Hull Prison Visit

Deeming, Opinion, Research 2 Comments »

For as long as I can remember I have always had a fascination with Hull Prison.  My late father conducted work their when he was an industrial cleaner, removing asbestos from the prison in the 1980’s, my sister lived opposite on Hull’s Newtown Buildings, and as a teenager I was a student at David Lister School, just a stones throw away. 

Over the years I have met many former inmates, listening to their stories, but it is the history of the building that fascinates me. 

Some years ago I started researching the prison.  I needed to as a part of the Frederick Bailey Deeming story and for the John Rennard aspect of the Marfleet Murder Mystery. 

When Hull Daily Mail announced that the prison would be opening an exhibition in the former Governor’s Residence at the front of the prison I contacted the prison and spoke with Rob Nicholson. 

Rob is an amazing guy, what he doesn’t know about the prison is not worth knowing, and together we exchanged research, I ended up sending entire census returns for the prison, lots of material on Frederick Bailey Deeming, and other items. 

Eventually the research worked its way into the exhibition, something that I was very proud of. 

In later years we filmed Prime Suspect – Jack the Ripper, with Prospero Productions at the main gate. 

After that we recorded From Whitechapel to Whitefriargate with BBC Radio Humberside and David Reeves in the exhibition space with Rob. 

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone by the Mayor of Hull, Mr. Atkinson, and as such the prison organised a friends and family day. 

I had contacted Rob and was granted permission by the governor to join the day, but little did I know, I would get my own exclusive tour with Rob. 

What Rob does not know about the prison is not worth knowing.  He is a walking encyclopaedia of names, dates, stories, and is a really pleasure to listen to.  He also has a wicked sense of humour and is a true gent. 

We met at the main gate and whilst the friends and family went in, we admired the original entrance to the prison.  It’s massive, and I mean MASSIVE stone entrance is imposing and threatening.  We spent some time looking at the right hand side of the main gate.  This was where the original notices were put up to announce whether an inmate had been reprieved or hanged.  It felt very eerie stood here, knowing that this is where friends and family received word of those that had hanged or whether the Home Office had given them a last minute reprieve. 

We waited until the other group walked off, then we headed for the old structure of the prison, the original wing.  It was here that we stood and admired the height and stonework.  Strange crenellations, mock battlements, and signs in stone of the Hull Corporations Three Crowns adorned the high walls of the building. 

“This is the mortuary” he pointed out, to a simple stone structure, “this is where they were stored after they were hanged.” He pointed out as we walked around the building.  He also pointed out where those who had sentenced to hang were left for an hour so that death could be officially announced.  Leaving we walked in a corridor through the old wings that took us past where the male and female prisoners would have been segregated back in the Victorian period.  We passed a series of bricked up doorways and arches, it was fascinating, and as the walkway was open at both ends, the wind blew through and it was actually pretty eerie. 

We exited and again admired the structure of the building, with its high walls and metal fittings, where cages stood to allow prisoners to walk between wings. 

We again entered the building and went on to one of the wings.  My jaw dropped.  Such magnificent Victorian architecture, but I was stopped in my tracks by the steel work.  The original steelwork in the older Victorian section of the prison was made on site.  It still bears the HMP Hull mark, but to see it all was fascinating.  We stood and admired the steelwork before Rob took me along the first floor balcony to where the condemned would have made their final journey.  We looked at an old bricked up archway, where dignitaries would have gone into the drop room to observe the act, and then we walked around to another room that was like a modern day wash room.  Tiles adorned the walls and metal sinks hung off the walls.  “This is where they were hanged.”

We stood inside the room for a while, just taking it in, on the spot where ten convicted murderers, had faced their end.  Pinioned, hooded, and with noose around their neck, the hangman would send them to their final judgement. 

Below us was the room where the deceased would be left for an hour. 

We moved on and went up to the next floor before exiting via a large circular room, which is the massive green dome you can see from outside.  The ceiling was so high it was breath taking, and again we were surrounded by locally produced steel. 

Rob showed me where an escape hatch was situated, no longer in use, but used by officers should they need to escape quickly. 

We moved through the prison, visiting the newer wings, passing the site of the old and much talked about “Seven Alleys” and Arnold Lavers Wood yard, now under tons of steel and concrete that form the high walls of the prison.  

We entered another wing and at this point Rob left me whilst he logged us in at the office.  Whilst I was waiting I met two members of staff, who were sorting books out to take onto the wings for the prisoners.  As they sorted the books one fell.  I looked at it and instantly recognised the face.  It was none other than the death mask of Frederick Bailey Deeming.  The book in question was Murders of the Dark Museum by Gordon Honeycomb.  What I found fascinating is that Deeming was a former prisoner here for nine months in 1890-1891 for fraud.  The book’s author passed away just yesterday, on the 150th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone at Hull prison.  We discussed it and laughed it off, before heading across the wing to where Rob had himself encountered paranormal activity. 

On the way back to the main gate we passed the spot where the ten condemned lay. 

Arthur Richardson, 25/03/1902, William James Bolton, 23/12/1902, Charles William, 22/12/1903, Thomas Siddle, 04/08/1908, John Freeman, 07/12/1909, William George Smith, 09/12/1924, Robert Ernest Dalton, 10/06/1925, George Michael, 27/04/1932, Roy Gregory, 03/01/1934, Ethel Lillie Major, 19/12/1934. 

No plaque, no memorial, no grave, just a “herb garden” remains. 

We left by the main gate, once again admiring the old brick work that kept in people like Frankie Fraser, members of the Kray firm, IRA members, Frankie “The Mad Axe Man” Mitchell, Charles Bronson, Frederick Bailey Deeming, Arthur Richardson, William James Bolton, Charles William, Thomas Siddle, John Freeman, William George Smith, Robert Ernest Dalton, George Michael, Roy Gregory, Ethel Lillie Major, John Rennard, and of course Rough, the dog of John Rennard!

Thank you to Rob Nicholson and all the staff at Hull Prison for an amazing day that will stay with me for a long time. 

Jack the Ripper - Year in Review 2013

Books, E-Books, Events, Opinion, Ripper Fiction, Ripper Non-Fiction, TV/Documentaries 5 Comments »

Jack the Ripper: Year in Review 2013

Another year has passed, and one that has seen the 125th anniversary of the Jack the Ripper canonical five victims.  We have been hit with a bombardment of books; kindle titles, documentaries, audio books, television shows, and much more, so here is a rundown of what I saw in 2013:

Jack the Kindle reader:

The Kindle has gone from strength to strength and it is not surprising considering the cost of books, ease of downloading, and instant availability.  2013 proved to be a massive year for Jack the Ripper titles on the Kindle, both fact and fiction, and here are just a few of the releases that came out during the year: 

A Tale from Ripper Street: Inspector Edmund Reid’s Hunt for Jack the Ripper, Joseph Busa,

Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes (Jack the Ripper), Bernard Schaffer,

Severin: A tale of Jack the Ripper, Simon Webb

Jack the Ripper: The Definitive Casebook, Richard Whittington-Egan

In Search of Jack the Ripper, David Pietras,

The Whitechapel Secret: Who was Jack the Ripper? Martin Loughlin,

The Complete and Essential Jack the Ripper, Paul Begg and John Bennett,

The Crimson Fog, Paul Halter and John Pugmire,

Whitechapel, Ian Porter,

Jack, Jason Williams,

Wellcome to Hell: Was Sir Henry Wellcome Jack the Ripper? Joseph Busa,

The Whitechapel Murders and Mary Jane Kelly, Peter Caldwell,

Scarlet Autumn: Jack the Ripper, Gian J. Quaser

Jack the Ripper: The Becoming, C. R. M. Gwynn,

The Hunt of a pipsqueak Jack the Ripper, C. Neil,

Jack the Ripper’s Many Faces, Amanda Harvey Purse,

Jack the Ripper’s Streets of Terror, John Stewart,

Jack the Ripper Komplett, S. Leib,

Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History, Paul Begg,

The Curse of Mitre Square and The Lodger: Two Jack the Ripper Classics, John Francis Brewer and Marie Belloc Lowndes,

Jack the Ripper- The Secret Police Files, Trevor Marriott,

Prey Time, Trevor Marriott,

Miller’s Court: The Story of Jack the Ripper and his last victim, James Paul,

Bred in Whitechapel: A novel based on Jack the Ripper, Tom Coleman and Robin Prior,

The Fifth Victim, Antonio Alexander,

Annie and the Ripper, Tim Champlin and Greg Smallwood,

Jack the Ripper Unmasked, Neil Ashford,

Jack the Ripper: First American Serial Killer, Stewart Evans and Paul Gainey,

Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld, Theo Aronson,

Tales of Jack the Ripper, Laird Barron, and others,

Mary Jane Kelly and the Victims of Jack the Ripper: The 125th Anniversary, Neal Sheldon,

It wasn’t Jack the Ripper? Patricia Pickett,

Jack the Ripper: From the Cradle to the Grave, Peter Rutt,

Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell, Stewart P. Evans and Keith Skinner,

Jack the Ripper: The Celebrity Suspects, Mike Holgate,

Jack the Ripper: The Suspects, The Whitechapel Society,

Ripper Hunter, M. J. Trow,

The East End Murders: From Jack the Ripper to Ronnie Kray, Neil R. Storey,

Jack the Ripper Papers: Part 1, Michael Bowman,

Cold Case Mysteries – Volume 1, Sascha von Bornheim,

The Welsh Ripper Killings, Gary M. Dobbs,

Ripper, Jael Gates,

A Grim Almanac of Jack the Ripper’s London 1870-1900, Neil R. Storey,

I am Jack…A biography of one of Scotland’s most notorious serial killers: Thomas Neil Cream, Wallace Edwards

Dark Streets of Whitechapel, R. Barri Flowers,

Murder in Whitechapel: The Adventure of the Post Mortem Knife, Donald and Kyle Joy,

Inquests Jack the Ripper, C. Neil,

Inquests Jack the Ripper, C. Neil,

Jack the Ripper Doesn’t Exist, Paul Juser,

Jack the Ripper- The Facts, Paul Begg,

The Seduction of Mary Kelly – The Final Victim of Jack the Ripper, William J. Perring,

From Hell: The Final Days of Jack the Ripper, Rob Thompson,

Abberline: The man who hunted Jack the Ripper, Peter Thurgood,

Dracula meets Jack the Ripper, Michael B. Druxman,

Jack the Ripper: Scotland Yard Investigates, Stewart P. Evans,

The Death of Jack the Ripper: Whitechapel Kittehs 2, Kitty Glitter,

Jack the Ripper vs Sherlock Holmes, Philip Duke,

Ritual in the Dark, Colin Wilson,

The Ripper Trilogy, Shawn Weaver and Donnie Light,

Jack the Ripper: The Terrible Legacy, The Whitechapel Society,

Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper, Frank Morlock, and others,

The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook, Stewart Evans and Keith Skinner,

Ripper, Seamus Winchester,

Jack the Ripper: The Theories and the facts, Colin Kendell,

The Man who hunted Jack the Ripper, Stewart P. Evans,

Victorian Lives behind Victorian Crimes: The women who made Jack the Ripper famous, Amanda Harvey Purse,

Ripper’s Wrath, Donnie Light and Shawn Weaver,

Jack the Book reader:

Luckily for book lovers, hardback and soft-back books are still being released; the following is a short list of some of 2013’s releases.

Jack the Ripper at Last? The Mysterious Murders of George Chapman, Henela Wojtczak,

Jack the Ripper: The Definitive Casebook, Richard Whittington Egan,

Jack the Ripper’s Streets of Terror: Life During the Reign of Victorian London’s Most Brutal Killer, Rupert Matthews,

Jack the Ripper: In My Blood: Normal Kirtlan, Dianne Bainbridge

The True History of Jack the Ripper: The Forgotten 1905 Ripper Novel, Guy Logan,  

Jack the Ripper: From the Cradle to the Grave, Peter Rutt,

The Complete and Essential Jack the Ripper, Paul Begg and John Bennett,

Abberline: The Man who hunted Jack the Ripper, Peter Thurgood,

Fifth Victim, Antonia Alexander,

The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper: As revealed to Clanash Farjeon, Alan Scarfe,

Jack the Audio Book:

Audio books make an entry in this year’s review for the first time.  Kindle’s and tablets all have audio options, and many downloadable Kindle titles have text to audio, however, audio books are becoming very popular again.  Here is a short list of some of 2013’s releases,

Ripper Hunter, M. J. Trow and Terry Wale,

Dracula Meets Jack the Ripper, Michael B. Druxman, and Fred Frees,

Jack the Ripperologist:

Ripperologist Magazine is still going strong, and what follows is a rundown, compiled by Howard Brown of of what each volume contained,

Issue 134 October
Editorial-For Better Or Worse—-Adam Wood
Guy Logan Vs. Jack The Ripper—-Jan Bondeson
The Fifth Victim; Hand Of A Woman?- Jennifer Shelden
Her Final Days (Catherine Eddowes)–Lynn Cates
A German Policewoman In London–Michaela Koristova
Henri D.T. Lautrec– Greg Alexander
Hunt The Ripper— Colin Saysell
The Men Who Would Be Jack ( The Provincials)–Nina & Howard Brown
Chris Scott’s Press Trawl
Spitalfields Life– The Gentle Author
Victorian Fiction : An Alpine Divorce–Robert Barr

Issue 133 August
Editorial- The Art Of Staying Lucky- Gareth Williams
The Last Breath Of Mary Kelly :The Life Of Sarah
Lewis ( 1865-1941)——-Chris Scott
In The Ripper’s Shadow : The Whitehall Mystery-
-Rob Clack
One Lone Maniac Too Many ( Part Two)–Simon Wood
Francis Tumblety & Yellow Journalism–Mike Hawley
Murder At The Cafe Royal– Jan Bondeson
The Men Who Would Be Jack ( Another Whitechapel
Murderer )–Nina & Howard Brown
Chris Scott’s Press Trawl
Spitalfield’s Life- The Gentle Author
Victorian Fiction– The Sea Raiders- H. G. Wells

Issue 132 June
Editorial : The Daughters Of Shiloh–Eduardo Zinna
Charles Albert Cadosch And His Family- Colin Macdonald
One Lone Maniac Too Many( Part One )- Simon Wood
Mystery At Mr. Cooke’s School of Anatomy - Jan Bondeson
The Men Who Would Be Jack (The Seamen )- Nina & Howard
Trevor Marriott’s The Evil Within- Mark Ripper
Chris Scott’s Press Trawl
Spitalfields Life- The Gentle Author
Obituary- Jess Franco
The Conclusion of Glen Bledsoe’s The Truth
Victorian Fiction : Glamr- Sabine Baring Gould

Issue 131 April
Editorial : If You Have No Daughters, Give Them To Your Sons– Adam Wood
Nature’s Warning Signals- J. Hunt Schooling
Leather Apron : A Persistent Rumour- Lynn Cates
The Mountie And The Cabman’s Shelter– Paul Williams
Evaluating The Suspects– Jennifer Shelden
Chopper Gamble And The Islington Child Outrages–Jan
The Men Who Would Be Jack ( An American Suspect )–
Nina And Howard Brown
Chris Scott’s Press Trawl
Spitalfields Life- The Gentle Author
Obituary- Elsbeth Bothe
Glen Bledsoe’s the Truth
Victorian Fiction- Cheating The Gallows-Israel Zangwill

Issue 130 February
Editorial : Quarter, Half, And Whole– Adam Wood
David Cohen : Talking Points of A Storyline–Scott Nelson
Whitechapel’s Wax Chamber of Horrors, 1888– Mike Hawley
The Village Bobby- Pauline Morgan
The Men Who Would Be Ripper ( Hall Of Shame : the Frank Hall Story)– Nina And Howard Brown
Ripper Fiction–Jack The Ripper Through The Mists Of Time–
Peter Hodgson
Chris Scott’s Press Trawl
Amazing Dogs- Jan Bondeson
Spitalfields Life- The Gentle Author
Glen Bledsoe’s The Truth
Victorian Fiction : Man Overboard !- Winston Spencer Churchill

In my opinion, the two finest articles of the year where:

The Fifth Victim; Hand Of A Woman?- Jennifer Shelden
Trevor Marriott’s The Evil Within- Mark Ripper

Jack the Blogger:

This year also saw one of Ripperology’s hardest workers, and excellent hoax-buster, Jenni Sheldon launch her Jack the Ripper blog Jack the Ripper Investigations, the blog can be viewed here:

Jack the Television Viewer:

The following is a rundown of fictional television shows regarding Jack the Ripper that were aired in 2013,

Ripper Street:

BBC’s Victorian crime drama came back with a second series, new characters, more intense storylines, and “The Elephant Man” but the elation was short lived as the BBC have announced that the show will not get a third series.  Watch this space, however, as a number of online polls and petitions hint that the viewers want more of this unique drama.  


ITV’s modern crime drama took a weird and wonderful turn through the darker side of Whitechapel and treated us to curses, ghosts, zombies, cannibalism, books made of human skin, and all other manner of macabre storylines, sadly, the plot was more messed up than Mary Kelly’s room on Miller’s-court, and ended on a convoluted cliff hanger that will never be answered as ITV announced that no more series will be made.


Sky Living’s American/British Horror television show featuring Jonathan Rhys Meyers began on October 13th 2013, and whilst it wasn’t directly related to the Jack the Ripper murders, good old Saucy Jack did get a mention.

Jack the Documentary viewer:

This year has seen its fair share of Jack the Ripper documentaries, here are just a few:

Murder Casebook:

Fred Dinenage returned with another series of crimes and misdemeanours and looked at Jack the Ripper in this 45 minute show.  The crime scene recreations were very bloody, and the show was all round quiet interesting.

Inside Broadmoor:

This documentary covered the history of Broadmoor and was very interesting.  It featured some fascinating contemporary sources, stories, and photographs, and featured a small segment on Jack the Ripper with Thomas Cutbush being proposed as a suspect. 

Four Rooms:

The popular auction show returned and with it the alleged watch owned by James Maybrick.  Sadly the experts did not want to buy it and the watch vanished again.

Jack the Ripper: Revealed:

The Mei Trow/Robert Mann documentary got another run this year, it was a fascinating documentary but for anyone wanting to know more I would suggest tracking down a copy of Trow’s book on the suspect.

Jack the Ripper: The German Suspect:

Trevor Marriott’s Karl/Carl Feigenbaum show got another showing this year, with Trevor travelling the globe trying to link Feigenbaum to the crimes in Whitechapel.

Jack the Ripper: Prime Suspect:

The Prospero Productions documentary on Frederick Bailey Deeming got another airing this year.  I missed it, but was made aware by numerous posts on Twitter and Facebook.  Thanks guys!!


My Year with Jack the Ripper:

My year got off to a bang with a photo shoot and interview with the Hull Daily Mail for an article on Jack the Ripper on January 8th.  By January 9th the article appeared in the Hull Daily Mail, and later that night the Yesterday Channel also showed the documentary I featured in, Prime Suspect: Jack the Ripper.  More interviews followed, and more stories both in the newspaper and online and a number of photo shoots followed.  

January 22nd saw me lecture at Hull Central Library and on February 5th I appeared at the Ings Library talking about Jack the Ripper – The Hull Connection. 

February 7th saw me appear on the Hull Community Radio Station with John Hutchinson talking about my research and work in Hull.  Jack the Ripper filled a huge segment of the two hour show.

I was back at Ings Library on April 2nd for another lecture and back again on May 7th for another! 

On May 6th I met with David Reeves on BBC Radio Humberside to discuss Jack the Ripper the Hull Connection, and on May 20th another lecture followed at Bilton.

May 23rd saw me lecture on Jack the Ripper at Hull University, a first for me, and a great honour to be asked.

June 10th saw another meeting with David Reeves at the BBC Buildings to discuss Jack the Ripper, and on July 12th I was back on Radio Humberside discussing the case, with a follow up slot on July 19th.  On September 4th I was back, this time on the David Burns show discussing Jack the Ripper – The Beverley Connection, and on September 5th I was at the East Riding Archives lecturing on the same topic.  It was a first for me, and another great honour to be invited.

On September 11th I was at the Hull History Centre giving a speech on the importance of volunteering when the centre won an award for the WWII and other volunteering projects.  It was a lovely day, and I had my photos taken with the Lord Mayor of Hull.  That night I was at the George Hotel lecturing on the history of the public house.  

October 12th saw another Jack the Ripper lecture at the central library in Hull, it also allowed me to meet with Ricky Cobb and show him around Hull. 

The year also saw the production of BBC Radio Humberside’s From Whitechapel to Whitefriargate, a one hour special on Jack the Ripper’s connections to Hull.  The show, created by David Reeves, saw us recording a lecture at the Hull Heritage Centre, recording on location at the Hull History Centre, Hull Prison, and at my house, as well as on location around Hull at night with the wind in our faces and the screams of hovering menacing seagulls!  The show will air on Radio Humberside on December 27th between 1 and 2pm, and again on January 1st between 6 and 7pm. 

In terms of research I have uncovered new material on Frederick Bailey Deeming, Frederick Richard Chapman, Robert D’Onston Stephenson, and James, Florence, and Michael Maybrick.  I also came across a gentleman, who had worked in the medical profession in 1888, who was based in Whitechapel that year, who had links to the Maybrick family.

There have also been business meetings with some of Hull’s most notable business folk, lectures for some of Hull’s most distinguished private groups, and lots planned to ensure that 2014 will be an even bigger and better year.

All that is left for me to do is to wish my readers a very happy Christmas, and a prosperous 2014.

Special thanks to Howard and Nina Brown at, Stephen P. Ryder at, David Reeves of BBC Radio Humberside, as well as all the other presenters that have had me on their shows this year, to the team at the Hull History Centre, Hull Central Library, and Hull Reference Library, Hull University, Carnegie Heritage Centre, Ings Libraries, Ricky Cobb, and Mr. Palin for all their help this year.

Thank you

Opinion 2 Comments »

I would just like to take this opportunity to say “Thank You” to everyone who has contacted me in the last week. 

The fantastic article in The Hull Daily Mail came as a lovely surprise, as I was awaiting a call for another article, and the speed in which the article came out was so quickly that I couldn’t believe it had been published already.  The online article can be viewed here:

The article also came at a time when Yesterday TV was showing reruns of Prime Suspect – Jack the Ripper, which covered the life and criminal career of Frederick Bailey Deeming.  It also featured footage of me sat at home, and on location on Hull’s Prince-street, and at Hull Prison.

As you can imagine it has been a busy week but a pleasurable one, with lots of new contacts being made. 

It was also a week which started with me being rushed into hospital again on account of my heart.  For six years I have battled ectopic beats, palpitations, and chest pains, and this Monday afternoon resulted in pains so severe that an ambulance was called.  Hopefully the problem will now be sorted but I cannot thank everyone who sent me messages, emails, tweets, and posts on social media to say “get well soon.” 

 This is just a quick post to say “Thank you.”

Hull Prison to partially close

Opinion 1 Comment »

It is with hand on heart that I must reveal the sad news that parts of Hull Prison are to close. 

The prison, which has a long history in Hull, was an improvement on the existing prison that was situated in Hull City Centre.  The foundation stone of the prison, or Hull Borough Gaol as it was originally known, was laid by the Mayor, Mr. H. J. Atkinson on the 9th of October 1865, with the prison opening in 1869.  It cost the Hull Corporation £89,000 and became the property of the government under the Government under the Prisons Act in 1878.  Initially the prison occupied 15 acres of land and was designed with the main corridors with cells were built as a cruciform.  This would enable the governor of the prison to stand in the centre and see down all the corridors.  At the time it was erected it consisted of cells to hold 347 prisoners, but this soon expanded to 505 cells, with 130 of these being used for females.  The architect who designed the prison died just one week before the prison was opened! 

The original Governor of Hull Borough Gaol was one Henry Webster, occasionally called Harry, who served at the Gaol from 1869 until August 1891 when he resigned due to ill health and moved to Australia.

Webster gave evidence during the Mary Jane Langley murder trial, and was also the Governor responsible for keeping Frederick Bailey Deeming in order during his nine months at the prison for defrauding Reynoldsons Jewellers on Whitefriargate in Hull.

Webster left Hull for Australia shortly after his resignation and lived down under until 1934.  Despite leaving Hull Borough Gaol on grounds of ill health, he lived to the ripe old age of 96.

Whilst Webster was in Australia he heard newspaper reports on Frederick Bailey Deeming and later identified Deeming as being known in Hull as Harry Lawson.  It was through Webster’s observations that the authorities in Rainhill were alerted to the fact that Deeming had been in the region, and through their swift acts they revealed that he had murdered his first wife and four children. 

Another notorious rogue during Henry Webster’s time at the prison was Joseph Dawber.  Dawber was the cousin of Robert D’Onston Stephenson, and was a Hull based solicitor.  He defrauded Hull residents out of their money with dodgy land deals and was eventually caught out and sent to Hull Gaol, appearing on the 1891 Census alongside Frederick Bailey Deeming.

Over the years the prison has played host to a wide range of criminals including Charles Bronson, Frankie Fraser, and Frank “The Mad Axe Man” Mitchell.

Most Hull readers will be well aware of Ethel Major’s stay at the Gaol.  Major was sentenced to death after poisoning her husband (and her dog) with her execution taking place on December 19th 1934.  Her body is buried in the prison along with Arthur Richardson, William James Bolton, Charles William, Thomas Siddle, John Freeman, William George Smith, Robert Ernest Dalton, George Michael, and Roy Gregory.

As you can imagine the site has a long history associated with Hull, and little by little we are in danger of losing it.


Hull Prison – Hull Daily Mail

Hull Prison – Hull Daily Mail

Ripper Street Review

Opinion 13 Comments »

Ripper Street Review

The following was written for Spooky Isles:

Last night, Sunday December 30th 2012, marked the showing of the first episode of BBC’s Ripper Street.  A long awaited show that was said to give an idea what the people in Whitechapel felt in 1889, the year after the notorious murders which were ascribed to an unknown assailant, known only as “Jack the Ripper.”

As a Ripperologist this got me very excited, and for months I would count down until showing, readying my Sky+ planner to record the series in HD, and hoping that a DVD release would soon follow. 

1889 – A brief background

1889 was a fascinating year by anyone’s standards.  Parts of a torso were washed up along the Thames between May and June 1889, leading to the discovery that the body was one Elizabeth Jackson.  Furthermore Alice McKenzie had been found dead on July 17th 1889, and The Pinchin Street Torso was discovered on September 8th 1889. 

The British press were still reporting on the events of the previous year, as well as the tragedies mentioned above, as well as several other Ripper Scares in Scotland, Bradford, and Walworth.  There was also a reported Ripper Scare as far away as Madrid!  With all this going on the police in Whitechapel were extra vigilant, and even they came in for a bashing, when, in September 1889, Sergeant William Thick of H Division was accused of being “Jack the Ripper.”  The year was also the year that the Cleveland Street Scandal broke, when a high class brothel was raided and Inspector Abberline was involved on behalf of the police. 

There was certainly plenty going on through the year to make the show exciting and base events around genuine events of the time. 

The Show

The show started at 21.00 on Sunday December 30th 2012 and got off to an alright start.  The streets, buildings, and costumes looked amazing, and the over populated grime ridden backstreets of Whitechapel were really well done.  The transportation at the time was also fantastic, and nice to see onscreen.  We are quickly introduced to the two main characters, the Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (played by Matthew Macfadyen) and Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (played by Jerome Flynn). 

We are then whisked back to Whitechapel for a Ripper tour, where the guide tells us that the Ripper crimes occurred the year before, and that we are now entering Miller’s Court.  The problem here of course, is that it looked nothing like Miller’s Court and more like a series of nondescript alleys.

The guide then finds the body of a woman laid on the floor and apparently dead.  I assumed at this point, as the show was based after the Ripper murders in 1889, that this was Alice McKenzie, but I would be proved wrong when the show revealed it was not named after any of the genuine victims but called Maude Thwaites.

By the time the police arrived a photographer is on scene, looking very shifty, and the body is laid out.  On the wall is some graffiti, similar to that found at Goulston Street which was found by PC Long at 2.55am on the morning of September 30th 1888 after the murder of Catherine Eddowes who was discovered by Constable Edward Watkins at 1.30am that morning.  At this point my wife, who is not a Ripperologist but puts up with my Ripperological lectures turned to me and whispered “Graffiti in 1889?” 

The body was carried to a wagon and removed to Leman Street Police Station, where it was hidden in a cell and an American doctor is called.   This American, played by Adam Rothernberg, is Captain Homer Jackson, a former member of Pinkerton’s Detective Agency, and not unlike Sherlock Holmes.   At the time we meet him he is in a brothel indisposed.  This sets the tone for the rest of the show.

Eventually we meet Abberline.  The real Abberline enlisted with the Met police on January 5th 1863, initially working for N Division, but working his way up through the ranks.  In 1888, at the time of the Ripper murders, he was working for Scotland Yard Central Office as an Inspector First Class, but after the murder of Mary Ann Nichols on August 31st 1888 he was seconded to Whitechapel’s H Division.

Abberline was played by Clive Russell, an English born, Scottish raised, actor who played the Dorset born police inspector, as a Cockney.  It should also be noted that during this time Abberline was 46, being born in 1843, but Clive Russell is 67 years old, making Abberline some 21 years older than he actually is.  That said, the actor did not play him as a drunk or drug addict as Michael Caine and Johnny Depp did respectively, and Abberline seemed to be as one would expect, upright, stern, and a man who is respected by his peers.

The murdered woman lead the team on a rollercoaster ride through the East End of London, to high class brothels, illegal bare knuckle fights, and through the shady world of Victorian pornography.  As the plot developed, the pornography ring turned into a high class snuff movie ring, with prostitutes removed from the streets, only to be made to star in pornographic snuff movies, to be killed off, and dumped back on the streets to make it look like “Jack the Ripper” had returned.  The main nemisis in the story is Sir Arthur Donaldson, who is played with relish by Mark Dexter.  Ripperologists will remember Mark Dexter in From Hell (2001) playing the dual role of Albert Sickert and Prince Edward Albert Victor.  

Whilst there were a few references to the original Ripper murders, I found the links few and far between.  The costumes and sets were fantastic, the pace was slick, and the script had a few stand out moments, the fire in the photography dark room being one, but overall I felt let down.    

Here is hoping that the second episode makes up for the lack of Jack.

Igloo Books

Books, Opinion 3 Comments »

A short while ago I picked up a couple of copies of IGLOO BOOKS Jack the Ripper – The Memorabilia Collection. The book, written by Rupert Matthews, and is published by the aforementioned IGLOO BOOKS, 2012. The book, which has document wallets, is very similar to Richard Jones’s Jack the Ripper – The Casebook, (2008, Andre Deutsch or 2010, Sevenoaks) in that it contains several document wallets containing facsimile reproductions of letters etc. Whilst Richard’s book had more in it, in both written word and documents, Rupert’s book is a nice collection of material, photographs and facsimile documents, including a suspect list, letter, police report and map of Whitechapel and Spitalfields with locations pin pointed. The book is also in a nice hard magnetic sleeve which protects the contents.

Rupert’s book currently has the RRP of (UK) £17.99, (US) $35.00, and (Can) $35.00, however, British Ripperologists can pick the book up from ASDA for just £5.00!!!

But that’s not all. IGLOO BOOKS, which has also released similar titles in the range on Elvis, Formula 1, Events that changed the world, and British Steam, has also released a volume entitled Conspiracy Theories. The book, written by Will Bryan, also contains facsimile documents, newspapers, postcards and posters covering a wide range of conspiracies from JFK, to Titanic, Nessie, Crop Circles and other weird and wonderful cases. Among the many cases is that of Jack the Ripper, asking the age old question, “Who was Jack the Ripper?” The topic covers just two pages, one of which is photographs, but arrives at no conclusion, and whilst it names some popular suspects named over the years, it fails to land on one suspect. Despite this, the page is stamped with “Case Closed” on the end of the page.

Will’s book currently has the RRP of (UK) £17.99, (US) $35.00, and (Can) $35.00, however, British Ripperologists/Conspiracy Theorists can pick the book up from ASDA for just £5.00!!!

David A. Green’s Indexes

Books, Opinion, Podcast 2 Comments »

In 2005 Euan Macpherson released The Trial of Jack the Ripper – The Case of William Bury 1859-1889, with Mainstream Publishing Company.   The book was well written, well researched, and well received by Ripperologists, with many supporting the theory, which was first put forward in 1889.  One thing the book was lacking was an index.  Granted, they are not always important, but for many researchers who love nothing more than quickly picking up a weighty Ripper tome and flicking straight to a quote or reference these indexes are worth their weight in gold. 

Luckily, David A. Green was on hand to help with this, and in 2009 published the second in a series of indexes for Jack the Ripper titles that are missing indexes.  The index was invaluable, and quite rare, with only 50 published.  Being able to slide the index into the back of the original title and use it as a reference tool is fantastic, and the time and effort that has gone into producing them is outstanding, especially as David never asks for payment, and sends them out at his own expense.

2005 also saw the release of the excellent The First Jack the Ripper Victim Photographs, by Robert J. McLaughlin.  Robert is a great researcher, writer and gentleman who I had the pleasure of chatting to on numerous occasions on the Rippercast podcasts set up by Jonathan Menges.   The book, published by Zwerghaus Books, was a very limited edition, with all copies being snapped up, and recent sales of the book reaching four figure sums!  Sadly, Robert’s book also failed to include an index, so David A. Green set to work again. 

Earlier this month David contacted me again, and informed me that the index to Robert’s book was complete, and again very kindly offered to send one to my home.  Again the work that has gone into the index is outstanding, and it is well presented, with cover piece and even an illustration.   Once again only 50 of these were made.

I cannot thank David enough for these, and they certainly cut down time in researching specifics of the case.  I must also thank Rob for sending me a free signed copy of his ultra rare book back in April 2008. 

Thank you gents.

News roundup…

Opinion, TV/Documentaries 3 Comments »

This week has seen some interesting developments in Ripperology in the field of television drama. 


First of all ITV has announced that Whitechapel will return for a fourth series.  The show previously tackled Jack the Ripper, The Krays, and a series of East End crimes from the Ratcliffe Highway Murders, to the Thames Torso Murders.  Details on the new series are a little sketchy at present, with ITV revealing that a six episode series has been given the green light, so let’s hope that Chandler, Miles and Buchan are back together for more mysteries and murders. 

The news can be seen here:


Radio Times:

Ripper Street

The BBC’s Ripper Street is also making headlines with the announcement that Canadian and Norwegian television companies have bought the rights to air the show abroad.   

The News can be viewed here:

BBC News:

The Irish Film and Television Network:

Jack the Ripper’s Ghost

The Telegraph this week asked “Are the Houses of Parliament Haunted?” in an online article.  The piece, written by Donald Strachan, claims that the “the ghost of Jack the Ripper threw himself off Westminster Bridge.”

The Telegraph:



This past week

Archives, Deeming, Events, Hull Press, Libraries, Opinion, Press Reports, Research, Stephenson Family No Comments »

The past week


In the past week I had the opportunity to peruse some old Hull newspapers that covered the years 1889 to 1940.  Among the newspapers were several articles pertaining to Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murders.  I was able to collect copies of articles on the likes of Sir Charles Warren, Sir Melville Macnaghten, and several other police officials, who were in service during the “Autumn of Terror.” 

I was also able to obtain copies of newspaper reports on several suspects, from Frederick Bailey Deeming, James and Florence Maybrick, Charles LeGrand, Francis Tumblety, and several other suspects that are rarely discussed despite their candidacy being much stronger than the likes of some who have been mentioned in the past!

I was also able to collect material, including newspaper reports, and material gleaned from primary sources on the likes of Annie Millwood, Ada Wilson, Emma Elizabeth Smith, Martha Tabram, Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Susan Ward, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, The Whitehall Mystery, Mary Jane Kelly, Annie Farmer, Rose Mylett, Elizabeth Jackson, Alice McKenzie, the Pinchin Street Torso, and Frances Coles, as well as several other victims who were killed in the vicinity in the months after the initial “Jack the Ripper” scare! 


This Saturday I had the pleasure of lecturing at the Western Library, on Boulevard, off Hessle-road in West Hull.  The library is opposite the former home of one Frederick Richard Chapman, and close to the site of one of the Hull Dispensary’s that he worked at, and the former church where he was a church warden.  The library itself is an historical gem, built in 1895 and being the first in Hull to be erected using public funding.  The library closed in 2011 and reopened only recently after a £800,000 regeneration project and I must say it is a lovely bright place with many of the historical features kept for future generations to admire.  Among the improvements were the erection of extra meeting rooms, a lift, extra shelving, solar roof panels, and a new IT facility.  The original Victorian counter is still present, and many of the walls have been restored. 

The lecture was arranged by The Friends of Hull Library, who asked that I go along and discuss Hull’s Ghostly Myths and Legends.  It was a lovely atmosphere, and I came away with more bookings for future lectures.  I was also pleased that not only was the room packed, but that the crowd had so many stories and questions in the Q+A session I held afterwards. 

All in all it was a great day, and I hope to return to the library very soon.

Heritage Open Days Hull

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this weekend saw the Heritage Open Days across the UK, and closer to home in Hull.  On Saturday I had the pleasure of visiting Hull’s Neptune Inn, a location that was built in the 1700’s but by the 1800’s had been closed and was sold to the Hull Customs.  It was here, in 1863, that Robert D’Onston Stephenson began working as a clerk of the first class to the Hull Customs.  The property is owned by the Trinity House Corporation, who Robert D’Onston Stephenson’s father worked for in his role as Receiver of Corporation Dues and Receiver of Bouyage.  Two roles that were jointly operated by the Trinity House Corporation, the Hull Customs, the Hull Dock Corporation and the Hull Corporation.  It was also through the same roles and employers that Lewis Carroll’s maternal grandfather worked, albeit in the 1700’s.

The massive awe inspiring building retains many of the original features after it was renovated some years ago and stands opposite the bank that was used by Frederick Bailey Deeming prior to him defrauding Messrs Reynoldson’s!  Deeming arrived in Hull in November 1889 and opened up an account at the bank, and traded with them until he closed his account and wrote three cheques for jewellery at Mr. Reynoldson’s jewellery store, where the current Schue branch is on Hull’s Whitefriargate. 

The bank stands on the corner of Whitefriargate and Parliament-street, another location that appears in Hull’s Ripperological history.  Several people were removed to Parliament-street police station between 1888 and 1900 for “Ripper like conduct” and it acted until the central police station during the period. 

Also on Parliament-street stood what was known as Messrs Tenny and Dawber, a solicitors firm that Joseph Dawber was running.  Joseph was Robert D’Onston Stephenson’s cousin, and would later be locked up in Hull Gaol for fraud.  Curiously, the 1891 Census shows that at the same time he was in prison, Frederick Bailey Deeming, under the alias of Harry Lawson, was also an inmate!  Small world!

Leaving Neptune Inn I paid a visit to the Holy Trinity Church, where William Wilberforce was christened.  It was also here that Robert D’Onston Stephenson’s father was also christened!  The church is always a pleasure to walk about, and features the tombs and remembrance plaques of hundreds of former Hull notables including former Mayors, Alderman, and Merchants.  The tower was open, but with my dodgy ticker and the heat I didn’t risk the climb. 

After Holy Trinity Church I visited the Pacific Exchange, which was advertised as being open 10:00 – 15:00 but at 14:00 was already closed.  Regardless I walked along to Hull’s only National Trust property, Maister’s House.  The house has a magnificent staircase and upper balcony, but it was undergoing structural integrity checks, so scaffold bars and boards blocked much of what was previously on show.  Hopefully they will discover the problem and save this unique location.

From Maister’s House I had a quick look around Hull’s Museum Quarter, where a collection of vintage cars were on display.  Leaving the museums I headed for the Georgian Houses but discovered that the tours needed booking despite the official guide stating that no booking was required.  When I enquired about the time I was told the next available tour would be in a hour and half, so I left for other locations. 

Blaydes House was next on the agenda, a beautiful 18th Century property built and owned by the Blaydes family.  It was the Blaydes family who built a ship named “The Bertha,” which would be later renamed “The Bounty” which was known for its infamous mutiny.    

Leaving Blaydes House my next stop was St Mary’s Church, known to many as St Mary the Virgin.  The church dates from the 14th Century, and is packed with historical features that make it a place to visit over and over again.  Once again, for health reasons, I decided against the tower climb. 

Taking in other locations, such as Ye Olde White Hart, White Hart, Sailmakers, and George Hotel, I finished the day at Hull’s Bob Carver’s fish and chips shop.  A piece of Hull’s history in itself.        

September 6th 1888

Events, National Press, Opinion No Comments »

September 6th 1888

September 6th 1888 was a typical no news day in the East End, The Star however, had plenty to report on, and their article looked at how the East End was experiencing a murder a day!  It was typical scaremongering reporting, but helped sell copies and keep newspapermen in business.   The report, published that day, likened the Whitechapel murders to the “The Murders in “The Rue Morgue.” 

The Dundee Courier and Argus, also published that day, discussed a suspect that was being watched, named only as “Leather Apron.”

 Mary Ann Nichols is buried at Little Illford Cemetery.


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