Cable Street

See also

The rich history of Cable Street [left - as it might have been in the 1830s], with its 'iconic' East End status, has inspired many writings; see, most recently, Roger Mills Everything Happens in Cable Street (Five Leaves Publications 2011), and other works referrred to below. In 1963, Ian Nairn wrote 'Cable Street, the whore's retreat': a shameful blot on the moral landscape of London: an outworn slum area ... Its crime is not that it contains vice but that it is unashamed and exuberant about it ... Nobody cares enough and the whole place will soon be a memory. Fortunately, he has been proved wrong, even though much of its history is no longer physically visible, there are many who know and care about the detailed records that are available.

Cable Street, running from the Tower of London in the west to Ratcliff in the east, was originally the standard length of hemp rope, twisted into a cable, required for sailing ships; there were various rope walks in the area. In 1695 it was paved from the Windmill Inn to the junction with Church Street (Anne Steele was among some local residents who petitioned to be excused from the cost of this work). At one time each part of the street bore different names: from west to east, Cable Street, Knockfergus (because of the many Irish residents), New Road, Back Lane [or Road], Bluegate Fields [at one time the present-day Dellow Street was also so-named], Sun Tavern Fields and Brook Street. In addition, some sections had addresses as St George's Place, Allington Place, Bath Terrace, Chaurgur Row, Harper Place, Wellington Place and China Place, as shown on the 1862 map, right (still showing a rope walk). Chaurghur, or Chaur-Ghur, Row was an unusual name; the Edinburgh Review of 1870 included a long article on 'London Topography and Street-nomenclature' which comments The foreign element in the sea-faring population at the East-end, in the neighbourhood of the docks, is represented by Jamaica Street, Hong-Kong Terrace, Chaur-Ghur Row (lately altered to Cable Street), Chin-Chu Cottages, Bombay Street, and Norway Place; and an obscure thoroughfare in Shoreditch retains the enviable appellation of the 'Land of Promise'; and it concludes with a call for the removal of pretentious, bombastic and pseudo-rural names - One, at least, of the evils of an overgrown capital will be removed, when necessity demands the complete revision of our modern street-nomenclature.

Cable Street was once a busier road than The Highway, until the latter was widened in recent times and the Limehouse Link tunnel constructed in 1993. It is now a one-way street and the route of 'CS3', one of the network of Cycle Super Highways created for the Olympics, and painted blue (rather than the conventional green) because they were sponsored by Barclay's Bank. Along Cable Street cycles are separated from motor traffic, but elsewhere the lanes are narrow strips at the edge of busy roads, and fatal accidents have raised issues about their safety. See here for more details about public transport in and about the parish. Right is a drawing of Cable Street in the early 1960s from Geoffrey Fletcher Pearly Kingdom (Hutchinson 1965) and a 1970s oil painting by Noel Gibson.

Local people, having been promised a museum in a converted Cable Street shop celebrating the achievements of East End women, we horrified to discover when the frontage was revealed that they have been duped and it is part of the Jack the Ripper 'industry' - a great pity. More here.

Wilton's Music Hall, Grace's Alley ~ Women's History Museum

The oldest surviving music hall in the country (and now a Grade II* listed building, featuring on many websites, including this one), it was built by John Wilton in 1858 in the back yard of five 1720's houses and incorporating his pub The Prince of Denmark Tavern (named for the Danish links with Wellclose Square) and its famous mahogany bar. Used for a wide variety of musical and dramatic events, it could seat up to 1,800 people, with its barley-sugar pillared galleries, and had been very successful, competing for a time with West End theatres. Performers such as Champagne Charlie would speed over from the West End to give a second performance here. Like other venues, it promoted 'minstrel' entertainments, with blacked-up performers, such as Thomas Duriah ('Negro Delineator and End Man from the London Music Halls') who performed here in 1865. But it finally failed in the 1870s, as purpose-built venues were established elsewhere.

One innovation of the London Wesleyan Methodist Mission was to hire premises as new-style mission centres - what today we would call 'fresh expressions' or 'café church'. In 1891 St George's Wesleyan Chapel, further along Cable Street, took over Wilton's, with leadership from lay church members. It was known popularly as the 'Old Mahogany Mission' after the bar. Peter Thompson, the minister (who faced a libel action during his time) was challenged for allowing the Hall to be used for a dock labourers' meeting to protest against the 'contracting out' clauses of the Employers Liability Bill. Interestingly, he did not regard this as a breach of the Wesleyan 'no politics' rule, despite the dock strike of 1889 (when 2,000 meals a day were served here to strikers and their families); the Independent Labour Party had only just been founded, and links between unions and political parties were yet to develop. 

It was very different in the 1930s, when Wilton's was a rallying point and a 'safe house' for the Battle of Cable Street. During the Second World War, it provided refuge for people bombed out of their homes. The Mission (which had also provided hostel accommodation for 30 people, mainly seafarers) closed in 1956. In that year, the Rev Lesley E. Day published a pamphlet Sixty-Eight Glorious Years for Christ: the Story of the Old Mahogany Bar (East End Mission). The building was used to store rags [right - interior in the 1970s.]

There were plans for demolition, but Sir John Betjeman was among those who resisted this. Broomhill Opera took it on, and among other things staged the first all-black Carmen, South African mystery plays and a black version of The Beggar’s Opera. In its dilapidated state, it was used for film shoots, including Karel Reisz’s Isadora with Vanessa Redgrave, The Krays (1990), Richard Attenborough's Chaplin (1992), Douglas McGrath’s Nicholas Nickleby (2002), Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream, as well as music videos. Opera groups use it regularly, and it is hired for private functions. It was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2003 tv series 'Restoration', but determined efforts to save and restore the building continue. The bank's threat of repossession the following year, to recoup debts of £250,000, was staved off, and under the inspired leadership of Frances Mayhew [right] a mix of performances, school events and other activities continues, and the bar is regularly open and makes an excellent venue for small meetings.

Welcome news came in June 2013, with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (for which an the appeal was launched by David Suchet in 2011) of £1.85m towards the £2.6m needed for full-scale restoration. Work due to be completed in 2015 will secure its fragile structure, and make 40% more of the building available for new uses as an arts and heritage venue (see East End Life issue 965). Right are four internal views, including the famous bar. Wilton's website is here. When the main auditorium was re-opened in 2013, one of the first productions was a splendid revival of Bill Owen's musical The Matchgirls, first produced in 1988 to mark the centenary of the heroic first women's strike by the workers at Bryant and May's factory in Bow (ironically, the owners were Quakers). A former member of our congregation appeared in a production three years later, produced by his son Tom Owen, at the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch. See more about the matchgirls here.

Round the corner from Wiltons, there are plans to develop no.12 Cable Street into a Women's History Museum, focusing particularly on women of the East End.

The birth of Harrods

4cablestreet4 Cable Street is an unlikely setting for the origins of the famous West End emporium, but in 1834 Charles Henry Harrod, aged 35, set up a wholesale grocery and tea merchant's store here, living nearby in Rosemary Lane. It remained here probably until 1855, by which time he had another branch at Eastcheap, and began the move to Knightsbridge in 1863. (Most department stores began as drapers' shops.) It was his son Charles Digby Harrod who began the expansion in the 1860s, and the rest is history! 

The site is now a noodle bar and grill [left]. From the 1830s until the end of the 19th century, Harrod's Court was a small alley running from the south-west corner of Wellclose Square into Well Street [now Ensign Street], though Weller's map of 1868 lists it as Hard's Place, and another source as Harrald's Place, so the connection with the family is uncertain.

St George's Town Hall

When the 1855 Metropolis Management Act created a new system of local government for London, with an elected Vestry for each parish, a Vestry Hall was built in 1861 to serve the parish of St George-in-the-East. It is of Portland stone, with an Italianate façade [left: old postcard, with Library still standing; today, showing the mural; right, fanlight], at a cost of £6,000, and had a handsome interior. The Buildings of England (London 5: East), by Bridget Cherry, Charles O'Brian and Nicolaus Pevsner (Yale UP 2005) comments on public offices of this time: Most buildings date from the 1860s onwards and are eclectic, often crude interpretations of the polite civic architecture of the mid C19 metropolis: St George's, Cable Street, is the earliest, of 1860 by Andrew Wilson, emulating the solid Italianate popularized by Charles Barry's Travellers Club in the 1840s. Wilson was the son of Joshua Wilson, builder and warden of St George-in-the-East in 1854-55, with whom he had been in partnership before he became an architect, with an office at 34 Cannon Street Road prior to moving to Bow.

Further local government reform came with the 1899 London Government Act which replaced all the Vestries across London with 28 Borough Councils. The new Stepney Borough Council took over the building as a local Town Hall until a new one could be built, and the coroner's court was located there.

It was repaired after damage in the Second World War and the chamber [right in the 1950s, and ceiling today] was used for Borough Council and committee meetings. In recent years, since the creation of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the building has been used for various offices and activities. It is somewhat dilapidated, but is Grade II listed. In 2013 the union UNITE opened a community centre, with a state-of-the-art training suite, in the basement.

Passmore Edwards Public Library (St George-in-the-East Free Library)

The Vestry was keen to build a public library, but only had power to raise 1d. on the rates, yielding £600 for the running costs. Public donations were sought, and John Passmore Edwards, the 'Cornish Carnegie', made a major contribution. (He also funded the Passmore Edwards Sailors' Palace, on West India Dock Road, for the British and Foreign Sailors Society.) It was built, in Portland stone and brick, to the right of the Town Hall [left - drawing of 1898], running down the side of Prospect [now Library] Place. Goad's 1899 insurance map - right - shows the adjacent Library, Vestry Hall (under extension at the time) and Wesleyan Chapel. The foundation stone was laid on 28 September 1897, and Lord Russell, the Lord Chief Justice, opened it in October 1898. A children's library was added in 1929.

Passmore Edwards also gave two stone sculptures, representing Literature and Art [left], which were set on either side of the curved pediment of the porch which was flanked by massive Ionic columns. They were the work of Nathaniel Hitch (1845-1938), who had trained with the architectural sculptors Farmer & Brindley and produced a great deal of work for churches and other buildings for the leading architects of the day, including H.P. Burke Downing, H. Fuller Clark, W.D. Caröe, Paul Waterhouse and T.H. Lyon and particularly John and Frank Loughborough Pearson. His firm was based at 60 Harleyford Road, Battersea, and his son Frederick Brook Hitch continued the work. For more on Hitch, including a forthcoming catalogue of his papers (held at the Henry Moore Archive in Leeds) by Gordon Lawson, see here.

The library was destroyed in the Blitz in 1941. (The sculptures - minus their heads - can be discerned in photographs following the bomb damage.) A temporary building in St George's Gardens was later provided, until a new library was constructed in Watney Street in the 1960s. The site now forms the entrance to St George's Gardens.

On the wall of the Library (now on the front of the Town Hall) a small plaque was affixed to commemorate those who fought and died in the International Brigade, supporting the anti-fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War against General Franco, who was supported by Hitler and Mussolini. The rallying-cry was no pasaran - 'they shall not pass'. Their action inspired Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the bombing of villages by Nazi aircraft prompted Picasso's Guernica. See here for the former Britannia Arms in Library Place.

The Battle of Cable Street

The street, with its cheap lodgings, brothels, pubs and opium dens, was no stranger to racial tension. For example, passions flared around the country in the heatwave of June 1919, driven in part by disillusioned soldiers returning from the front after the First World War, promised a 'land fit for heroes'. The Daily Express and Daily Mail both reported, on 16 June, an incident two days earlier in an Arab-run coffee shop on Cable Street where two Negroes had been 'roughly handled' by those objecting to white women fraternising with black men; the café was stormed and set alight, gunshots fired, and a crowd of 3,000 had gathered. But worse was to come....

'They shall not pass' became the slogan of those who resisted the legal but provocative, and anti-Semitic, march of Sir Oswald Mosley and the 'Blackshirts' - the British Union of Fascists - through the heavily-Jewish East End on 4 October 1936.  Attempts to ban the march had failed, and the police were there in force to escort the marchers. Despite the appeals of religious and political leaders to stay away, the marchers were resisted by many thousands from a diverse range of groups - trade unions, and socialist, communist and anarchist organisations (see here for the part played by Fr Groser and the Stepney Tenants Defence League), though many came from outside too. According to a participant Joe Bloomberg the local boys, men and women literally lifted the cobblestones out of the road, and built barricades to stop them marching. It was a violent conflict, with the main fighting around what was then known as Gardiner's Corner*, by Aldgate, but barricades were erected at three points around Cable Street - which is why the plaque [above] is fixed to a wall near the corner of Dock Street. Their resistance succeeded; and the 1936 Public Order Act was passed as a result of the disturbances, requiring police permission for marches and banning the wearing of political uniforms in public.

* The clothing store which gave Gardiner's Corner its name was destroyed by fire in 1972. The United Platform against Racism and Fascism, formed to co-ordinate the 75th anniversary, hopes to erect a plaque or memorial on this site.

Here are various images of the day. The final picture in the sequence shows Diana Mosley and her sister Unity Mitford at a rally in September 1937. Among many contemporary accounts and reminiscences, and later reflections, see
The mural
A large mural marking the event was painted on the west wall of St George's Town Hall. Dave Binnington began the work in 1976, in the Town Hall basement. He studied the murals of Siquieros and Rivera, and researched films and photographs and conducted interviews to provide authentic details. When the work was well under way, it was vandalised and defaced by fascists [above]; Binnington was demoralised, and retired. The work was completed by Paul Butler, Desmond Rochford and Ray Walker, in October 1982, each taking responsibility for one section. It contains only one black face, just above the banner 'They shall not pass' - detail above.) In 1985 and 1993 it suffered further damage, and was restored after a public appeal, and was later treated with a protective coating. Right are skinheads saluting in Cable Street.

Anniversary commemorations have been held in recent years;  here and here are some pictures of the 70th in 2006. For the 75th anniversary in 2011, a full programme of activities and events was arranged by a various groups and at several venues - see the programme - and the mural was again restored, by Paul Butler (see this interview), and an interpretation board added. Events in St George's Gardens on the Saturday provided a photo-opportunity for the Mayor and councillors, as well as some excellent performances by amateur and professional groups. On the Sunday, there was a march with over 1,000 participants from Aldgate to the mural, where speeches were made (it just managed to escape the 30-day ban on marches imposed to restrict the English Defence League's attempt to cause trouble in the East End the previous month, with Muslims rather than Jews as the target), followed by a programme of events at Wilton's, culminating in a concert starring Billy Bragg. The range of groups on the march matched those who had been there in 1936 (plus a few Bangladeshi groups), and the redoubtable 96-year old Max Levitas [right], formerly a Jewish communist councillor for Stepney, was a speaker on both days. Hetty Bower, 106 the following day, and others who were present in 1936, also took part in the march.

The church was glad to be associated with this commemoration: see the Rector's sermon to mark the occasion here. For more reports of the events, see here, here, here and here, and for pictures here.

Dr Hannah Billig

At 198 Cable Street [now by the entrance to Hawksmoor Mews] there is a plaque to Dr Hannah Billig, 'the Angel of Cable Street' - nearby Angel Mews is presumably named for her - who lived and worked here from 1935-64. Four of the six children of Barnet and Millie Billig, Russian Jewish emigrés, qualified as doctors. Hannah has worked at the Jewish Maternity Hospital before setting up her practice, and in the days before the NHS turned no-one away because they couldn't pay.

She tended casualties during the Blitz, often at great personal risk. Her ankle was broken in an explosion in Wapping in 1941, but she continued treating the injured for several hours - for which she was awarded the George Medal, the civilian equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

In 1942 she signed up for the Indian Army Medical Corps as a Captain and tended the sick and wounded soldiers in Assam, retreating from the terrible battles in the jungles of Burma, suffering from malaria and typhus, and in 1944 cared for the starving who fled to Calcutta in search of food. She was awared the MBE in 1945 for this work (it was posted to her, as she was too busy to collect it).
She returned to continue her work in Cable Street - some older locals remember her as their GP - until she 'retired' to Israel in 1964, working from Caesarea in both Jewish villages and Arab settlements for a further 20 years until her death in 1987 at the age of 86. Her gravestone in Hadera Cemetery reads In loving memory of Hannah, who devoted her life to healing the sick in England and in Israel.  See further Rosemary Taylor Hannah Billig: The Angel of Cable Street (1996, ISBN 095112084 3 8).

The row of houses between the Town Hall and Cannon Street Road where her plaque is set (now by the entrance to modern apartments in Hawksmoor Mews) was restored in 1978; together with the houses/shops around the corner in Cannon Street Road, these are the only remaining Georgian properties in the vicinity of the church. Goad's 1899 insurance map [right] details them, together with the nine houses of Library Place [now demolished] and the school behind, now converted into flats.

Jewish Boxers: Ted 'Kid' Lewis, aka 'The Aldgate Sphinx' and 'The Yiddisher Wonderman',
Jack(ie) Kid Berg - aka 'Yiddle' and 'The Whitechapel Windmill'

Boxing was one of the few possible routes to fame for deprived urban boys: see here for the example of 'Johnny Brown' 1902-76; in particular, it was a channel for the energies of Jewish lads, drawn by anti-Semitic taunts into street fighting.

Ted 'Kid' Lewis, born Gershon Mendeloff to Russian parents in Umberston Street in 1893, was encouraged by a local policeman to take up training at the Judean Soul and Athletic (Temperance) Club at 54-56 Prince's Square. By 18, he was fighting at Premierland in Backchurch Lane (where other Jewish boxers began their careers), Wonderland (off Whitechapel Road) and the Ring at Blackfriars; he became British flyweight champion in 1913 (winning the Lonsdale Belt), world welterweight champion in 1915, and British and European middleweight champion in 1921, and retired in 1929. Despite earning an estimated $500,000 in the USA, he was generous and a gambler, so in 1931 he accepted a job as Oswald Mosley's physical youth training instructor at £60pw, recruiting local thugs as 'Biff Boys' - Mosley's bodyguard - until the following year he realised the true, and anti-Semitic, nature of Mosley's politics, and resigned, knocking Mosley and a couple of his henchmen across the room. More details here, and in his film producer son Morton Lewis' biography Ted Kid Lewis: His Life and Times (Robson 1990). From 1966 until his death four years later Lewis lived at Nightingale House, the Jewish residential and nursing home in Wandsworth Common (where his blue plaque is) - this had 19th century roots in Wellclose Square. He was buried at the Jewish Cemetery in East Ham.

Lewis was the role model for Jack 'Kid' Berg, born Judah Bergman in 1909 above a fish shop in Christian Street, off Cable Street. He was apprenticed as a lather boy in a barber's shop, trained at the Oxford and St George's Club on Betts Street and began his career at Premierland when he was 14. He fought his first professional bout the following year. He first boxed in the USA in 1928, and was World Junior Welterweight Champion in 1930 - knocking out a fellow-Jewish boxer at the Albert Hall. He lost the title the following year, but became British lightweight champion in 1934 (again defeating a fellow-Jew, Harry Mizler). In his career, which lasted until 1945, when he was 36, he won 157 bouts, drew 9 and lost 26, making him statistically the most successful world champion Britain ever produced (today he would have been a 'superstar').

Though from an Orthodox Jewish family (his parents were emigrants from Odessa and originally opposed his career as a sell-out to goyische midos, or heathen morals), he was not observant, but boxed with a Star of David on his trunks, and put on tefillin before his fights, partly to court the Jewish punters - especially when he was fighting Italian or Irish-American opponents - and also because he was somewhat superstitious. As one commentator put it, he knew it couldn't hurt to have God on your side.

His biography The Whitechapel Windmill (Robson 1987), which he wrote with John Harding, chronicles his rise to fame and his flamboyant lifestyle, said to have included a fling with Mae West. During and after his boxing career, he appeared in films - a British silent film Sporting Life in the 1920s, Money Talks (1933) and The Square Ring (1953) - and was a stuntman in Hollywood and for a Carry On film. A long-term friend was the Jewish East End gangster Jack Spot. In later life he was a familiar figure at the ringside and around London in his red car.  His cousin Howard Frederics wrote an opera about his life, also called The Whitechapel Windmill, which was performed in 2005 under the sponsorship of the Jewish East End Celebration Society.The blue plaque on Noble Court, Cable Street, near Jack's birthplace, was unveiled at a ceremony with the Chief Rabbi, the Bishop of Stepney (Richard Chartres, now Bishop of London), Professor Bill Fishman, Councillor Albert Lille and the Retired Boxers Federation, followed by a charity ball which raised over £1000.

Elliott Tucker's 2007 film Ghetto Warriors (viewable online) tells the tale of the phenomenon of  the Jewish boxers of the East End. Other Jewish boxing clubs in the area were Oxford and St George's and 'The Hutch'.

Among local non-Jewish boxers was (William Thomas) Billy 'Bombadier' Wells (1889-1967), whose family lived at 250 Cable Street. He left school at 12, worked as a messenger boy and became a Royal Artillery gunner, rising to the rank of bombadier. He became a professional boxer in 1910 after winning the all-India army boxing championship at Rawalpindi, and gained and held the heavyweight title for eight years; he never lost on points and won the first heavyweight Lonsdale belt, boxing until 1925.  In 1935 he also became famous as the first gong-striker for J. Arthur Rank films (though the gong was in fact made of papier-mâché, and the sound provided by percussionist James Blades striking a 30" Chinese tam-tam). There have been several others since.

Bandele 'Tex' Ajetunmobi
There is no blue plaque for 'Tex' [self-image left], but he lived for many years in Cable Street, in a now-demolished house opposite Noble Court. Born in Nigeria, he settled here in 1949, and as a talented self-taught photographer chronicled everyday scenes of local life, especially of black and Asian people, for over three decades - example right - asking people to stop in the street so that he could take their pictures. He died in 1994, leaving a vast collection of images, some  of which was showcased at the Spitz Gallery, Commercial Street in 1992.

A refuge that failed to become a pub?
There is some evidence that for a time in the 1890s 152 Cable Street (between Betts Street and Prince's Square) was a refuge for girls and young women. (In the 1881 census its tenants included Jeremiah Carthy, a coal porter born locally in 1845, and his wife Johanna, born in the City the following year.) In an 1899 High Court case before Phillimore J,
Blum v Ansley (1900) 16 TLR 249, the lease was demised to one E. Hartshorn (Ansley being his executor) for 50 years, at a yearly rent on £80, with - it was alleged - a covenant that it should be maintained as a public house so long as a licence could be obtained [there is no record of this in lists of local pubs]. The licence was forfeited, and the premises accordingly greatly depreciated. The defandants argued unsuccessfully that the contract was at an end, and were ordered to pay the quarter's rent due.
In 1897 Charles Weksler, from Russia, was naturalised from these premises.

Here are some street views - from left to right, 1908 (from outside the Town Hall), 1938, 30 July 1943, 1956, 1957 and 1962 (the last two featuring Fr Joe Williamson of St Paul Dock Street

A suicide's grave; the Crown and Dolphin

The notorious Ratcliff Highway murders of 1811 are described here.

The day before the trail, the prime suspect John Williams - who was probably not the murderer - was found hanging in his prison cell. To allay the public mood, the Home Secretary ordered his body to be drawn through the streets on a cart. It was then given a suicide's burial, at the crossroads of Cannon Street [Road] and Cable Street, outside the Crown and Dolphin public house [pictured right], in a shallow grave with a stake driven through the heart. All the newspapers reported the event; here, for example, is the Edinburgh Annual Register of 2 January 1812:

Interment of John Williams, the murderer

At about ten o'clock on Monday night, Mr Robinson, the high constable of the parish of St George, accompanied by Mr. Machin, one of the constables, Mr. Harrison, the  collector, and Mr Robinson's deputy, went to the prison at Coldbath-Fields, where the body of Williams being delivered to them, was put into a hackney-coach, in which the deputy-constable proceeded to the watch-house of St George, known by the name of the Round-About, at the bottom of Ship-alley. The other three gentlemen followed in another coach, and about twelve o'clock the body was deposited in the black-hole, where it remained all night.

Yesterday morning, about nine o'clock, the high constable, with his attendants, arrived at the watch-house with a cart, that had been fitted up for the purpose of giving the greatest possible degree of exposure to the face and body of Williams. A stage, or platform, was formed upon the cart by boards, which extended from one side to the other. They were fastened to the top, and lapping over each other from the hinder part to the front of the cart, in regular gradation, they formed an inclined plane, on which the body rested, with the head towards the horse, and so much elevated, as to be completely exposed to public view. The body was retained in an extended position by a cord, which, passing beneath the arms, was fastened underneath the boards. On the body was a pair of blue cloth pantaloons, and a white shirt, with the sleeves tucked Up to the elbows, but neither coat or waistcoat. About the neck was the white handkerchief with which Williams put an end to his existence. There were stockings but no shoes upon his feet. The countenance was fresh, and perfectly free from discolouration of livid spots. The hair was rather of a sandy cast, and the whiskers appeared to have been remarkably close shaven. On both the hands were some livid spots. On the right-hand side of the head was fixed, perpendicularly, the maul, with which the murder of the Marrs was committed. On the left also, in a perpendicular position, was fixed the ripping chissel. Above his head was laid, in a transverse direction upon the boards, the iron crow; and parallel with it, the stake destined to be driven through the body. About half past ten, the procession moved from the watch-house, in the following order:

Mr Machin, constable of Shadwell.
Mr Harrison, collector of King's taxes.
Mr Lloyd, baker.
Mr Strickland, coal merchant.
Mr Burford, stationer
Mr Gale, superintendant of lascars in the East India Company's service—all mounted on grey horses.
The Constables, Headboroughs, and Patrollers of the parish, with cutlasses.
The Beadle of St George's in his official dress.
Mr Robinson, the high constable of St George's.
The Cart with the Body.
A large body of Constables.

An immense cavalcade of the inhabitants of the two parishes closed the procession.

On arriving opposite to the house of Mr Marr, the procession halted for about ten minutes, and then proceeded down Old Gravel Lane, New Market Street, Wapping High Street, and up New Gravel Lane, when the procession again stopped, opposite to the King's Arms, the house of the late Mr Williamson. From hence it proceeded along Ratcliffe Highway, and up Cannon Street, to the Turnpike Gate, at which the four roads meet, viz.—the New Road into Whitechapel; that into Sun Tavern Fields; the back lane to Wellclose Square; and Ratcliffe Highway. The hole, about four feet deep, three feet long, and two feet wide, was dug precisely at the crossing of the roads, four or five feet from the turnpike house. About half past twelve o'clock, the body was pushed out of the cart, and crammed, neck and heels, into the hole, which, as it will have been seen from the dimensions, was purposely so formed, as not to admit of being laid at full length. The stake was immediately driven through the body, amidst the shouts and vociferous execrations of the multitude, and the hole filled up, and well rammed down. The parties forming the procession then dispersed.

The concourse of spectators, on this awful occasion, was immense. Every window of the streets through which the procession passed was crowded beyond example, but there was not the slightest interruption or tendency to disorder. For the most part a general silence prevailed as the procession moved, being only interrupted by occasional ejaculatory curses. When the cart stopped at Mr Marr's, at Mr Williamson's, and at the hole, there were universal shouts and expressions of execration. A hackney-coachman, who had drawn up near the top of Old Gravel Lane, bestowed two or three cuts on the body as it passed, accompanied with an ejaculation which it is unnecessary to repeat.

From the appearance of the body, Williams is conjectured to have been about 30 years of age. He was near six feet in height, with a strong fierce countenance. When the procession began to move, there were two men in the cart, to prevent the body rolling off; but their assistance appearing to be superfluous, they descended, and the body was then left perfectly exposed to the view of every spectator.

During the last half hour the crowd had increased immensely; they poured in from all parts, but their demeanour was perfectly quiet. All the shops in the neighbourhood were shut, and the windows and tops of the houses were crowded with spectators. On every side, mingled with execrations of the murderer, were heard fervent prayers for the speedy detection of his accomplices.

There were a few similar incidents around this time. The last case of a crossroads burial was probably that of another [alleged] murderer-suicide, John Morland in 1823, outside what is now the site of Lord's Cricket Ground - his victim was Sir Warwick Bampfylde. That year, the law was changed to prevent the practice - see here for details - though suicides were still to be buried between 9pm and midnight, with no funeral service read. A 2011 Channel 4 series, Tony Robinson's Gods and Monsters, on the history of superstitions surrounding death, included a reconstruction of the Williams burial which managed to be both sensationalist and jokey; the series contains a number of inaccuracies about Christian belief.

Williams' skeleton was uncovered in August 1886 by a gas company digging a trench, the stake intact. Legend has it that the pub landlord kept the skull on the bar, but this is somewhat fanciful.

The final tenants of the Crown and Dolphin [whose address by then was 56 Cannon Street Road] were Carole Wilson, who died in 2010, and Jackie Deppe, who died a few years earlier. They are remembered for their hospitality in the days when the London Marathon ran along Cable Street rather than The Highway, and for their Sunday spreads; but the landlords sold it, and it is now divided into flats. It is a locally-listed building.

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