Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ratcliffe Highway Murders Map - Vignette #6

Ratcliffe Highway Murders Map - Vignette #6
'Arrest of the Prime Suspect'

At the beginning of the month I was asked by the Gentle Author of Spitalfields Life ( and publishers Faber & Faber ( to produce a map marking the bicentinary this month of the horrific Ratcliffe Highway Murders (December 1811), with vignettes indicating the location and dates of the pertinent events as their anniversaries occurred.

The vignettes were inspired by the book investigating the case 'The Maul and the Pear Tree', by P.D.James & T.A.Critchley, first published by Faber in 1971.

The map beneath was an 1811 map of the area, provided for me by the wonderful Stefan Dickers, archivist at the Bishopsgate Institute.

This is the sixth vignette. 'On Christmas Eve, a vital break in the case came when the maul used as the weapon to kill the Marrs was recognised by Mr Vermilloe, the landlord of The Pear Tree. He reported that the initials I.P. were those of its owner John Peterson, a German carpenter from Hamburg who had recently lodged at The Pear Tree and left his tool chest there for safe keeping when he returned to sea.

This breakthrough led to to John Williams. He was twenty-seven, an ordinary seaman who had once sailed with Timothy Marr on the Dover Castle. Upon his return from sea, he had taken lodgings down by the river at The Pear Tree in Cinnamon Street, Wapping – still cobbled today as it was in 1811.'

Note the Pear Tree sign at the top of the vignette and the landlord's name, Robert Vermilloe.

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