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The Denizens Of Castle Street

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The Denizens Of Castle Street

Post by Karen on Tue 13 Apr 2010 - 5:42


Dwellers in the Murder Quarter.
Jack the Ripper's Happy Hunting Ground.

An observant and philosophical reporter of the London "Star" visited the scene of the Whitechapel murders with a view to studying the people amongst whom Jack the Ripper commits his mysterious crimes. He says:

It is a strangely quiet and indifferent crowd which peers at the splashes of blood underneath the lamp-post in Castle-yard, where the new unknown victim of the Whitechapel murderer lay, a few hours ago, with her gashed throat in the kennel, and her legs almost touching the doorways of Messrs Kings workshops. It is a Jew crowd, for the two Castle streets are almost purely Jewish quarters. Little Jew boys, with big beady eyes and sallow faces, sit on the steps of the big barrack-like Board School hard by towering high above the ramschackle hovels of Castle-street. Sallow,


are they, but shrewd and self-possessed. The women stand about in knots - huge, stayless women, with breasts hanging down. Then there is the Jew young man, with his cigarette, there, consumptive-looking, but wiry. One of them was out at one in the morning. "What were you doing at that time of night?" we ask, and he becomes less communicative, taking us for detectives. But he soon brisks up again. Ike Lewis, of Old Castle-street, is the man to see. He saw the man cutting away, and called for the police, and when they came "Jack" was gone. Yes, Ike Lewis, is plainly the man to interview. He is a shrewd, well-looking young gentleman enough, but for detective purposes he is a fraud. To us he says nothing; he has been sucked dry already; and there is no squeezing more out of him. Seen her? No. He was going into Castle-alley out of New Castle-street, and was stopped in the passage by a policeman - not arrested. "The paper called you a man," said one of his comrades, with gentle sarcasm, which young Ike does not resent, and we leave him. Practically there is


The police know nothing. We go into a house, opposite the fatal lamp-post, the back of which looks into the yard. The lady of the house, an ample, pleasant-spoken person, heard nothing, though she was up late. Screams? No, she heard nothing, nor any of the neighbours. If they had they would have taken no account of them - men were such brutes there. The yard what a French policeman told me the other day of a low street in the Latin quarter which I was exploring - tres mal frequente. As she spoke, in came her two daughters, peering over her shoulders - one dark, the other light, probably with dyed hair.


with flowers in their bonnets, their faces rouged and powdered, the dresses tawdry, but not ill-fitting, the figures good, like those of most young Jewish women. The woman was cooking in the yard - always did so in the summer-time - and something was frying in a pan over a tiny fire of coke. Her rent? Twelve shillings a week and 1 pound, 4 shilling a quarter for rates. For that hovel, with no partition walls but mere wooden boards between room and room, and with one top storey run up over the old roof, the tiles of which actually protruded above the new addition of the house. She was a


- her daughters had come from the factory. The two Castle-streets are full of tailors and sempstresses, stitching away for life at the open windows of the ground-floor rooms, littered with patterns and snips, or engaged in cutting out. One pale, thin girl - not without a native grace of her own - is bending over the leaves of a penny novelette paper, to read as she works at her sewing machine. There in the corner of Castle-street is a veritable Jewish belle - a superb figure, her hair gathered into graceful rolls on the back of her head, and with a big frizzy arrangement in front. Her great eyes, glossy hair, and smart dress - a pink ribbon at her throat, a white blouse and terra-cotta skirt - make


as she stands in the sunlight, her arms stuck into her slim waist, for today you cannot keep the sunlight even out of Castle-street, with its foul, sulphurous air and blackened, tumbledown, tiny-windowed rows of houses where you stumble against the staircases as soon as you enter the door. There are Jew names everywhere. At the coffee shop there is an inscription in Hebrew, and they are selling Kosher rum round the corner at the big bar in Whitechapel High-street, where the proprietor is probably clearing his 10,000 pounds a year.


are the common names, and there is a gabble of Yiddish among the children. What heaps of them there are! One woman peeling potatoes at the open door of one of the frowsiest hovels in the street has six around her, nearly all the same size, wizened mites with old faces, but always the same brisk, wideawake air. Further on an elderly woman, with woolly elf-locks and deathly pale face, relieved by eyes of deep and penetrating hue, is suckling her child, her breast bare almost to the waist. Children - children - everywhere.


They look with their big eyes from their mothers' arms down at the red splashes under the lamp-post. Here and there is a wonderful type - a tangled mass of auburn hair, surrounding, aureole like, a face of the Hebrew type, with big hazel-red eyes. The feeling of the people is that of bewilderment. They are not frightened - except the elder women of the class aimed at by "Jack the Ripper," who have disappeared like magic. The younger, better-looking girls, rather laugh at "Jack" and his knife, and the saddest types we see here are not the prostitutes, among whom "Jack" seeks his victims, and who, after they are turned drunk out of the publics at half-past twelve, will run the risk of "Jack" or anything else for sixpence. They are gone now, and the people who hover round the blood-stains, silent and dull-eyed, are the women of the quarter, bare-headed, or with a shawl over their shoulders, in a single frowsy garment, wrinkled, old before their time, worn out body and soul. As for the police, they really have nothing.


There are two consistent descriptions of any man who can have been the murderer, and there were no screams. The woman was attacked lying down, and not sitting drunk in the doorway of Messrs King's, as was at first supposed. She was superficially mutilated, and the man was probably disturbed. Castle-alley is almost a cul de sac. Is is approached by one foul little alley, and closed by another. Is is full of ugly nooks and corners; it is only looked upon by the backs of the houses in New Castle-street, with the queer little humps of tiles where the old roof stood, and by the lofty walls of the Board School. However, there is no doubt about "Jack the Ripper." Curiously enough, he has kept to his old plan - if it is a plan - of keeping to one side of High-street, Whitechapel. Castle-alley has Mitre-street, Dorset-street, Wentworth-street and all


within a stone's throw. It is like them, a place "quiet for slaughter," an ideal murder trap. No; there is no news, and we squeeze our way through the narrow alley into High-street, meeting scores of dark-coated figures on their way to their pilgrimage to the Thug shrine under the lamp-post, and get into the City again. We pass the "Cheap Jack" shops, where they sell mouldy prunes and horrible Turkish Delight and broken stale biscuits as wonderful bargains. That is the food of the people; the Castle-streets are their homes; the tiny white, wizened, old-faced babies looking down at the blood-spots will be the men and women of Whitechapel a few years hence. And now we have passed the low evil-looking streets with the red lamps that show the cheap doss-houses, passed the classic front of St. Mary's passed the


of model dwellings, and the big refuges and homes with texts and pictorial morals displayed on the walls - not much read of Whitechapel, we fancy - and are back in the City again, where they were making money at the rate thousands a minute. One more murder - no clue - no prospect of it - that is the day's story as the "Star" man gleaned it.

Source: Te Aroha News, Volume VII, Issue 403, 18 September 1889, Page 6

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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