The London of 1888
London has changed dramatically in the 130 years since Jack the Ripper was stalking the dimly lit streets. Following those dark months in Whitechapel in 1888, the East End has undergone a remarkable resurgence as a major focus of London's nightlife thanks to heavy investment and a change in the social demographic, but there are still pockets of the old Victorian London left that would be familiar to Jack the Ripper and his unfortunate victims. We visit them every night on our famous Jack the Ripper tour, giving our tour guests a glimpse into the London of 1888.
Widespread Poverty and Depravation
The streets of Whitechapel 1888 were filled with dimly lit gas lamps, eerie alleys, and an incessant fog. It was a land of zero opportunity, with people struggling to find employment and often resorting to petty theft and prostitution to make ends meet. The residents of Whitechapel suffered from depravity, destitution, and poverty, and to make things worse, an ominous killer was lurking in the streets.
Relics of the Past
Though Whitechapel has undergone a great transformation from its slum roots in 1888, many Victorian spots still remain. The East End is home to many historic pubs that Jack the Ripper himself would consider his local watering holes. Our tours walk you through these spaces, allowing you to take a step back into the Victorian era and immerse yourself in the eerie atmosphere of 19th century London.
Whilst you won’t find doss houses on Commercial Street or horses and carts roaring through Spitalfields Market anymore, the bones of Victorian Whitechapel still stand, and you can trace the steps the Ripper walked himself, as well as those of his victims. Though the way Whitechapel operates is very different now, there are some similarities. The stench of the Industrial Revolution has been replaced with the fumes of motor vehicles, but it’s a stench nonetheless. Thick black smog has traded places with air pollution from cars, carrying on London’s stereotype as a dusty city.
These are both historical and present day issues, but one thing that overrides them both is that 130 years later, the Metropolitan Police Force are still none the wiser as to who the ruthless Ripper really was. The Ripper gripped London all those years ago, and he continues to do so to this day.
A Changing Landscape
In the early half of the Victorian era, the East End where Jack and his victims resided was nothing more than rural land, but following the acceleration of the Industrial Revolution, Whitechapel soon became absorbed by the growing metropolis that was London. With dockyards and space aplenty, Whitechapel and the East End in general became the first port of call for migrants seeking a better life on the Yellow Brick Road.
Unfortunately, what they found when they arrived was a mass slum – an area where wealthy businesspeople would set up shop and yet never visit. Crime was rife in London in 1888, with pick pockets aplenty and thieves at every turn. The poorest members of society wound up here, including Jack the Ripper and his victims – ladies of the night trying to scrape together a living. Despite the crime rate, the East End had never seen a criminal like the Ripper before, and it’s his legacy for which it is now known around the world.
Over the years, London's East End has seen it all: political upheavals, gangland violence, mass immigration, and social unrest - but it has also seen a re-birth as a trendy and artistic quarter that has reshaped our opinions of what was once the worst area in London. Despite this changing landscape, the streets are forever haunted by the unknown serial killer of 1888.
Click on the links below to learn more about what London was like in 1888, or book a place on one our tours to experience a walk through time in real life.