Feb 262013
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Lair of Jack the Ripper!

On Sunday 10 February, the Year 11 Historians found themselves entering the foggy, gas-lit world of nineteenth century Whitechapel in their introductory Controlled Assessment lesson on the topic, ‘Crime, Policing and Punishment in England c1880-c1990’.

This enquiry based assessment sees the students having to undertake independent research in an attempt to discover why the notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper, was never apprehended by the Victorian police.

In order to recreate the atmosphere and mood of the era, each member of the History department came to this lesson suitably dressed for the part and each teaching room was transformed into the Whitechapel area in east London, where the series of horrific murders took place in 1888 that are forever destined to be linked to the unknown assailant, ‘Jack the Ripper’.

In an attempt to, literally, bring the period to life, each member of the department agreed to assume the role of a key character or eye-witness of the events of that summer in 1888. As one can see from the images, we certainly looked the part!

Mrs Martin played the part of a Salvation Army volunteer who would have traversed the streets of Whitechapel seeking to help any destitute individuals in need of spiritual support, and nourishment of a more practical kind. In bonnet, shawl and plain attire, she was the epitome of decorum and care. Her stories, however, told about the sad lives of those that frequented the area and the dangers that existed to all those who strayed from the straight and narrow path!

Mr Cunningham, in his own inimitable style, undertook the role of one of the many street-wise immigrants that frequented the area close to London Docks, complete with bare feet, cloth cap, ragged trousers and pistol. His tales of the dark side of town, where strangers feared to tread, graphically illustrated the dangers that lurked behind every corner and down each narrow alley.

Mr Ebbs, for his part, took the part of a well-to-do businessman and entrepreneur. Stylishly dressed, (as always!) he effortlessly became a capitalist exploiter of men and the scourge of the working class. In finery befitting his stature, namely top hat, cravate and waistcoat, his rakish good-looks masked a determination to get to the top, whatever the cost in human lives and misery!

As for myself, I was Police Constable Connolly, one of the constabulary unfortunate enough to be pounding the beat in this dreaded corner of the capital! My tales, illustrating as they did, my inadequate training and position in society, (little better than a night-watchman) hopefully brought home to the students why Jack the Ripper proved to be so elusive, amid the itinerant masses that filled the streets of Whitechapel at this time.

The four teaching groups moved from room to room every fifteen minutes, making notes as they went, based on the accounts of the four Victorian ‘individuals’.

A fun time was had by all, but the outcome was, in every respect, educational and focused on the task in hand. In terms of motivation and enjoyment, however, I would like to think that it was the perfect start to proceedings!