The docks burn as Polly Nichols is murdered; meanwhile at the police courts…

The Times 1 September 1888 02

On the 31 August 1888 the Daily News had a short report of hearings at a handful of the capital’s Police Courts. At Westminster Mr. D’Eyncourt fined an omnibus conductor ‘for delaying a car in Parliament Square’ (the vehicle was changing its horses – the Victorian equivalent of the broken down bus) and the paper’s reporter thought it raised an interesting question about how traffic was prioritized.

At Clerkenwell Albert Rheese and 5 of his companions were charged with running an illegal gaming house in Islington. At Guildhall ‘a youth named Seals’ was accused of stealing a box containing gold, stamps and coins, to value of £300.

Thomas Green found himself at Lambeth on a charge of dodging his fare on the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. He was in third class and had fallen asleep and so went ‘beyond his distance’. The magistrate took pity and discharged him.

In the same column to paper also reported that their had been a meeting of dock workers to protest that the parliamentary committee assembled to examine the ‘sweating system’ was not interested in hearing the views of dockers. One of the meetings leaders was Ben Tillett who later went on to play a key role in the Great Dock Strike a year later.

After this item was a report of huge fire on the docks (at the South Quay warehouse). This fire brought thousands of East Enders onto the streets to watch and was the topic of conversation. While it raged however, a new terror was about to unfold on the Whitechapel streets. In the early hours of Saturday morning PC Neil discovered the body of Mary Ann (‘Polly’) Nicholls in Buck’s Row; she was the first* victim of ‘Jack the Ripper’, there would be at least 4 more that summer and autumn.

*the first according to most researchers, others suggest the killer had struck at least once if not several times before he murdered Polly.

[from Daily News, Friday, August 31, 1888]

One thought on “The docks burn as Polly Nichols is murdered; meanwhile at the police courts…

  1. Absolutely excellent post, I thought. Your ability to find an actual report, and put it together with other events of the time is fascinating. Also quite amazing how the Ripper story continues to interest so many people, so long after the event. We have had mass murderers since then, but the Ripper continues to excite people, even now.


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