Victorian London - Crime - Violence and assault - 'Jack the Ripper'


Thomas Barry, a showman, was indicted at the Central Criminal Court, on Tuesday, before the Recorder, upon the charge of creating a nuisance y exhibiting figures illustrating a show, and thereby causing idle people to assemble and remain in the Queen's highway. Mr. Poland, Q.C., and Mr. Gore prosecuted for the Whitechapel District Board of Works, and Mr. Purcell defended.
    Mr. Poland, in opening the case, said that the defendant was the proprietor of a show at 106 and 107, Whitechapel-road, and the inhabitants thereabouts had complained of the nuisance caused by the show. I had been the custom of the defendant to exhibit outside the place representations of the Whitechapel murders of "Jack the Ripper", various fat people and dwarfs, and all kinds of monstrosities. There was a waxworks inside, and boxing and other performances went on. The price of admission was a penny. Noises were made outside to attract audiences, and large crowds assembled, obstructing the thoroughfare, and causing, he contended, a nuisance.
    A number of witnesses were then called in support of the case for the prosecution. It was stated that a piece called Maria Martin was played, and also Cartouche, the French Jack Sheppard. Each show lasted about twenty minutes to half-an-hour, and the shows followed each other in succession as audiences were collected. There was shouting when an audience was being gathered, and then large crowds were attracted. The showman outside called out that there was a "bearded woman" to be seen inside, and that this woman was caught by Buffalo Bill, and, having long hair and a beard, she represented "half a gorilla and half a woman." There was an imitation policeman in wax outside. There was a fat French woman exhibited inside, and it was stated that she weighed 39st. 11lb., and measured 8ft. around her shoulders, and one of her garments was exhibited outside to show its size. The announcement was also made that there was a "female champion boxer" who boxed three rounds with a tall soldier.
    Police-constable 28 J.R. proved that as many as 200 people had assembled outside the show premises at one time. The pictures that attracted most attention were those relating to the Whitechapel murders, exhibited at shop No.106. One picture showed six women lying down injured and covered in blood, and with their clothes disturbed.
    Police-inspector Cudmore stated that many known thieves loitered among the crowd and gathered outside the premises, and a large number of persons were arrested near the spot for pocket-picking and larceny.
    Henry Tate, in the employ of Mr. Hunt, a cheese-monger of 108 and 109 Whitechapel-road stated that the shop, No.107, was principally used as a "ghost show." Various pieces were played there, including Sweeney Todd. The showman outside kept calling out till the "house" was filled and performers in stage dress appeared every time they wanted to "draw the house full."
    Mr. Poland read a petition, signed by a number of residents in the neighbourhood, which had been presented to the Whitechapel District Board, complaining of the show as an injury to trade and a nuisance to the inhabitants.
    Mr. Purcell put in a counter-petition, signed by forty-three other inhabitants of the locality, saying that the show was not the least nuisance to them.
    Further evidence was given in support of the prosecution by a number of inhabitants living close to the defendant's premises. It was stated that trade had fallen off in consequence of the crowds that gathered.
    Mr. Johnson, a vestryman, said that in connection with the show there had been a barrel-organ grinding, a fog-horn blowing, and a gong being beaten. The organ, however, was done away with about four months ago.
    Mr. Purcell, for the defence, said that the business carried out by the defendant was not one that contravened the law at all. The pictures with reference to the Whitechapel murders were removed a long time ago. He contended that the defendant had not conducted his legitimate business in such a way as to make him amenable to the law. The defendant did not want people to stare outside, but to go into the show, and the roughs and pickpockets who gathered outside were as much a nuisance to him as to his neighbours.
    Witnesses were next called for the defence, being persons living in the neighbourhood, who stated that the defendants business was not a nuisance to them. It was stated that, besides stalls along the road, there was in the thoroughfare a seal and crocodile show under canvas, a cocoanut-shying stand, kinfe-ringing stands, shooting galleries, men drawing teeth and selling corn-plaisters, and these caused equally large crowds to assemble.
    The defendant was called as a witness on his own behalf. He said that for the two shops he paid 245 a year rent. As far as possible he had diminished the noise made to attract people, and he wished to carry on his business with as little annoyance to others as possible.
    In answer to Mr. Poland, the defendant said he could not carry on his business if he discontinued having a showman at the door to call out. He could do without pictures, but it was necessary to show the performers to attract the public.
    After a long consideration, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Mr. Poland said that there was a similar case against a man named Lindley arising in the same neighbourhood. The defendant Lindley said that he would plead guilty.
    Mr. Poland then suggested that both defendants should be allowed to go no their own recognisances to come up for judgment if called upon, and if the inhabitants of the locality were satisfied that there was no further nuisance no more would be heard of the matter. The only object of the prosecution was to stop a nuisance.
    The Recorder adopted this course and the defendants were discharged on entering into their own recognisances in the sum of 100 each to come up for judgment if called upon.

The Era, February 9, 1889

WHITECHAPEL NUISANCES. - Thos. Barry surrendered to take his trial for creating a nuisance by carrying on a show in the Whitechapel-road, and thereby causing large numbers of disorderly people to assemble and obstruct the public highway. This was a prosecution instituted by the Highway board of Whitechapel. - The defendant was the occupier of two houses in the Whitechapel-road, and it was alleged on the part of the prosecution that, finding his ordinary attractions had entirely failed to arouse public interest he took advantage of the excitement which had been caused by the murders in Whitechapel to exhibit ghastly and disgusting representations of the victims. It was stated that the public exhibited disgust at this feature of the exhibition, and that it was modified to some extent, but the horrible crimes that had taken place in the neighbourhood were still sought to be made objects of attraction to the public. - Mr. Purcell, for the defence, argued that the accused had a right to carry on the business of a showman if he pleased, and the only question for the consideration of the jury was whether he carried on his business in such a manner as to create a nuisance to the public. He called witnesses to show that exhibitions of all kinds - rifle galleries, fortune telling, cocoanut shying - took place in the same neighbourhood, and that a great deal of the noise and obstruction was caused by these exhibitions, rather than by the defendant's show. - The jury found the defendant "Guilty." - There was a similar charge against another defendant named Lindley, for a nuisance in the same locality, and the accused pleased "Guilty." - The defendants were liberated, on their undertaking to abate the nuisance, and come up for judgment if called upon.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, 10 February 1889

JAMES KENDRICK, 25, pleaded "Guilty" to a charge of obtaining 1d. by false pretences. On the evening of December 6 the prisoner was selling newspapers in the street shouting "Another horrible murder and mutilation; Jack the Ripper at work again." The prosecutor bought from him a number of the Sun, and looked for an account of the murder, but was unable to find it. He pointed out to the prisoner that there was nothing of the kind in the paper, and the prisoner thereupon took off his coat and offered to fight him. The prosecutor called a constable and gave the prisoner into custody. On the way to the police-station the prisoner threatened him and said he would "act Phoenix Park on him when he got out." The prisoner said he was intoxicated at the time, and "no doubt exceeded the news." Several previous convictions for larceny were proved against him, and it appeared that he had been liberated from prison only two days when he committed this offence. He was sentenced to 21 days imprisonment, with hard labour.

The Times, 21 January, 1890

This was the year when the whole of London was stirred to excitement by the criminal activities of 'Jack the Ripper'. Before I was married I knew little if anything about it, but I know that friends made up parties to go and view the scenes of those horrible crimes.

Baroness Orczy, Links in the Chain of Life (autobiography), 1947

Jack the Ripper Casebook

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