A group of 10 Paviors braved the narrow streets of Whitechapel on 25 October, at the same time of year that the ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders were committed all those years ago. The tour was led by Mark Smith of Antiques Roadshow fame, who presented all the evidence the police had at the time, as he led participants to the scene of each grisly crime. Those on the tour were then invited to come to their own conclusions and discuss theories over a pint and a curry at the end of the walk. All this was interwoven with tales of Ronnie and Reggie Cray, who shot to infamy in the same area some 80 years later.
The group met at the Blind Beggar pub, where Ronnie Cray shot George Cornell, although there were no witnesses to the murder as everyone in the pub gave statements that they were in the toilet at the time! Here, Mark Smith handed out packs of evidence of the Jack the Ripper murders, including police photographs of the mutilated victims, scenes of the crimes, letters written by Jack the Ripper to the police, and a map of the area at the time. The group’s guide even had a genuine Ripper relic, which he passed amongst the Paviors’ amateur sleuths: the original door knocker from 29 Hanbury Street, that must have been touched by Jack the Ripper himself to gain access to the yard where Annie Chapman was murdered!
As each decade goes by, more and more of the original buildings of 1888 are demolished and street names change. But the public’s interest in the macabre Ripper murders seems to still be strong as ever. The Paviors’ group crossed paths with numerous other Ripper tours: some theatrical, but most very crowded. However, it is doubtful that there were any better led than that of our tour guide Mark, who provided such a well-informed and entertaining evening. But who was Jack the Ripper?
There were many suspects at the time and there are still many theories. Was it Prince Albert, Montague Druitt, Thomas Cream, Francis Tumblety, Aaron Kosminsky – or was it George Schmidt, the great-great-grandfather of tour guide Mark Smith? Everyone had their own theories that were discussed over dinner, and Mark revealed who was his prime suspect. But to find out who it was, Paviors will have to sign up the next time the Liverymen’s Committee organizes a Jack the Ripper Tour!