The main aim of Steve Blomer’s walk was to show us the routes taken by Charles Lechmere/Cross and Robert Paul from their homes to the place in Bucks Row where they encountered the body of Polly Nichols. But the walk also covered lots of other points of interest along the way and we had an afternoon of blazing sunshine without a cloud in the sky.
The walk started at the Blind Beggar pub, not far from Whitechapel tube station, and from there we made our way to 22 Doveton Street, where Charles Cross lived and to the site of Robert Paul’s house. And then we kind of ambled a little all the way to the back of Whitechapel tube until we reached the site of Polly Nichol’s murder (well almost). In 1888, the routes would have been more direct but as the topography of the roads has changed over the years we were unable to follow those two men exactly on their way to work or should I say into history. Fortunately, Steve possessed an impressive knowledge of the area, so he was able to point out the routes they would have taken in 1888. And he gave us maps to refer to which helped us visualise how it once might have been. Steve also showed us the beats of PC Neil, Mizen and Thain. We went to the site of the old union workhouse in Whitechapel as well as the mortuary, Winthrop Street and Wood’s Buildings, slaughterhouse, Ducking Pond Row which I’m guessing became Ducks Row, and then onto Bucks Row. I found the site of the freak show that once featured Joseph Merrick and we saw the Grave Maurice pub. There are so many other points of interest that I can’t list them all in this review, but I’m sure that if you ask Steve nicely he’ll do it all over again soon. I’d be up for it. It genuinely was a great tour of the area, that was both compelling and fascinating. In fact, it was the promise of these sorts of events that prompted me to join the Whitechapel Society. We didn’t come across anyone telling us about a huge fire at Ratcliff Dry Dock or see Walter Purkiss leaning out of his bedroom window in Essex Wharf. Come to think of it no-one living at 19 George Street stopped us and asked if we had seen her friend. They are no more than shadows of the past but today we felt a little closer to them.
The brilliant sunshine and hot weather was another feature of the walk, and by the end we were all quite tired. We found an outside bar near Rough Trade, just off Brick Lane, and I must have been thirsty as a tin of Red Stripe lager did not seem like a bad idea. After chilling out for about half an hour, we walked off down Hanbury Street past Corbett’s Place where Robert Paul worked and headed for the Chamberlain Hotel for the Interim meeting.