“The Maul and the Pear Tree, P. D. James and T. A. Critchley’s breathtaking account of the Ratcliffe Highway Murders (1811), inspired me to walk from Spitalfields down to Wapping to seek out the locations of these momentous events, and to investigate further in the East End archives.
Commemorating the bicentenary of the murders this Christmas, Spitalfields Life is delighted to collaborate with Faber, publishing reports of these terrible crimes throughout December on the exact anniversaries of their occurrence.
The first sensational crime drama to grip the nation at the beginning of the British press, the Ratcliffe Highway Murders became an early example of ‘tabloid justice’, creating a public hysteria that led to the formation of the Metropolitan Police. Happening seventy years before the more widely known Whitechapel Murders of the the 1980s, the grim events of December 1811 in Wapping remain the most compelling East End murder story of all time.”
– The Gentle Author of Spitalfields Life
Mapping the Murders at Spitalfields Life
December 1811, a young linen draper and his family were cruelly murdered at night in their home at 29 Ratcliffe Highway in Wapping. Twelve days later, a publican and members of his household were slaughtered in similar fashion, just half a mile away. Click on the links to catch-up on the murderous events of two hundred years ago this month…
- 7th December – Murder of the Marr Family
- 10th December – Inquest at pub across the Highway plus crowds of sightseers visit crime scene to see bodies
- 15th December – Funeral of the Marrs at St George’s-in-the-East
- 19th December – Murder of Williamson Family at Kings Arms
- 22nd December – Widespread hysteria as this become first national crime sensation in the papers. (A Newspaper seller runs through streets)
- 24th December – Arrest of John Williams, prime suspect , resident of the Pear Tree.
- 26th December – Interrogation at Shadwell Court House (Off the Map)
- 27th December – Williams hangs himself at Coldbath Sq and is presumed guilty.