Wednesday, 26 October 2011

HarperCollins Jack the Ripper Walk with Maureen Johnson - 13th October 2011

A few weeks ago I posted about a fabulous competition that HarperCollins were holding to celebrate the release of The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.  As the story is about a copycat who is killing his victims in the same way as Jack the Ripper they were organising a fan walk to visit some of the locations from the book - places where the real victims were found.  I've always wanted to do one of the Jack the Ripper walks so I jumped at the chance of entering and can't tell you how excited I was when I found out I was one of the lucky winners.  I even got to take a guest with me so I invited the lovely Sammee (from I Want To Read That) to come with me.

Sammee & I met up early for an afternoon of book shopping, coffee drinking and gossiping before making our way to Tower Hill for the walk.  We were met outside Tower Hill by Sarah from HarperCollins and had time to chat with the other winners while we waited for Rosi to arrive with special guest Maureen Johnson.  The walk we went on was organised by London Walks who host a Jack the Ripper walk every day from outside Tower Hill underground station (click here for more information) and our tour guide Oliver was great, he was very knowledgeable about Jack the Ripper and managed to tell us lots of gruesome details about the murders.

Our guide Oliver

We stopped at various different locations as Oliver told us about how each of the victims (Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly) were killed and where their bodies were found.  Each of them had their throats slashed and most of them had internal organs removed, some were placed beside their bodies but other parts were never recovered (although one reporter received a particularly nasty package containing part of a human kidney along with a letter from someone claiming to be the killer!).

We walked through Mitre Square and some of the guests were unlucky enough to sit on the bench where Catherine Eddowes' body was found!  I didn't realise how many women were forced into prostitution due to severe poverty.  Job opportunities for women in the late 19th century were scarce and it is estimated that there were 1200 women working the streets so it is no wonder that Jack the Ripper found it easy to find his victims.  A lot of the prostitutes used to gather outside St Botolph without Aldgate church waiting for customers.

We also discovered some fabulous old Victorian streets, they are very narrow, dark and atmospheric - it was like taking a step back in time!  I had no idea you could still find places like that in London and I'd love to go back and explore them more thoroughly in the future.  Maureen pointed out the building she based Wexford school on although she said she took liberties with the geography by creating the square around the school that doesn't exist in real life.  She said the building was in the perfect location and she knew it was the school as soon as she saw it.

This is the building that Maureen based Wexford school on in her book

Here you can see the 3 windows from Rory & Jazza's room

I've never been to the famous Old Spitalfields Market before but I think it's somewhere else I'm going to have to visit again - this time when the market stalls are open & I can have a good look around.  I'd also like to head over to the Ten Bells pub (where some of the Ripper's victims were known to frequent) for a drink.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Jack the Ripper walk and it was really interesting to see a different side to London.  If you ever want to give it a try I'd definitely recommend London Walks for the tour & I'm sure I'll be trying out some of their other walks in the future.  After our guide left for the evening we had time to chat with Maureen Johnson & get our books signed.  She was absolutely lovely and spent ages talking to us before she had to dash off and catch a train to Manchester for the next stop on her tour.  It really was lovely to meet her.  I'd like to say a huge thank you to Rosi & Sarah at HarperCollins for arranging the event!

Me with Maureen

HarperCollins were filming during the tour so if you'd like to watch the video they made here it is:

Who Was There?
Rosi & Sarah - HarperCollins
Maureen Johnson - Website
Oliver - London Walks


  1. That looks awesome wish I had something like that here!!

  2. Great write-up! I've just finished the book and it's brilliant to see more of the location.

  3. I keep saying i want to go on this walk but never book it - I think i may have to definately do it now! xx

  4. @ Jessica - it was such a fun tour, I've done a ghost walk before too & really like getting to see places that you wouldn't normally find when you're walking around on your own as a tourist :o)

    @ Essjay - I read the book just before the tour so it was great to get to see the locations that were mentioned in the story. It was good to see Rory's school too :o) I'm glad you like the pics

    @ Louise - I'd definitely recommend doing the tour, you don't have to book as they run every day and it isn't too expensive. I'd like to go again sometime :o)

  5. Thanks for inviting me along :D It was a fab day!

  6. You're very welcome Sammee, I'm glad you could come - it was so much fun :o)



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