Time Travel Explorer Blog

Mapping Jack the Ripper: 3. Elizabeth Stride and Berner Street

by Matt Brown 11. February 2011 10:59

The third 'canonical' victim of Jack the Ripper, Elizabeth Stride, was found with her throat cut in a yard off Berner Street, south of Commercial Road, on 30 September 1888. The body was discovered still oozing blood - the Ripper had almost been caught in the act.

As with other posts in this series, I won't dwell on the circumstances surrounding her death, as the internet is already full of such accounts. Instead, this post will look at how the area around the site has developed over the centuries, using the Time Travel Explorer app.



The two earliest views, 1749  and 1799, show the area as undeveloped. Commercial Road, to the north, was not constructed until the early 19th Century, although a similar east-west track (White Horse Lane) is in existence. The murder site sits on the boundary of two parcels of land. In the earlier view, farmland or orchards lay to the north while pasture land is to the south. A few cottages and farm buildings can be found nearby on Church Lane.


Stride forward, if you'll excuse the pun, thirty years and we see a very different picture. Commercial Road has been constructed, linking the docks to the City, and with it came countless streets of houses and tenements. For a shocking account of life in these slums at the turn of the 20th Century, I recommend Jack London's The People of the Abyss.

Elizabeth Stride, like most prostitutes, was a denizen of these mean streets and lived in the notorious criminal rookery of Flower and Dean Street, Spitalfields at the time of her death. The place where she met her end, off Berners Street and known as Dutfield's Yard, is indicated by the red dots. The yard is not labelled as such in any of the views, but you can see what a warren of passages and service spaces the area supported. Happy hunting ground for a knife-wielding man of shadows.

Today, Berners Street is known as Henriques Street after philanthropist Basil Henriques. The yard is long gone, although its location was photographed before development. An image of the site today can be found here.

Previously: Annie Chapman, Mary Ann Nichols

Mapping Jack the Ripper: 2. Annie Chapman and Hanbury Street

by Matt Brown 28. January 2011 09:48

The second in a series looking at the changing street patterns around the Jack the Ripper murder sites.

Previously, I explored how the neighbourhood around Whitechapel Road changed before and after the murder on Durward Street of Mary Ann Nichols, the first Ripper victim. Today, I visit perhaps the most familiar of the murder scenes - Hanbury Street - where prostitute Annie Chapman met her end a few days after Nichols.

Today, the area is a bustling hive of activity, as the trendy set make their way among the various shops and venues of Spitalfields and Brick Lane. At the time of the Ripper, the neighbourhood would have been greatly impoverished. Many of the houses from that period remain in the streets south of Hanbury, although the murder site itself is now dominated by an unattractive car park building from the 1970s. However, an eerie record of the fatal back yard can be found on the excellent short film The London Nobody Knows, in which James Mason visits the soon to be demolished property in 1969.

But what can we learn about the location from maps? Booting up Time Travel Explorer lets us view these streets in five different periods.


Area around Hanbury Street in 1746 (left), 1799 (middle) and 1830 (right). Use the app to zoom in for more detail.

The first thing to note is the name. For much of its history, Hanbury Street was known as Brown's (or Browne's) Lane, after the original developer of the 17th Century. By 1746, the area is densely built up. A strong Gallic influence can be seen in the map, reflecting the neighbourhoods large Huguenot population, many of whom were silk weavers. The French Charity House, for example, stands roughly where you might find the All Saints store today. A French chapel can also be seen just south of Browns Lane. What would become the murder site stands almost opposite, in Black Swan Yard.

The remaining two maps shown above (1799 and 1830) reveal little else about the area, other than the growing influence and spread of the brewery, which came to dominate the area. Its buildings, although now used for other things, are still a prominent feature of Spitalfields.


Hanbury Street area in 1862 (left) and today (right).

Moving forward a half century and we note Commercial Street for the first time. It was cut through Whitechapel and Spitalfields in 1843-45 in order to clear slum property and better connect the two markets. The 1862 map shows how the Truman Hanbury Buxton brewery has now spread to cover several blocks. The French Chapel is now labelled up as a Wesleyan chapel, reflecting the area's ongoing non-conformist character. The map does not show the murder site in any detail, but the house (number 29) would have been in place by this time. Four years before the crime, a shelter for women was set up on Hanbury Street by Florence Soper, daughter-in-law of Salvation Army founder William Booth, offering a means to survive without resorting to prostitution. Sadly, its facilities did not prevent Annie Chapman from meeting her destiny on 8 September 1888.

Mapping Jack the Ripper: 1. Mary Ann Nichols and Durward Street

by Matt Brown 19. December 2010 18:36

Shortly before dawn on the morning of Friday 31 August 1888 the body of Mary Ann Nichols was discovered north of Whitechapel Road, in Buck's Row (now Durward Street). Her throat was torn and her abdomen haphazardly sliced. The unfortunate Mary was to go down in history as the first ‘canonical' victim of Jack the Ripper.

Thousands of books and newspaper articles have been written about the Whitechapel murders of 1888, so I refer you to the Wikipedia article, which contains a decent reference list. In this series, I will instead focus on the streets of East London in which the murders were committed, and explore the local history using Time Travel Explorer.

The murder of Mary Ann Nichols took place just behind Whitechapel station, in the interstices between rail routes that now carry the District and London Overground lines. A map from around the time of the murders (not on TTX) shows the spot.

If we now travel back in time to 1746 (see above), we find a very different picture. The area is largely undeveloped. Even the plots fronting what is now Whitechapel Road are chiefly taken by orchards and gardens. The murder scene is a broad track known as Ducking Pond Row. Fans of psychogeography might point to an historical resonance here - that the scene of this first Ripper murder has a long history of maltreatment of women. If you scroll east on the 1746 map, you'll see the ducking pond, where nagging wives and suspected witches were once punished. Today, according to Time Travel Explorer, the pond is a Sainsburys car park.

The Mount, Whitechapel.

Still in 1746, and just south of the main road, we see an unusual patch of land known as Whitechapel Mount. Contemporary illustrations show this to have been a substantial mound, and its origins - whether manmade or natural - are uncertain. The area adjacent was known as Mount fields, and stands empty in the 1746 map.

Moving forward to 1799 (above, right, compared with the 1746 map, left), and both the Mount and the ducking pond have seemingly vanished (although this is more to do with the mapmakers' choices of what to include rather than actual absence; the Mount was disassembled in the early 19th Century). The area north of Whitechapel Road remains largely undeveloped and the murder site retains the name Ducking Pond Row. This is also the earliest map in which we see the London Hospital, just south of Whitechapel Road. This was constructed on the Mount fields in 1757, with clear views across open fields to the south.

As we leap forward to 1830 (above, left), big changes are afoot. The name Ducking Pond Row is still present, but we now see Bucks Row along its northern stretch for the first time. The area is becoming industrialised, with the presence of a distillery and warehousing. To the north-west a quaker burial ground has been established. South of the main road, the area of the Mount has been replaced with Mount Street, Terrace and Row (Mount Terrace remains to this day - a final reminder of the long-vanished landmark).

Finally, we head to 1862 (above, right), 26 years before the murders. The road is now firmly established as Bucks Row, and their is no mention of the ducking pond. Smith & Co.'s distillery and other industrial buildings remain, along with large residential developments. The area was to change once again before the murder of Mary Ann Nichol. A contemporary map (not in TTX) shows the changes reaped by construction of the two railway lines through the area.

Soon after the murder, the street was changed to Durward Street, as it remains today. A walk along Durward Street still reveals a mish-mash of residential and warehouse buildings. The area is set for further big changes, however, with the construction of a new Crossrail station over the coming decade.

Welcome to Time Travel Explorer London

by Matt Brown 11. August 2010 21:36

Welcome to Time Travel Explorer London

Time travel? There's an app for that. Well, almost. With Time Travel Explorer (TTX) you can glimpse the London of Jack the Ripper, Charles Dickens, William Hogarth and Samuel Johnson through detailed and superimposable maps, spoken descriptions from a Blue Badge guide and over 1000 archive photographs.

You don't need a DeLorean or Tardis. Simply switch on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and begin browsing through history.

  • View detailed maps of London showing how the city has evolved over centuries. Fade-in and fade-out overlaid maps from different eras, to see precisely how streets, parks, boundaries and properties have changed.
  • Find your location with GPS and discover how your current surroundings looked in different eras.
  • Browse over 700 points of interest with detailed descriptions, many with photos and personal commentary from a certified Blue Badge tourist guide.
  • View more than 1200 historic photos, many more than a century old.

Explore the streets of London, let your iPhone tell you what's around you and see how the city has developed in a unique way.

Available now from iTunes app store for a special low introductory price of £1.79 until 26 August 2010.