Swallow Gardens

In the Shadow of the Seven Stars
Album Background Research

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Swallow Gardens was a dank archway situated in the area east of the Tower of London. In 1888, it was owned by the Midland Railway Company and led from Chamber Street southwards onto Royal Mint Street. The archway was largely used by railway employees, carters and those engaged at the Midland and Great Eastern goods depots, forming a sort of back entrance to the depot.

Along the Eastern side of the arch, at about a third of the width across and running the full length, was a wooden hoarding. This hoarding formed a storage facility that was hired by Mr Reuben Cull & Son, brick and tile merchants, and it was a notorious haunt for prostitutes. In fact, two women would be arrested for loitering at this spot earlier in the night by one of the police constables who would later assist in removing the body of Frances Coles. At an early period of the Whitechapel scare, Leman Street officers had turned their attention to Swallow Gardens and a plainclothes officer was appointed to special watchduty thereabouts. This thoroughfare was about 50 yards in length and was lit by wall mounted gas lamps at each end but midway was enshrouded in darkness.

railway arches
Swallow Gardens in the 2000s

The body of Frances Coles was discovered at 2:15 am on November 13, 1891 by a police constable named Ernest Thompson. As he passed through the archway of the Great Eastern Railway that led from Swallow Gardens to Orman Street, he heard a man’s footsteps walking away from him. Shining his lamp into the archway, he saw the prone figure of a woman lying in a pool of blood with a terrible wound to her throat that went from ear to ear.

On examining the body, Dr George Philips, the police surgeon, did not believe the crime was connected to the Ripper murders of 1888. However, given the similarities between the crimes, it was inevitable that the press would link this attack to the unsolved murder spree of the so-called Jack the Ripper. A year after Frances Coles death, the Whitechapel Murders file was closed and to this day the crimes remain unsolved.

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