London Murders

Ratcliff Highway Murders.

Today the Highway Wapping is a busy commuting route from the City of London towards the Limehouse Link and the Isle of Dogs. A far cry from what was once the notorious Ratcliff Highway and the murders that ensued, which held London spellbound almost two hundred years ago.

Street Sign of 1678

An old street sign (left) for Chigwell Street dates from 1678 and is the only relic that remains from the old Ratcliff Highway.

It all began one foggy night on 7th of December 1811, at 29 Ratcliff Highway - now The Highway Wapping. Just before the stroke of midnight the maid, Margaret Jewell, was sent by the housekeeper, Timothy Marr, to buy some oysters. Unable to find any she returned to find Marr, his wife and baby and their assistant dead, their throats having been cut. The horrific murders caused the government to offer 500 guineas reward for information. On December 19th, 1811, just twelve days after the murders, the landlord Mr Williamson of the Kings Arms public house at 81 Gravel Lane, (modern-day Garnet Street), had arrived home with his wife, when shortly afterwards disturbance began. The upstairs lodger, John Turner, climbed out the window shouting "Murder, Murder." A crowd pushed through the door and found Williamson at the foot of the stairs with his throat cut, his wife and maids throats cut as well and bleeding to death. The police later arrested John Williams (no relation to the publican with the same surname), a sailor who had been a shipmate of Marr's, at the Pear Tree pub in Cinnamon Street and charged him with all the murders. He was sent to Cold Bath Fields prison, where he took his own life before he was tried. His corpse was dragged through the streets of London and the cart paused outside 29 Ratcliff Highway. The body was taken to the junction of Cannon Street Road and Cable Street, where a stake was driven through his heart and the body was thrown into a hole. About 100 years later the body was exhumed and the bones were given to criminologists looking for forensic clues. The landlord of the Crown and Dolphin pub at the corner of Cannon Street Road kept the skull as a souvenir.

Crown and Dolphin pub

The Crown and Dolphin pub standing on the corner of Cannon Street Road and Cable Street where a stake was driven through John Williams heart and where the skull was kept.

London Time

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