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Tales from The Ratcliffe Highway*

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  • Tales from The Ratcliffe Highway*

    *The general area between the Tower and Limehouse, and between Cable Street and the London Docks.

    LIFE AND DEATH OF A FORTUNE TELLER

    On Wednesday evening, an inquest was taken by Mr. H. R. Raffles Walthew, the deputy coroner, at the Wellington public-house, Cannon-street, St. George's-in-the-East, respecting the death of Sarah Upton, aged forty seven years, who died under the following circumstances:- It appeared from the evidence that the deceased was a well-known fortune-teller, and for many years she had lived at Shovel-alley, New-road, St. George's-in-the-East. She was a widow, and the neighbours had seen ladies dressed in the height of fashion pay her daily visits. She was not a steady woman but drank large quantities of spirituous liquors, which she sent for by a female attendant who waited upon her. Although sickly, she was always able to receive the visits of her patrons. On Sunday last she kept her bed, but her servant made her rum and water which she drank. She was left alone for a short time, and about four o'clock she was discovered on her side with her head twisted. A Mrs Appleby was in the room, but she was so drunk that several of the neighbours turned her out of the house as she tried to drag the deceased off the bedstead. Elizabeth Miller, the female who attended the deceased, stated that the persons who called to have their fortunes told, occasionally came in their carriages. When they asked the deceased to have something to drink, she sent for rum, which she took with warm water. The deceased could not eat anything and her chief support was diluted spirits and tea. Henry John Foster, a collector of rents, said that when he reached the house he found a number of drunken women ransacking the place, and carrying away the furniture. He did not know whether the deceased had been possessed of any property. Mr. James Broadwater, surgeon, of No. 3, New-road, said he had known the deceased for many years as a fortune-teller. He found her dead on the day on question. Had since made a post mortem examination of the body and death was the result of extravasation of blood on the brain. Verdict, " Natural death from apoplexy."

    From Reynolds Weekly, March 17th, 1861.

  • #2
    Thank you Gary I look forward to more,

    Roy

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    • #3
      Glad you enjoyed it, Roy. There is more - lot's more. I started with a Shovel Alley story to please Robert Linford ;-).

      I have just re-read The Maul and the Pear Tree (about the 1811 Ratcliffe Highway murders) and was reminded of this amusing tale about a Ratcliffe Highway Irish wake:

      "The Irish custom of the Wake was particularly disturbing. The corpse, no matter what was the cause of death, was laid out on the only bed, and burial was delayed until sufficient money had been collected from visiting neighbours to provide drink and food for the Wake. Wakes always led to drunkenness and often to violence, illness and death. A Mrs Sullivan, whose prostitute daughter had died in the workhouse, persuaded the parish authorities to release the girl's body for what she called a 'decent burial'. This they unfortunately did. Mrs Sullivan raised three separate subscriptions for the Wake, all of which were spent in drinking and feasting, and delayed the decent burial so long that twenty-six people who had viewed the decaying corpse were stricken with fever. Six of them died, and the parish was obliged to bury the girl in the end."

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      • #4
        Pennington Street

        A ROW AND A SUDDEN BIRTH AT AN IRISH WAKE - On Friday night a great number of the lower orders of Irish assembled at a house in Pennington-street, Ratcliffe-Highway, to "wake" the dead body of a countryman lying there. The howlings and lamentations over the corpse, occasionally mingled in the copious libations of whiskey and beer, were kept up until a late hour, when the liquor which the "wakers" had been so freely drinking began to take effect, a quarrel ensued, which terminated in a row and a general fight; the coffin containing the dead body was overturned, chairs and tables were broken, and the lights extinguished. The house not containing sufficient room, an adjournment to the street took place, where broken heads, black eyes, and bloody noses, were given and received with mutual good-will. The affray, however, terminated in a curious manner. One of the women, named Barry, the wife of an Irish coal-whipper, in King Street, Wapping, who was far advanced in pregnancy, was seized with labour pains and lay down in the middle of the road, and in a few minutes gave birth to a fine boy. This circumstance gave rise to a suspension of hostilities, and the combatants rendered all the aid in their power to the poor woman; and two policemen of the H and K divisions coming up in the mean time, the mother and infant were carefully wrapped up in blankets, and carried by the policemen to the workhouse, where Dr. Hopkey, the parish surgeon, soon arrived, and gave the poor woman all that humane assistance of which she stood in need.

        From Bell's Weekly Messenger, 7th October, 1832.

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        • #5
          Pennington Street

          I found this photo of Pennington Street recently, it's one I hadn't seen before. It's taken from the Old Gravel Lane end looking west. The entrance to Chigwell Hill can be made out on the right, but the bend in the road prevents a view towards the ever elusive Breezer's Hill.

          In the right foreground, though, is the arched entance to Lavender Place, complete with mysterious lurker (woman? man? Uncle Pete?).


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          • #6
            A Musical Interlude

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=R-ezy2WaM24

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NbQBCT8sWdI

            (The Ronnie Drew video was obviously not filmed in London.)

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            • #7
              Pennington Street

              On Monday night last two men, brothers, named Tubbey, were employed to empty a cesspool, which is outside the dock wall in Pennington-street. In removing a large flag-stone the pickaxe of one passed through some substance floating on the top of the soil, and which the men took to be a bundle of rags. On looking at it more closely the men discovered it to be the body of a man, but in so advanced a state of decomposition that not a feature was discernible, and it presented a frightful spectacle. It was taken up, a shell being procured it was removed to the bone house of the parish of St. John, Wapping. It is impossible from the construction of the building on the dock side of the wall that the deceased could have fallen among the soil, and there is little doubt that he came by his death by tumbling into the hole on the Pennington-street side two years ago, when the place was last emptied. The deceased, judging by his having an old pair of canvass trousers on, appears to have been a sailor, but what his age was it would be quite impossible to conjecture.

              From The London Evening Standard, 28th July, 1841.

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              • #8
                Pennington Street Map

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                • #9
                  Pennington Street

                  'George Street' on the (necessarily large ;-)) Goad map below is the renamed Ratcliffe Highway. Today it is simply The Highway.

                  Of Pennington Street's four 'hills', Breezer's is the best known to Ripperology. Sadly there are, as far as I am aware, no images of Breezer's Hill as it was in the 1880s. The western side of the hill had been occupied by a sugar refinery and subsequently by a wool warehouse. On the eastern side, where MJK lodged with the McCarthies, there was a pub at either end and 4/5 small dwellings in between. There are photos of small 18th century (and possibly earlier) houses in John's Hill and Chigwell Hill that give an idea what the eastern side of Breezers Hill may have looked like before they were demolished and replaced by the warehouses (now converted) that stand there today.

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                  • #10
                    Fine work, Gary...much appreciated !
                    To Join JTR Forums :
                    Contact [email protected]

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Howard Brown View Post
                      Fine work, Gary...much appreciated !
                      Thanks, Howard. The Highway's notoriety developed over centuries, in contrast to that of Dorset street which was really just a flash in a pan. In both cases, however, there was one defining incident that set them apart from other challengers for the 'worst street' title. Dorset Street saw the murder of Mary Kelly, and The Highway and nearby New Gravel Lane witnessed the murders of the Marrs and the Williamsons.

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                      • #12
                        Ratcliffe Highway Murders

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                        • #13
                          Ratcliffe Highway Murders

                          Can anyone explain what appears to be an error on the Goad map? The murder of the Marrs took place at 29, Ratcliffe Highway, between Artichoke Hill and John's hill. An old map I have shows it as the fifth house west of John's Hill. On the Goad map that is indeed 29, but two houses further east there appears to be another 29. From W to E the numbering appears to run - 19 to 30 and then 29 to 33, 29 and 30 being duplicated. Are my eyes playing tricks on me, or was there some arcane reason (possibly to do with murders) why this is the case?

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                          • #14
                            The Ratcliffe Highway Murders

                            The Gentle Author's Spitalfieldslife blog contains a fairly comprehensive retelling of the Ratcliffe Highway Murders (and a wealth of other interesting stuff about Spitalfields, the East End and London in general).

                            http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/12/...s-ago-tonight/

                            http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/12/...horrid-murder/

                            http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/12/...f-the-victims/

                            http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/12/...ry-atrocities/

                            http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/12/...ribable-panic/

                            http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/12/...prime-suspect/

                            http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/12/...e-magistrates/

                            http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/12/...r-8-a-verdict/

                            http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/12/...shallow-grave/

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                            • #15
                              Jamrach

                              A TIGER IN RATCLIFF HIGHWAY

                              FRIGHTFUL ATTACK OF THE ANIMAL ON A BOY

                              On Monday between twelve and one o'clock at noon, the inhabitants of St. George's-in-the-East (alias Ratcliffe Highway), were suddenly thrown into a state of the utmost alarm in consequence of the escape of a large tiger from the warehouse of Mr. Jamrach, the extensive importer of wild beasts, &c, of No. 180, Ratcliffe-highway, whereby a boy, named John Wade, aged five years, was very seriously injured, and other parties' lives were placed in great jeopardy.

                              It appears that in the morning Mr. Jamrach received several boxes, containing two tigers, a lion and other animals, from the steam ship Germany, lying off Hambro' Wharf Lower Thames-street. The packages were safely placed in a van, and conveyed to the warehouse in Betts-street, St. George's-in-the-East, followed by a crowd of men, women and children, where a number of labourers adopted means to unload the vehicle. They had removed several boxes into the premises in safety, and had just lowered a large iron-bound cage on to the pavement in front of the gateway when Police-constable Stewart, A, requested the persons standing round to keep back in case of an accident. The next moment the occupant (a fine full-sized tiger) became restless and forced out one end of the cage, when the spectators rushed in every direction from the spot in a state of extreme terror. The tiger appeared to be in a state of madness, and ran along the pavement in the direction of Ratcliffe-highway, where it siezed the little boy, John Wade, by the upper part of the right arm. The enraged animal was followed by Mr. Jamrach and his men several yards, when the former obtained possession of a crowbar and struck the tiger upon the head and nose, which caused it to relinquish its hold. In the meanwhile ropes were procured, and the savage beast was procured and dragged into the premises, where it was firmly fastened up by the keepers.

                              The poor boy was raised up in a state of great suffering, with two severe lacerated wounds on the arm and right side of the face, and it was quite a miracle he was not torn to pieces. The teeth of the animal passed completely through the right arm. A cab was procured, in which the wounded boy was conveyed to the London Hospital. The boy was in a very low state from loss of blood from the wounds, and in a very precarious condition, both from the injuries and shock to the system through fright. At the time of the escape of the animal the tradespeople in the neighbourhood closed their shops and remained in a state of fear and anxiety for nearly an hour afterwards.

                              From The Berkshire Chronicle, 31st October, 1857.

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