I join Richard‘s walk today with Pete C, Pete H, Melvin, and John and we set off from Mile End Station, over the “grass bridge” and alongside the Regent’s Canal to the Ragged School Museum established by Dr. Barnardo, after he was told he wasn’t wanted as a missionary for China. Here we watch a “Victorian” school mistress teach a class and are reminded of the squalor that was 19th. century East London.
It’s remarkable that when the British Empire dominated the world, and was the richest country on Earth, there was also the most abject poverty here in the East End cheek by jowl alongside the obscene wealth of the West End. And this extreme degradation was unrecognised, or ignored. Jack the Ripper’s murders bizarrely helped to illuminate this plight and, of course, so did Annie Besant, Sheila’s greatgreat-aunt. It was in 1888 that Annie Chapman had a drink at the Ten Bells pub, near Hawknoor’s Christ Church in Spitalfields, before becoming another of the Ripper’s victims. Also, at that time, and in the Christ Church hall, Annie Besant was organising the match girl’s strike at Bryant and May.
We walk on to the Docklands Museum by Canary Wharf. It was coincidentally here in June 2008 that I attended the Jack the Ripper exhibition with Thom and where I learnt that Jeremy Beadle had been the president of the Ripper Society and that still no-one knew Jack’s identity, although Special Branch have a file on him that they will never make public.
From here I walk on my own to Waterloo following the River Thames and meet Sheila, Thom and Tara to see Noises Off by Michael Frayn at the Old Vic. I think the total distance I cover is something like 7 and a half miles – and all uphill!
Michael Frayn‘s play was hilarious and a glorious way to finish the day.