Jack the Ripper museum in Whitechapel to be sold


A Whitechapel museum dedicated to the notorious Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper is to be sold at auction.

The six-storey building, on Cable Street, has a guide price of £685,000, and does not come with the grisly artefacts.

The Ripper, who murdered and mutilated at least five women, has never been identified.

When it opened six years ago, the museum was criticised for glamorising violence against women.

The property is described by Auction House London as a “well-located mid terrace with potential for redevelopment”.

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The successful buyer will have access to rooms decorated with a Ripper theme, as well as crime scene reconstructions and a Victorian mortuary chamber.

The museum’s artefacts, such as medical equipment and facsimile police case notes, “may be available to buy separately”.

The planning application for the museum, which received permission from Tower Hamlets Borough Council in 2014, said the project’s aim was to “recognise and celebrate the women of the East End the famous, the infamous and the anonymous who have shaped history”.

Originally posited as the Museum of Women’s History, backers claimed it would be “a key addition to local culture”.

The application continued: “As well as telling the story of how women have been instrumental in changing society the museum will also examine the context against which these changes took place. It will analyse the social, political and domestic experience of women from the time of the boom in growth in the East End in the Victorian period through the waves of immigration to the present day.”

Mary Ann Nichols
A married mother of five, Mrs Nichols was known to her family as Polly. After splitting from her husband she is thought to have spent time in Lambeth Workhouse. She later got a job as a charwoman, but left her employers, stealing some clothes. She had greying hair, brown eyes and high cheekbones. She struggled with alcoholism and is believed to have made her living through prostitution until she was killed on 31 August 1888 at the age of 43.

Annie Chapman
Mrs Chapman also had problems with alcohol and was separated from her husband. She earned money by crocheting antimacassars and occasional sex work. She had blue eyes and dark brown hair and was murdered on 8 September 1888, aged 47. The post-mortem examination found she had lung and brain disease and would have died within months.

Elizabeth Stride
Mrs Stride was born in Sweden and was the only victim of the Ripper who was not mutilated, leading to speculation the killer had been interrupted. She did cleaning and sewing work as well as prostitution. She had no children, had dark brown curly hair, grey eyes and a pale complexion. She was killed on 30 September 1888, aged 44.

Catherine Eddowes
Miss Eddowes was killed about an hour after Mrs Stride. She was the oldest of 11 siblings and was orphaned when she was a child, being admitted into Bermondsey Workhouse. She spent time in the West Midlands working as a tray polisher, and in Kent picking hops. She had three children and to pay the rent had undertaken sex work. She had auburn hair and hazel eyes, and also died on 30 September, aged 46.

Mary Jane Kelly
Mrs Kelly was the youngest of the Ripper’s canonical victims, murdered and disembowelled aged 25. Her husband, a miner in south Wales, was killed in a pit explosion. She moved to London and started drinking heavily, soon turning to prostitution. She was killed in her rented bedroom on 9 November 1888 and it is thought the relative privacy of the location allowed the Ripper to spend more time mutilating her body than with the previous victims. She had reddish-blonde hair and was described as tall and slim.

More than 100 protesters attended the opening of the exhibition, including Lisa McKenzie, a research fellow in the department of sociology at the London School of Economics.

Writing in the Times Higher Education supplement, she said: “The local people were supportive [of the original application] – they thought that the museum would perhaps tell the history and stories of the local Match Girls Union; the suffragettes; the Bengali women who fought racism in 1970s Brick Lane.

“Instead, what is to be opened on 12 Cable Street is a museum that will sell T-shirts and coffee mugs featuring a black silhouette of the Ripper stood in a pool of blood, reducing the women of the East End to a red smudge”.

Cable Street was the location of a violent confrontation in 1936 between the police and local communities, later known the Battle of Cable Street.

Communist, anarchist, labour and Jewish groups joined with locals to resist a planned march through the East End by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.

Speculators as to the Ripper’s identity have suggested scores of potential perpetrators, with the five front-runners being Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence; Michael Ostrog, a Russian doctor who was detained as a “homicidal maniac”; lawyer, schoolteacher and cricketer Montague John Druitt; a suspect known as both Nathan Kaminsky and David Cohen; and Walter Sickert, a highly regarded British painter.

About the author

Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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