In the Shadow of the Seven Stars
London Beyond Time and Place
By Philipp Röettgers
Originally published on May 17, 2021
Frances Coles was murdered in the early morning hours of Friday, February 13, 1891, under a railway arch at Swallow Gardens near the Whitechapel District of London.
A witness standing outside the nearby Crown and Seven Stars Pub looked on in horror as he watched the scene unfold. He wanted to rush to the poor woman’s side but could not compel himself forward. Instead, he found himself slowly fading into the shadow of the Seven Stars.
The band Swallows released their third studio album, In the Shadow of the Seven Stars on March 19, 2021.
The music album In the Shadow of the Seven Stars tells the story of the murder of Frances Coles in Whitechapel, London in 1891, and its aftermath, following the murder’s only witness on a haunted journey from London to America in pursuit of her killer, whom many believed to be Jack the Ripper.
Frances Coles – A Ripper victim?
Some believe that Frances Coles was the last victim of the notorious Jack the Ripper. She was murdered in Swallow Gardens, a narrow passage under railway arches close to Leman Street in Whitechapel, in the early hours of Friday, 13th February 1891. She was found by PC Ernest Thompson on his first solo beat.
He had just left Leman Street police station and passed through an archway beneath the Great Eastern Railway. The light of his lantern fell across the body of a woman. Her throat was cut, but there were still detectable signs of life. Her eyes flickered as she looked upon Thompson. When he had entered the arch, Thompson had heard speeding footsteps leaving the scene, but following police training to put the wellbeing of victims of crime before all else, stayed to summon assistance rather than give chase. Frances Coles died there in front of him. Although some time had passed since the last accredited Whitechapel murder, speculation over the identity of the perpetrator of the crime soon ran rife.
The music for Seven Stars was written in 2012. They began recording in 2014. Since then they have also worked on other projects and had to deal with a few line-up changes. The album was finally released in 2021.
Overall, there is a dark, but warm, atmosphere. The music combines influences of Americana, rock & roll and some psychedelic and progressive elements. There is a mixture of acoustic and electronic sounds and arrangements, and the whole album has very adventurous and dramatic vibe.
The Minneapolis, Minnesota-based rock band consists of Jeff Crandall (guitar, vocals, keys, piano), Aaron Kerr (cello, bass), Justin DeLeon (drums), Brett Hansen (guitar), Mike Nordby (mandolin, percussion), Tyson Allison (guitar, vocals, keys, marimba, melodica, percussion) and Toni Tinetti (vocals: the voice of the ghost of Frances Coles).
The whole band is great, but the atmospheric highlight is Toni Tinetti as the ghost of Frances Coles!
This Ripper-related Americana-rock album is exciting and atmospheric. The story is haunting and the songs take you to the East End, to New York in 1891, and beyond. You can feel the protagonists’ fears and thoughts and follow his progress throughout the story of the album. The cinematic story unfolds into a really unexpected journey from London to the United States and into the dark spheres of the protagonists’ consciousness.
With In The Shadow Of The Seven Stars, Swallows produced a really well-written and well-performed atmospheric album. A must-listen for all rock-music-loving Ripperologists and those who love dark Americana music.
By the way: On their website, the band not only tells the story song by song, but also gives background information in a “Hunting the Ripper” Blog!
About the author
Philipp Röttgers is a writer and musician and in constant search for London’s spirit. This search for the city’s “spirit of place” has led him on a journey beyond time and place. Along his way he has published a book, several articles and essays, walked the city alone and as a tour guide, founded the company “London beyond time and place” and conversed with authors, musicians, tour guides, historians, curators, entertainers and time travellers who all feel a deep connection to the city and are inspired by it.
This has turned into a successful series of interviews in which London’s spirit is looked upon from different perspectives which allow you to feel the spirit of London in all its variety. Philipp feels deeply connected to London and the power emanating from this place. Therefore, he is fascinated by meeting people to tell him their personal “London story”.
Check out Philipp Röttgers’ self-guided tours and podcasts on the London Beyond Time and Place website.