Britain’s newest museum was billed as a project to “recognise and celebrate the women of the East End”, showcasing 150 years of the social history of London’s women.
But when it tried to open this week local residents were aghast to see that what it actually showcased was the grisly work of Jack the Ripper – a revelation that has led to protests and the designers of the museum in London’s Cable Street labelling it as “salacious, mysogynist rubbish”.
The museum was due to open its doors to the public on Tuesday, but by Friday morning it remained closed, following a week of protests.
“Last night another window was smashed in,” said one contractor, who spent the day clearing broken glass and fixing the defaced exterior. “I don’t know when it will open – the owner’s not been around.”
An original planning application submitted for the museum featured images of Suffragettes, promising to tell the story of east London’s women over the past 150 years. But when the finished design was revealed two weeks ago, residents and business owners were shocked to see “Jack the Ripper” written across the front, complete with a silhouette of the mysterious serial killer, infamous for mutilating female prostitutes in east London during the late 1800s.
The museum, which intends to showcase the murderer’s story, has sparked outrage among community campaigners who say they were misled. A public campaign led to a series of protests outside the museum from residents, women’s rights campaigners and Greenpeace, among others.
The project, billed as the “first women’s museum in the UK”, is led by Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, a former diversity chief at Google who has reportedly stayed away from the site since the first protest began on Tuesday.
Tony Varghese, a sales manager at neighbouring Cable Street business Ludlow Thompson, was leaving work at the time of the first demonstration. “It was Wednesday that was the worst,” he said. “The protesters went a bit nuts and started screaming and shouting the place down. When I went to my car after work there were 50 or 60 people blocking it. They started putting stickers on our cars and windows. The whole road was blocked off, it was mad.”
Several of the local business owners, including Mr Varghese, were invited to look around the museum before its preview. “It’s sympathetically done,” he said. “I have mixed views – some people say we shouldn’t be celebrating him, but there’s a lot of history.”
Britain's 20 most haunted places
Britain's 20 most haunted places
1/19 20. Pendle Hill, Lancashire
Pendle Hill, located in the east of Lancashire is at number twenty on our list for its ghosts associated with the 1612 witchcraft panic that had led to the hanging of 10 people on Gallows Hill near Williamson Park. The hill used to be regularly visited on Halloween by those keen to catch a glimpse of something spooky. It is said, however, that many locals refuse to visit the hill due to reports of sinister sightings
2/19 19. The Old Bailey, London
At the Old Bailey, London's main criminal court there are reports of sighting of a figure of unclear sex during important trials. In the early 19th century you could buy all-inclusive execution holiday breaks for pounds 10 which included bed and breakfast in the Magpie and Stump opposite; there were fine views of the hangings. Among the many Old Bailey ghosts is one Mrs Dire, a notorious "baby farmer".
3/19 18. Highgate Cemetry, London
Highgate Cemetery has some of the finest funerary architecture in the country and is the resting place of many notable individuals including the novelist George Eliot, the poet Christina Rossetti and of course Karl Marx. If stories are to be believed it is also home to many weird goings on. During the 1960s there were reports of sinister cults carrying out strange rituals in the grounds at night. Witnesses have claimed to have seen a ghostly cyclist, and an old woman racing between the graves searching for the children she allegedly murdered
4/19 17. Llancaiach Fawr Manor, Caerphilly
Llancaiach Fawr Manor, Caerphilly has been named one of the top ten haunted places in Britain many times. The figure of a nineteenth century housekeeper known as Mattie is the most famous sighting. She is often heard in the bed chamber where she reportedly died. The ghost of a little boy who fell to his death is also said to haunt the rooms
5/19 16. Sir George Mackenzie's tomb, Edinburgh
The Mackenzie poltergeist is one of the most well-documented cases of a malevolent haunting in British history. John Mackenzie was the king's advocate for Charles II and was responsible for the deaths of approximately 18,000 covenanters during the 1600s. His tomb and the surrounding cemetery has allegedly recorded some 500 poltergeist attacks
6/19 15. Plas Teg Mansion, Flintshire
Plas Teg, a Jacobean house near the the village of Pontblyddyn, Flintshire between Wrexham and Mold, is said to be one of Wales' most haunted buildings. One of its late owners was the infamous 'hanging' Judge Jeffries, who is thought to have held court in the home and had people convicted and hanged in the dining room. Reports of paranormal activity include heavy breathing in one bedroom and the spirit of a young girl appearing in the Blue Bedroom
State Library of New South Wales/Wikicommons
7/19 14. South Bridge Vaults, Edinburgh
The murky darkness of the black Mausoleum and Covenanter's Prison in Edinburgh appear to be excellent hunting ground for spook spotters. The murky forgotten chambers beneath the ground were reportedly used by the serial killers Burke and Hare for their stomach-churning medical experiments
8/19 13. Culloden Moor, near Inverness
The battles of Culloden Moor occurred during the Jacobite Risings. Over 5,400 Jacobites took part in the battle and many died at the hands of the Hanoverian troops who were noted for being merciless and brutal. Visitor have reported hearing the clashing of swords at the site. Reported Jacobite ghosts include the appearance of a spirit soldier under a tartan cloth on a grave mound. Legend also says that birds will not sing at the site of the battle
9/19 12. The Ten Bells pub, London
The Ten Bells pub is associated with the grisly murderous history of Spitalfields in the East End of London. It is notable for its association with two of Jack The Ripper's victims, Mary Kelly and Annie Chapman. It is believed that Annie Chapman drank in the pub the night she was murdered. Now a lively pub in the past staff had reported seeing a ghostly old man dressed in Victorian clothing
10/19 11. Westminster Abbey, City of London
Perhaps surprisingly for a church so steeped in Royal and aristocratic history, Westminister Abbey's two most famous ghosts have humble origins. A tall cowled figure, known as 'Father Benedictus' is thought to be the spirit of a monk killed in the abbey during the reign of Henry VIII. There are also reports of a soldier in uniform appearing near the grave of the Unknown Warrior
11/19 10. The Ancient Ram Inn, Wotten-under-Edge, Gloucestershire
The Ancient Ram Inn, in Wotton-u-Edge, Gloucestershire is reputedly the most Haunted House in Britain. Some believe that the spirit of a woman burned at the stake during the 1500s haunts one of the rooms of the house. Other spirits have also been spotted including that of a centurion on horseback and a ghostly monk
12/19 9. The Jamaica Inn, Cornwall
Perhaps Cornwall's most famous smuggling inn the Jamaica Inn is considered one of Britain's most haunted places. Reports exist of a man in a hat and cloak making spooky appearances in a corridor and the sound of ghostly horses' hooves on a moonlit night
13/19 8. Berry Pomeroy Castle, near Totness, Devon
Situated in an isolated part of Devon, Berry Pomeroy Castle is rumoured to be home to a ghost known as the White Lady who haunts the dungeons and rises from St. Margaret's Tower to the castle ramparts. Visitors who have witnessed the spirit are said to have feelings of fear and malevolence on seeing her
14/19 7. Ben Macdhui mountain, Scotland
This mountain is often described as one of Britain's most haunted places, although the 'thing' that reportedly haunts the mountain is - depending on the story you hear - either a ghost or a Yeti type creature. Known as the The Grey Man of Ben MacDhui the creature is described as a dark phantom three times the height of a man. He reportedly stalks the peak of the mountain
15/19 6. Ruthin Gaol, Denbighshire, North Wales
Visitors to the site of the Old Gaol, which was a place of imprisonment from 1654, have reported witnessing the presence of a spirit known as William. The spirit is thought to be William Hughes, the only person to be executed at the gaol
16/19 5. Michelham Priory, Sussex
Michelham Priory, an historic building in Sussex, is famous for reports of ghosts and other paranormal activity. It is claimed the house is frequently host to poltergeist activity and visitations from a spirit known as the Grey Lady who has been seen at the bridge and gatehouse
17/19 3. Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland
There are a mass of reported sightings of various spooks and ghouls at this Scottish castle. Among their eerie inhabitants include a woman without a tongue, who allegedly wanders the grounds, and the ghost of a young servant boy who is seen sitting outside the Queen's room
18/19 2. The Village of Pluckley, Kent
Pluckley has a reputation for being the most haunted village in Britain, indeed it was recognised as such in the 1989 Guiness Book of World records.The village, in the Ashford district of Kent and close to the North Downs, reportedly has between 12 and 16 ghosts, including 'The Screaming Man' whose howls of agony are heard in the area of the village Brickworks and are reputed to come from the spirit of a man killed after a wall of clay fell on him
19/19 1. The Tower of London
It's probably no surprise that the Tower of London tops our list of most haunted places. The Tower claims to host the spirit of a ghostly White Lady along with the mournful spirit of Henry VI. Over its 900 year history it has acquired a fearsome reputation for hosting a range of ghouls including the ghosts of Thomas Becket and Anne Boleyn
Anna Potyna, who works in the Mapa café just next door to the museum, also said she was impressed. “I think the museum itself is great,” she added. “The story is very interesting and I think they’ve laid it out well.”
But Ms Potyna’s colleague Serdar Agirman disagreed: “I wouldn’t have chosen a Jack the Ripper museum. It’s ... not a positive thing for women.”
Mr Palmer-Edgecumbe has said that the original plan was to “do a museum about [the] social history of women”.
“But as the project developed we decided a more interesting angle was from the perspective of the victims of Jack the Ripper,” he told the Evening Standard. “It is absolutely not celebrating the crime of Jack the Ripper.”
The architect behind the museum’s design said the museum was “salacious, misogynist rubbish”. Andrew Waugh, founder and director of Waugh Thistleton Architects, told Building Design: “The local community was duped, we were duped. They came to us and said they had no money but that this is a real heartfelt project. It is incredibly important to celebrate women in politics in the East End. We really ran with it. We did it at a bargain-basement fee, because we thought it was a great thing to do.”
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