The Ratcliffe Highway Murders
In 1811 several
murders in two houses took place and became known as the
Ratcliffe Highway murders. The bodies of the victims were
buried at St George's in the East.
The victims of the
first murders which took place at 29 Ratcliff Highway
Marr, a 24 year old linen
draper and hosier, who had served the East India Company
on the 'Dover Castle' from 1808 to 1811, his
wife Celia and their son Timothy who had been born on
29 August 1811 and was only three and a half months old
and James Gowan,
a shop boy. Margaret
Jewell, a servant of the Marrs
was out at the time and escaped being killed.
At The Kings Arms in
Old Gravel Lane (now Wapping Lane) the victims of the
second murders were John Williamson, a
publican, 56 years old, who had been at the Kings Arms,
New Gravel Lane for 15 years, Elizabeth, his wife, aged 60 and Bridget Anna Harrington in her late 50's, a servant. Also living at
the King's Arms at the time were Catherine (Kitty) Stillwell, 14 year old grand-daughter of the
publican, John Williamson, and John Turner. Turner was a lodger and a Journeyman and
when he discovered the murders and realised the murderer
was still in the house leapt out of an upper window.
The area was in an
uproar over the murders. Living, visiting nearby or
working in the area were various people who gave
Hall, a baker; George Olney, a
night watchman; at 29 John
Murray, a pawnbroker. Living in
Ratcliffe Highway were William Day, a
Home Office Clerk; Skirven, a
printer. Working at 29 Ratcliffe Highway were a Master
carpenter named Pugh who was employing: a carpenter, Cornelius Hart;
a joiner name Towler or Trotter; Jeremiah
Fitzpatrick, a joiner.
Employed by Messrs
Sims, Ropemakers of Sun Tavern Fields was one eyed Thomas Knight who
had been born at Portsmouth; George Judd was a corporal in
Lt. Col. Cooks company of the 2nd Batt. Coldstream
Guards. Other involved were Richard Patch,
(1770-1806) who owned property in Devon and worked for a
West India merchant, Benjamin and Sarah Herring who had been convicted for coining, and John Turner a
journeyman was employed by Scarlett & Cooke.
Lee was the landlord of the Black Horse in New
Gravel Lane and one of his customers was Henry Johnson of St Pauls, Shadwell. Samuel Phillips was a customer of the Kings Arms and a
lodger in New Gravel Lane was Sylvestor Driscoll,
a married Irishman. Another resident in New Gravel Lane
was George Fox, the Steward of the Universal Medical
There were various
lodgers at the Pear Tree public house, Old Wapping. One
of whom, John
Williams alias Murphy, was
Scots or Irish, 27 years old, a seaman and he was found
to be the murderer. He had a grievance against Marr but
this does not explain the murders at the King's Arms.
Other lodgers were John Peterson, a German sailor from Hamburg; John or Michael Cuthperson
(or Colberg) another seaman; John Harrison a sailmaker on the 'Roxburgh Castle'
Frederick Richter, a foreign
Harrington, William Austin, William Emery, Patrick Neale, all Irish seamen on the ship 'Astel',
were lodging with a Mr Smith at 25 Angel Court, St
Martins Le Grand, (a lodging house).
Orr was the owner of a
chandlers shop next door to the Pear Tree. Robert Lawrence was the landlord of The Ship and Royal Oak
Cobbett, coal heaver, was a
Relay was a prostitute from the Gravel Lane area. William Ablass, a seaman from Danzig and John Fitzpatrick were customers of the Ship and Royal Oak.
Capper, from Hertfordshire, Edward Markland and George Story, were
magistrates at the Public Office, Shadwell.
Clement was the vestry clerk of
the parish; Aaron
Graham, 58, a Bow Street
Symons, the chief clerk to the
Thames Police magistrates; Shadrick Newhall,
a watchman for St Pauls, Shadwell and Thomas Barnes, the vestry clerk; Joseph Moser, a magistrate of Worship St Public Office,
Spital Square, aged 63.
The murderer, John
Williams, committed suicide by hanging himself the night
before he was arrested and was buried with a stake
through his heart at the junction of Commercial Rd and
Cannon Street Rd.
Maul and the Pear Tree by P D James and T A
Critchley, Strictly Murder by Tom Tullett, Inquest
by S Ingleby Oddie and other books)
It is understood that
a memorial to this family was erected at St George in the
East church or churchyard.
In August 1886 The
skeleton of John Williams (with a stake driven through
it) was discovered during the excavation of a trench by a
gas company. It was 6 feet below the surface of the road
where Cannon Street and Cable Street cross at St George
in the East.