Monday, January 2, 2012

Ratcliffe Highway Murders Map - Vignette #10

Ratcliffe Highway Murders Map - Vignette #10

At the beginning of the last month (December) 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 tenth (and final) vignette. 'In the months after the burial of John Williams at the crossroads in Shadwell on 31st December 1811, some further evidence came to light. A search of The Pear Tree revealed a jacket with a bloodied pocket, blood stained trousers abandoned in the privy and a bloody French knife hidden in a mouse-hole – the knife that could have been used to slit the victims’ throats. However none of these items could be incontrovertibly connected to John Williams...'

I have shown the skull of John Williams as it may have appeared on the bar shelf of the Crown & Dolphin pub, on the corner of Cannon Street Road and Cable Street (just across from where his body was interred at the crossroad or 'four went way'). The supposed criminal's cranium sits lost amid the paraphenalia of a mid 20th Century public house - dusty bottles of whisky, port and gin, &c., postcards, tankards, a ceramic Virol pot, photographs, a toby jug and a brace of Staffordshire lions (based largely on items upon my own mantelpiece).

The Crown & Dolphin closed as a pub in the 1980s and has since been converted to flats. The whereabouts of John Williams' skull is unknown.

To know more go to

No comments: