Tewkesbury Buildings – Whitechapel High Street

In the Shadow of the Seven Stars
Hunting the Ripper

Related song: Wrecking Ball

Map of murder locations in Whitechapel
Map showing the Whitechapel murder locations between 1888 and 1891 and the apartment where serial murderer Seweryn Klosowski (a.k.a. George Chapman) lived with his wife and son in 1891.

The question of who was where and when is always a key to solving any crime. Even with the most straightforward crime, establishing timelines and points of intersection for multiple individuals can be difficult. Attempting to do this with a historical crime for which there are few official records, a largely itinerant local population and no eye witnesses on record is practically foolhardy.

Yet the question still remains whether the murder of Frances Coles might be attributable to any of the known Jack the Ripper suspects. Certainly, there remains the possibility that merchant seaman James Thomas Sadler crossed paths with Coles as he drunkenly wandered the streets near St. Katherine’s Docks that night on his journey back to the lodging at 8 White’s Row, where he and Coles had been sharing a room.

But Frances Coles had also been with other men that night. According to testimony by her friend Ellen Callana (aka, “Ellen Callagher”), another prostitute working the streets of Whitechapel, Coles was turned out of Shuttleworth’s Eating House on Wentworth Street around 1:45 AM. The two women met on Commercial Street shortly after this and begin walking south toward the Minories, a journey that would intersect with Whitechapel High Street within a stone’s throw of Tewkesbury Buildings along the way.

This fact is significant because it places Frances Coles very near the apartment building where Jack the Ripper suspect Seweryn Klosowski was living at that time. We know this to be true based on two pieces of official evidence, the 1891 London Census, which took place in the first weeks of April 1891 and the death certificate of Seweryn Klosowski’s son on March 3, 1891, both of which list the 2 Tewkesbury Building location as Klosowski’s primary residence. By June of 1891, Klosowski and his wife Lucy, left the Tewkesbury Building residence for good and headed to America aboard the SS Friesland, which set sail from Antwerp, Belgium and arrived in New York City on July 28, 1891. Consequently, based on the official record, there is no reason to believe that Klosowski was not living in the Tewkesbury Buildings the night that Frances Coles was murdered.

Seweryn Klosowski (a.k.a. George Chapman)
Seweryn Klosowski
is later executed
as the Burrough Poisoner
George Chapman

Seweryn Klosowski who is also known as the Burrough Poisoner George Chapman

During the official inquest into Frances Coles’ murder, Ellen Callana describes a man who approached the two women on Commercial Street near Whitechapel High Street. She indicates the man is not James Thomas Sadler, but rather a man who matches a general description of Klosowski.

She says, “A man spoke to me. He was a very short man, with a dark moustache, shiny boots, and blue trousers, and had the appearance of a sailor. It was not Sadler. Because I would not go with him he punched me and tore my jacket. Frances was about three or four yards away at the time. We were both just getting over drunkenness. He went and spoke to Frances then, and I said, “Frances, don’t go with that man, I don’t like his look.” She replied, “I will,” and I then said, “If you are going with that man I will bid you goodnight.” I left them at the bottom of Commercial-street going towards the Minories, and I went to Theobald’s lodging-house, Brick-lane. I watched them till they turned round by the public house into White-street.”

Coles leaves Callana’s company with the short, violent man with a a dark mustache and turns down White-street (Whitechapel High Street) toward the Minories, which is close to the location where Coles was murdered. Another account by Callana has the couple heading down Leman Street, which is a straight shot to the murder scene from the location where the women parted, after walking out of the White Stag Public House, which is located directly above Klosowski’s basement barber shop on Whitechapel High Street. This parting takes place roughly 20-30 minutes before Frances Coles’ body is found under the railway arch in Swallow Gardens near Royal Mint Street at 2:15 AM.

About the Tewkesbury Buildings

Occupants of 2 Tewkesbury Buildings during the 1891 London Census
Occupants of 2 Tewkesbury Building (Number 24), during the April 1891 London Census, including hairdresser Seweryn (“Severyn”) Klosowski, Lucy (“Luie”) Klosowski and 17 year-old hairdresser assistant Max Stoirlice.

From the seventeenth century until the Second World War a long narrow courtyard was located off the north side of the High Street, with an entry through an archway between Nos 99 and 100 Whitechapel High Street. It existed by 1675 when it was known as Church Alley, and by 1787 Tewkesbury Church Alley; there was a pub called the Tewkesbury Church adjoining the alley by 1730, source perhaps of the name upgrade. The alley’s trajectory over the next 250 years was the opposite to Spread Eagle Yard, in that it became narrower and more uniform. In the 1670s it had twenty-six houses, mostly of one hearth, a narrow alley with a subsidiary spur eastwards and a square court at the north end. The only occupant who can be identified is a cutler, Thomas Lenton (d. 1695).

By 1823, Tewkesbury Place, on a single lease with No. 99, consisted of sixteen three-story houses, a warehouse and stabling for No. 99, a state it remained in till rebuilding in two phases in 1847-50 as Tewkesbury Buildings, fourteen three-story, flat-fronted houses and a warehouse built by Pollock & MacLennan of Osnaburgh Street and Adcock of Seymour Street. Nos 99-100 Whitechapel High Street had been partially rebuilt presumably in connection with this, in 1847. They were built for Dr Edmund S. Symes, a physician long resident in Grosvenor Street, Hanover Square, who seems to have occupied himself mostly with phrenology and in directorships of various insurance and loan companies. When Tewkesbury Buildings were rebuilt Symes was complimented by the Osborn Street Commissioners on the ‘excellent’ arrangement of the houses, but by 1862 the Whitechapel District Board found that although they ‘were of the very best class of poor houses in the district, they caused more trouble to enforce proper sanitary arrangements than any other houses’. Underground rooms were repeatedly found illegally occupied as sleeping apartments.

The previous year, the journalist John Hollingshead found: ‘Tewkesbury Buildings is a colony of Dutch Jews, and, if anything, they are a little cleaner than their Christian neighbours. A synagogue, Chevrat Ahavei Shalom [‘Lovers of Peace’] existed at 10 Tewkesbury Buildings from 1863 till, at least, 1894. In 1879 its Warden, Alexander Saloman Haring (1821-82), in whose home the synagogue was situated, appealed for funds to repair it. Haring, a bootmaker, had emigrated from Amsterdam in 1852 or 1853 and the Census supports the residence in Tewkesbury Buildings of numerous people of Dutch origin from 1851 onwards, many involved in cigar-making, including the Zeegen family who established a factory in Chicksand Street. In 1871 40 out of 54 heads of household in the Buildings were born in the Netherlands, mostly in Amsterdam; in 1881 it was 29 out of 43.

Tewkesbury Buildings was destroyed during the Second World War and the site is still largely empty. A proposal to redevelop 101 to 105 High Street and the site of Tewkesbury Buildings and Spread Eagle Yard, is currently (July 2018) out for pre-planning consultation.

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