting and dropping off point for coaches going to and from East Anglia and Essex, and enjoyed an enviable reputation for the quality of its punch. There are several adverts for these services in the early 19th century newspapers.

    Amongst other things, the Three Nuns has acted as a market for horses and ponies (on at least one occasion not legally) and local inquests were held on its premises. It has hosted two Masonic lodges and has been the venue of choice for AGM’s, political meetings and business and social organisations dinners. One of the businesses that regularly used the Three Nuns for its bi-annual board meetings was the Metropolitan Railway Company, which, ironically was also nearly the cause of its demise, the railways having almost killed off the coach trade.

    Just how serious the effect of the railways was on the existing business can be seen in the Morning Chronicle of 26 April, 1850, when Jonathan Lucas, the proprietor, appeared at a bankruptcy hearing. The magistrate said the house had been mainly supported by coaches and had been destroyed by the railways. The pub, however survived. In May of 1856, it was reported that a puppy with eight legs, three bodies and one head was on display at the premises. (Berrow’s Worcester Journal, 3rd May, 1856).

    The Three Nuns was also the only public house that held a music, singing and dancing licence in the city of London, from 1854 up to 1875. This was because many Jewish wedding celebrations were held on the premises and dancing was an essential part of the proceedings. In 1876, however, the licence was not renewed, as great changes were taking place in Aldgate as a result of the building of Aldgate station. This included the demolition of the old Three Nuns and the construction of a new building. Even though reconstruction was not complete, on 28th October, 1877, The Era reported that Samuel East, the proprietor, applied for a renewal of the music, singing and dancing licence. It was refused, or rather postponed until building works were completed and the licensing board had inspected the premises. These licences could only be granted at the Michaelmas Quarter Sessions, so in the following year, Mr East reapplied and with no objection from the police, the licence was renewed.

    Three pictures of the old Three Nuns coaching house can be found at

    The 1891census gives an idea of the size of this popular venue:
    1891/Orbell Musk/Manager/35/Kennington, London/Census ****
    1891/Eleanor Musk/Wife, Manageress/31/Suffolk/Census
    1891/Henry Ed R Musk/Son/2/City, London/Census
    1891/Mary V R Musk/Daughter/1/City, London/Census
    1891/Eva Cook/Book Keeper/30/Suffolk/Census
    1891/Mary Silcock/Barmaid/18/London/Census
    1891/William Golding/Cellerman/21/Norfolk/Census
    1891/Frederick Oakley/Barman/17/Scotland/Census
    1891/Henry Newman/Barman/18/London/Census
    1891/Maud Welch/Barmaid/21/Plumstead/Census
    1891/Alice Wilson/Barmaid/21/London/Census
    1891/Lucy Scott/Barmaid/23/Grimsby/Census
    1891/Rose Woodward/Barmaid/21/London/Census
    1891/George Higgins/Hall Porter/30/London/Census
    1891/Margaret Anderson/Chamber Maid/21/London/Census
    1891/Lizzie Stamp/Chamber Maid/18/London/Census
    1891/Kate Whitehead/Chamber Maid/20/London/Census
    1891/Emma Spinks/Kitchen Maid/36/London/Census
    1891/Caroline Green/Kitchen Maid/35/London/Census

    The new building soon became popular with businesses, charities and political groups as a venue, regularly used in conjunction with ward elections for Portsoken. It is also at around this time that groups such as the Workingmen’s National Executive Committee for the Abolition of Foreign Sugar Bounties, the British Seamen’s Society, and the Seamen’s Protection Society started using the Three Nuns. It was at meetings such as these that names also started appearing in press reports, that would have a peripheral connection to the Whitechapel murders, a few years later. Amongst them were Lt Col Cowan, who Backert canvassed for in the 1885 elections, Peters, Kelly and Lemon, who raised the finances for the vigilance committee that would be based at the Three Nuns, John Chandler and William Lind, proprietor of the Trafalgar Temperance Hotel, in nearby Leman Street.

    The Three Nuns has an American connection. The Birmingham Daily Post of 9th June, 1890 carried (as did many others) this story. Richard Eugene McKenzie, aged 48, of Portage, Wisconsin, along with his wife had taken up residence at the Three Nuns Hotel. After eating ‘a hearty meal of fresh mackerel’, he afterwards complained of cramp in his inside and took a white powder. Two hours later he took another, shortly after he collapsed. After a doctor was called, he was taken to hospital, where he died the following morning. The inquest was held by our old friend, Wynne Baxter at the London Hospital. The death was due to accidental morphia poisoning.

    Scott Nelson wrote an interesting dissertation on the Three Nuns at This was the hotel in which local tradesmen held a retirement dinner for Fred Abberline on his retirement. Yet another link to the Ripper!

    There is one more, if tenuous, link between Jack the Ripper and the Three Nuns Hotel. In June 1892, the manager of the Three Nuns, Henry Robert Boynes, gave evidence in the Lambeth poisoning case that the prisoner had made enquiries as to joining one of the Masonic lodges that met at the Three Nuns, and that he had paid three guineas to Boynes, to call a lodge of emergency.

    The prisoner was Dr Thomas Neill, better known to us as Neil Cream, who was supposed to have said he was Jack the … the trap dropped!

    Unfortunately, this magnificent building no longer exists – a victim of East End redevelopment, but it has left behind a fascinating history. I’m just surprised that no pub historian has written a definitive story of the Three Nuns, at 11 Aldgate High Street.
    "From Hull, Hell and Halifax, Good Lord deliver us."

  • #2
    Hi dave
    Thanks for posting thsi - very interesting
    One thing caught my eye:
    "This story also raised the controversy of whether it was the Three Nuns or the Three Tuns"
    Was there a separate public house called the Three Tuns, in which case where was it? I remember ages ago reading somewhere that Three Tuns was a misreporting of the name the Three Nuns and actually referred to the same pub
    many thanks


    • #3
      Hi Chris,
      According to the deadpubs website, the Three Tuns was at 1 High St, Whitechapel.

      Quite a useful site:

      It covers all the pubs in the area.

      I agree though, that it was misreporting in the papers.
      "From Hull, Hell and Halifax, Good Lord deliver us."


      • #4
        There was a 'Three Tuns' in Jewry Street. About 25 Yards from the Aldgate/Aldgate High Street junction. The pub is still there (not 100% certain it's the 1888 one) and is called 'Hennessy's'



        • #5
          Originally posted by Dave James View Post
          I’m just surprised that no pub historian has written a definitive story of the Three Nuns, at 11 Aldgate High Street.
          A good project for you, I should say, Dave. Thanks for posting this most interesting information!

          All the best

          Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical"
 Hear sample song at

          Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conferences, April 2016 and 2018.
          Hear RipperCon 2016 & 2018 talks at


          • #6
            I've got a smashing brochure for the Three Nuns with some internal photographs somewhere around here. I've also got an original cabinet card of some of the staff in their uniforms (probably at the time of JTR, actually), and later photos and cuttings on one of them (they were all waiters, I think). You don't find many photos of the place, oddly. It was a grand old structure.

            Tour guides do it loudly in front of a crowd


            • #7
              Hi all,
              Rob, I can't trace a Three Tuns in Jewry St, the 1841 list in dead pubs is:
              Three Tuns, D. Burrows, 53 Red Cross st. Cripplegate
              Three Tuns, Robt. Collings, 83 Chancery lane
              Three Tuns, R. Cooper, 13 Houghton st. Clare mk
              Three Tuns, Alfred England, 22 New st. square
              Three Tuns, Rich. Gardner, 37 Coleman street
              Three Tuns, J. Gurney, Portman mews
              Three Tuns, Jas. Ingram, 20 Rupert st. Haymarket
              Three Tuns, Saml. C. Jolly, 63 Broad st. Ratcliff
              Three Tuns, Wm. Hy. Lemon, 1 Whitchpl. High st
              Three Tuns, Nathan L. E. Parker, 84 West Smithfield
              Three Tuns, Sam. Parsons, Pennyfields, Poplar
              Three Tuns, Henry Robinson, 429 Oxford st.
              Three Tuns, J. Ruddy, 22 Gt. New st. Fetter la
              Three Tuns, Ham. Sibley, 2 High st. Kensington
              Three Tuns, John Simpson, 11 Billingsgate
              Three Tuns, Chas. Sneezum, 429 Oxford st
              Three Tuns, C. Vidler, 4 Bridgwater garden, Barbican
              Three Tuns, S. Willament, 85 Belton st. Long acre

              This is Hennessy's version of history:

              Chris G
              Good suggestion. I wish I still lived in London so that I could do the research needed. As I said though, I'm surprised someone from CAMRA or a local history group hasn't already done this. I was fascinated even by the little info I turned up on the place.

              You're right, it was a magnificent structure. I wonder if there was any railway money in the rebuilding?
              In 1888, the hotel went up for sale, including the railway refreshment bar. It sold for £25,000.
              "From Hull, Hell and Halifax, Good Lord deliver us."


              • #8
                1882 Directory for Jewry Street.

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                • #9
                  Article shared by AP 5 yrs ago. Name of paper not known. Date: Sunday 30th May to Sunday, June 6th, 1813.

                  We have to record one of the most dreadful catastrophes that the annals of guilt ever presented; catastrophes, which at one time were so rare as to form aeras in the history of our country; but which, within these few years, have become so frequent, as to excite in us, the most painful reflections on the state of moral feelings. The flagrant addition to the catalogue of crime which is now before us, is the murder of Thomson Bonar, Esq. the great Russia merchant; and Bank director, and his lady, at their seat at Chislehurst, in the County of Kent.
                  It appears that on Sunday evening, Mr. Thomson Bonar went to bed at his usual hour; Mrs. Bonar did not follow till two o'clock, when she ordered her female servant to call her at seven o'clock in the morning. The servant, as she had heen directed, at the appointed time went into the bed-room of her master and mistress, and found Mr. Bonar mangled and dead upon the floor, and her lady wounded, dying and insensible in her bed.. A bent poker which was lying on the ground, as well as the fractured condition of the heads of the unfortunate victims, plainly denoted with what instrument the act had been committed. As there were some remains of life in Mrs. Bonar, servants were sent express to town for surgical assistance. Mr. Astley Cooper arrived with all possible dispatch, but it was too late; the wound was mortal, and she expired at 11 minutes past one o'clock, having been, during the whole previous time, insensible, and only once uttering the exclamation of 'Oh! dear'!'
                  The whole of Tuesday, and part of the day preceding, was occupied in inquiring into these horrid murders. Mr. Bonar, it appears, was found dead on the floor, and, the lady survived until between one and two o'clock on Monday, but quite senseless. Her skull was dreadfully fractured, and part of her brains were found in the bed. A footman, who had been in the family five weeks, of the name of Philip Nicholson, formerly a private in a dragoon regiment, and since servant to the City Remembrancer, was taken into custody in London, on Monday morning, on suspicion of having been the perpetrator of the horrid murders, after a scuffle with Forrester, the city-officer, who found him on horseback, drinking at the door of the Three Nuns Inn, in Whitechapel, with an old acquaintance. He was conveyed to Giltspur-street Compter, in a state of drunkenness approaching insanity, and nothing like a rational answer or confession of guilt could be obtained from him.


                  • #10
                    Hi Rob,

                    So this establishes the Three Tuns as being in the vicinity of the Three Nuns and confirms the Hennessy's claim. Which now puts us back to square one - which pub was Backert in?

                    IMOH, it was the Three Nuns, based on the political connections to the place along with the vigilance committee founded there. But, I'm open to persuasion.

                    Interesting that both pubs are built on plague pits. I knew there were several in Aldgate,but apart from St Botolph's, I haven't been able to pinpoint others, I suppose that they would have been nearby though, so the Hennessy's claim in that respect could also be correct.

                    However, I haven't come across the 'bloody cloak' story anywhere else.
                    "From Hull, Hell and Halifax, Good Lord deliver us."


                    • #11
                      Hi Dave
                      In the incident on the night of Catherine Eddowes's murder, when Bachert allegedly had a conversation with a "shabby genteel" man who asked about "loose women" in the area, Bachert himself reported this event as happening in the Three Nuns.
                      However in the postcard which Bachert allegedly received on 20 October, and which evidently was intended to refer to this same incident, the writer refers to the Three Tuns, the card reading:
                      "Dear Old Baskett,
                      You only tried to get yer name in the papers when you thought you had me in the Three Tuns (sic) Hotel. I'd like to punch yer bleeding nose.
                      Jack the Riper (sic)."


                      • #12
                        I'd read that during the Great Plague of the 1660s over 4000 victims were buried in St Botolph's in the space of a fortnight. I presume they've all gone now!

                        Tour guides do it loudly in front of a crowd


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Chris Scott View Post
                          "Dear Old Baskett,
                          You only tried to get yer name in the papers when you thought you had me in the Three Tuns (sic) Hotel. I'd like to punch yer bleeding nose.
                          Jack the Riper (sic)."
                          That has just got to be the funniest so-called Ripper letter.


                          • #14
                            This is 'The Three Tuns' that was on the corner of Whitechapel High Street

                            Click image for larger version

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                            This show the various locations. The two green spots are 'The Three Tuns' and the blue one 'The Three Nuns'

                            Click image for larger version

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                            • #15
                              Nice pic Rob

                              It can't be the pub on the right as Bachert walked "around the corner" with him to Aldgate Station didn't he? - I'll have to check his exact words

                              Similarly, if the Three Nuns is on the Street, then the pub is likely to be the Three Tuns on the left (???)