Time Travel Explorer Blog

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.