Thursday, March 16, 2006

George Yard

Today, George Yard goes by the name of Gunthorpe Street. A long narrow lane, it runs all the way from Whitechapel High Street up to Wentworth Street, and stands between Commercial Street and Osborn Street, which leads to Brick Lane. So today it is in the heart of one of the most bustling areas of the East End, especially at night. And yet, itself, it is still an isolated and slightly desolate looking location.

Along the left hand side on this picture, which is looking North towards the Wentworth Street end, is Toynbee Hall, the headquarters of a charity formed in 1884, four years before the Ripper murders, by the Reverend Samuel Barnett. Barnett was a campaigner for social justice and a close associate of Thomas Barnardo. He was the canon of St Jude's church in Commercial Street. Barnett would involve himself in the Ripper murders in a series of letters to the newspapers, writing that the crimes were merely symptomatic of the neglect with which the slum areas of the East End had been treated.

The intent of the charity was to aid the inhabitants of impoverished communities, and it was named after Arnold Toynbee, a fellow campaigner in the area who had worked towards greater access to adult learning opportunities for the poorest members of society, and who had died at the tragically early age of 30.

Until his own death last week, former Secretary of State for War John Profumo was the President of the charity.

Writing in 1998, reknowned Ripper expert Stewart Evans described his first visit to George Yard in 1967. "I located the arched entrance to Gunthorpe Street (George Yard) with the White Hart public house on the west corner at the junction with Whitechapel High Street. Entering the narrow street with its cobbled road surface and gloomy Victorian buildings on both sides stretching northwards in front of me, there was an immediate feeling of atmosphere and a gloomy oppressiveness. At this point the true idea of the Victorian London of 1888 could be obtained. Even today this bottom end of Gunthorpe Street is remarkably little changed."

Toynbee Hall was not the only charitable institution here in 1888. On the top left hand corner stood a Salvation Army mission. On the right hand side of the alley stood the George Yard Mission School. It was up this gloomy little alleyway that Martha Tabram was last seen, arm in arm with her soldier client, as Bank Holiday Monday of August 6th slipped into the early hours of the 7th. Their business would not have taken long to transact.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Extremely evocative photo

7:56 pm  
Anonymous Myles Lester said...

Hi I live at No4 Gunthorpe St in a building called Sir Georges Residence, (first on the left as you pass through the arch and i believe the scene of Martha's murder) Im assuming Sir George is the same George that gave his name to George's Yard out of curiosity do you know who George was?

9:14 am  

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