Saturday, 18 September 2010

A unique book for auction.

Announcing the unique one-off hardback copy of the London Job 2010 book.

Signed by all the participants of the London Job event held in April, this is the only hardback copy in existence, and will be auctioned next Friday 24th September 2010 at The Bell pub on Middlesex Street. All funds raised will go to the Frances Coles Memorial Appeal.

Featuring photographs and articles from Neil Bell, John Bennett, Trevor Bond, Robert Clack, Gail Dowle, Andrew Firth, Philip Hutchinson, Laura Prieto, Mark Ripper and Peter Whitby, this book is absolutely a one-off. All other copies of the book are softback. A signed certificate label of authenticity is affixed to the inside cover.

If you can make it to this fundraising event, and maybe put in a bid or two, then you will be very welcome!

The following day, the 2010 Jack the Ripper conference will be held, a few streets away at the King's Stores pub in Spitalfields. Details can be found here.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

London Job 2010 Book Now Available

I'm pleased to announce that the book of the recent London Job is now available for purchase from

Featuring 120 pages of photographs and articles contributed by Neil Bell, John Bennett, Trevor Bond, Robert Clack, Gail Dowle, Philip Hutchinson, Laura Prieto, Mark Ripper and myself, it's a full account of what the group got up to on the weekend of 3rd / 4th April. A full preview of the book is also available at the link above.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The London Job 2010

I’d heard about these “jobs” before. Groups of Ripperologists roaming the east end with their cameras and arousing suspicion in the local populace, visiting unsavoury places such as mortuaries, dark alleyways, and of course, murder sites. So, back in January, when Neil “Monty” Bell suggested doing another trip, I knew that I had to get involved.

So it came to pass, that at midday on Saturday 3rd April, that a group of nine of us met outside Aldgate East for a walk that Rob Clack had carefully planned, which took in some of the more obscure Ripper related sites, and also a handful of non-Ripper related ones for good measure.

We headed east, away from the well known streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields and it wasn’t long before we arrived in Star Place, where Martha Tabram once lodged, (although in 2010 no trace of this remains). Shadwell Place followed shortly afterwards, near to the old Shadwell station, where in 1892 a woman had been stabbed in an attack that the press suggested might have been the work of Jack the Ripper. After admiring the view of Limehouse Cut, we arrived in Rich Street, Limehouse. Rob produced a photograph of murder victim Lilian Hartney who was found lying in a gateway here back in the 1940s. As is well known, the murder sites of Jack the Ripper’s victims have changed enormously since the 1880s, so it was striking to see that in this case, there was a picture of the victim in situ, clearly showing that very little had changed over the past 65 years. The railings and brick walls are the same ones that appear in the picture that Rob showed us.

Next calling point was Chrisp Street, where in the 1880s Elizabeth and John Stride ran their coffee shop. Today the street is a wide road carrying a high volume of traffic, and so probably bears very little in common with the Chrisp Street of the nineteenth century. Before long, we doubled back on ourselves and began to head west again, this time along Poplar High Street, stopping off at the site of Clark’s Yard where Catherine Mylett was murdered in December 1888. As with many places in the east end, the actual spot where she was found is buried under concrete, and as such there is very little to see, but I very much appreciated Rob including this on the walk, as it was the one remaining Whitechapel Murders location I’d not visited up to that point.

Passing the site of the Poplar Workhouse, mentioned in Jack London’s “People of the Abyss”, a number of us were beginning to crave some liquid refreshment and a nice sit down, and so the sight of the Grapes pub on Narrow Street, amongst all the preserved old warehouses was very welcome. Rob, Philip and Neil left the rest of us in the pub, and headed off to Brick Lane for a curry, taking in the site of the Ratcliffe Highway murders, and Breezers Hill where Mary Kelly was said to have lodged.

The group were reunited that evening for the April Whitechapel Society meeting, where strange tales of a game of football in Mitre Square were told. It’s on YouTube, so it must have taken place, albeit with a tennis ball! At the meeting, John Bennett gave an excellent talk on the changing face of Jack the Ripper’s London, which was agreed by many to have been one of the best society talks in ages. It was a fitting end to a very enjoyable day. Already, there’s talk of another London Job, covering more obscure locations in the east end!

Two excellent videos of the London Job filmed by Philip Hutchinson, are available on his YouTube page. Part One. Part Two.

Finally, a book of everyone’s photos from the London Job 2010 is in preparation, and will be available for purchase from in late April, and will be announced here in due course.

You can have a look at some of my photos from the weekend, which I've added to my Flickr "Whitechapel & Spitalfields" album.

In the meantime, I've put together a promotional video for the book, which can be viewed here:

The London Job 2010 Book (Trailer)

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Fragments of the East End

At the end of last month, I took another trip down to London in order to take some new photos of the east end. This time round, I met up with Gail Dowle, who was the official photographer on the 2009 Jack the Ripper conference. Her wonderfully atmospheric book "Painting With Light" features a wide variety of subject matter, but also includes some lovely shots of the east end. After a splendid breakfast at the Market Coffee House on Brushfield Street, we set off wandering around the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfields, on the lookout for that new angle of a familiar street or building. Later on in the day, we were joined by John Bennett whose excellent book E1 A Journey Through Whitechapel and Spitalfields is very much recommended.

This was the first time I'd had the use of a digital SLR camera, on loan from a work colleague. And so I made sure I made full use of it whilst we were wandering around. I was mightily impressed with the quality of the images, over those that I'd previously taken with my "point and shoot" camera, and so I began to start thinking about getting my own SLR camera, and to start preparing a follow-up book to Past Traces.

So, in a nutshell, this post is to announce the forthcoming follow-up to that book.

"Fragments of the East End" by Andrew Firth. Expected publication date is late Autumn 2010.

Other promotional images like the one above can be found on my Flickr page.

Watch this space!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

New Years Eve in Whitechapel

I had arranged to spend new years eve with a friend of mine, who lives down in the south of England. This naturally, involved me travelling via London in order to get to where he lives. So, true to form, I decided to take a little detour via the east end, to get my photographic fix of Jack the Ripper's stalking ground and the Victorian buildings that remain from that era.

I started out in the more gentrified district around Spitalfields Market, and was surprised to see that, for once, Itchy Park was free of the usual groups of homeless people. I therefore grabbed my chance to take a few shots from this vantage point, that normally I'd be too scared to take my chances in!

I then headed southwards to the railway arches due east from Fenchurch Street station. This area still boasts a quite sinister atmosphere of days gone by, with far less gentrification than is the case around the market. My goal in this area was Swallow Gardens. Now a shuttered arch used as storage facilities for a local business, but 120 years ago, a public thoroughfare, and one that gained notoriety on 13th February 1891, when Frances Coles, a local prostitute, was found murdered there.

Recently, delegates of the 2009 Jack the Ripper conference had been taken to Swallow Gardens by guide Philip Hutchinson. At that time (October) the archway was unoccupied, and so it was possible to gain access from the adjacent archway which forms part of a car park. When I arrived by this route, I was greeted by this:

The side entrance into Swallow Gardens had been closed off with a new set of locked doors.

Disappointed, I set off for my next destination, but something made me stop and think that it might just be worth trying to gain access from the shuttered entrance on Chamber Street. Upon arrival there, I was rewarded with my first view of the inside of Swallow Gardens.

A man walked towards me, as I entered.
"Can I 'elp you?" he enquired.
"I was wondering if I could take a few pictures of this arch?" I replied.
Looking slightly quizzical at this, he asked "what's it for?".

I went on to tell him about the history of the arch, and why I was so interested in taking photos of the inside of his newly rented business premises. He confirmed it was fine for me to "snap away", but was no doubt surprised to hear that he worked on a murder site!

Happy at my gaining access to the arch, I then decided to seek out some more locations that I'd not been to recently, and I'm very glad I did, for reasons I shall explain.

Part of the joy of photographing the east end, is that every photo preserves a site, as it is there and then. You might return to the same spot a week later, only to find that a wonderful old building has been demolished in the name of "progress", or that something has been built in a previously open space. It's a good idea to take photos when you can. Once something has changed, you can't go back and capture it later.

Over the years, I had visited both Durward Street and Mitre Square many times. Upon arriving at Durward Street, (formerly Buck's Row - the murder site of Mary Ann Nichols), I noticed that the wall running across the East London line, which appears in most of the photos of the site, had been altered. A new bright red fire hydrant cupboard had been built into the wall, just along from where Mary had breathed her last. All of a sudden those photos I'd previously taken suddenly had a greater importance. This wall that had stood since around 1876, had been altered, and would never look the same again.

The possibility of change in Mitre Square has been known about for several years now. The modern office blocks in the square, built only around 1980, are looking tired and delapidated, and are slated for demolition and redevelopment. But unfortunately, the square itself has found it's way into the developers plans. It has been suggested that this stone square should be obliterated, with a fountain and granite slabs taking it's place. A worrying development that would erase what little of the Victorian plan of the square is left in situ. Work hasn't started yet; the recession and the lack of money for building has seen to that.

But someone, it seems, has been starting the work on behalf of the builders, already.

Souvenir hunters perhaps?