QUALITY AND RELIABILITY SINCE 1982
A HISTORY OF OUR JACK THE RIPPER WALK
Our Jack the Ripper Walk was begun in 1982 by Richard Jones who has since written 19 books on London and Britain, including two highly acclaimed books about the Jack the Ripper case itself.
A NAME YOU CAN TRUST
Richard has appeared on numerous documentaries on the History and Discovery Channels, as well as on BBC Breakfast News and he was the writer, presenter and co-producer of the critically acclaimed drama/documentary Unmasking Jack the Ripper. It is a track record that, quite literally - and literarily! - speaks for itself.
THE MAN WHO WROTE THE BOOK
As a journalist, who was writing an article about Richard's tour, recently commented - "who are you going to choose as your guide? Someone who's read a few stories in a book, or the person who actually wrote the book? It's a no-brainer."
FOUR OF OUR GUIDES ARE PUBLISHED AUTHORS
However, we can do even better than that as we don't have just one guide who has written a book on Jack the Ripper, we have four - not to mention several guides who have appeared in virtually all the recent television documentaries on the subject of the Whitechapel Murders.
A HANDPICKED TEAM OF EXPERT GUIDES
Richard is assisted by a team of handpicked guides two of whom - Philip Hutchinson and John Bennett - are also published authors and acknowledged experts on the Jack the Ripper case.
Other guides include Lindsay Siviter, one of the best known Jack the Ripper researchers, who has been fascinated by and has studied the case since she was twelve years old. Then there's Jenny Philips an East Ender by birth, who studied East End history under the legendary Professor William Fishman.
PLUS A STELLAR TEAM OF TOP NOTCH BLUE BADGE GUIDES
Add to these a team of handpicked Blue Badge Guides, who have undergone rigorous training to pass strenuous, in depth examinations to earn their guiding qualification, and you begin to see why we have earned ourselves an enviable reputation for conducting the best Jack the Ripper walks in London.
Indeed, several of our Blue Badge Guides (such as Clarissa Fell and Karen Sharpe) are tutors and lecturers on the Blue Badge course, whilst several of them have even won the coveted Guide of the Year award.
WE BELIEVE IN COMPLETE TRANSPARENCY
We believe in complete transparency when it comes to telling you about our tour and about our team of friendly office staff and expert guides.
That is why we are happy to provide you with a step by step account of our Jack the Ripper Walking Tour to enable you to see for yourself that we really do follow a genuinely atmospheric route along which many of the buildings have survived from 1888.
So we'd just like to give you a little background information about ourselves, our company history as well as about the people you will deal with and meet with in our organisation.
OUR STORY BEGINS IN 1979
In 1979 Richard Jones, who was then a fresh-faced, 28 inch waist, 21 years old, became fascinated by the history of London and fell in love with the wonderful diversity that was to be found within the City's streets.
Determined to find a way of turning his love of London into a career, he took a job as a post man in the City of London in order to support himself, and then dedicated all his free time to studying the City's history, whilst at the same time walking around and exploring every street in the City.
LONDON'S OLDEST WALKS UNDER THEIR ORIGINAL OWNERSHIP
In 1982 Richard began offering his guided walks of London several times a week. The first tour he operated was the London Ghost Walk, which departed from Bank Underground Station on Sunday nights. This was quickly followed by several Charles Dickens London walks that covered different quarters of the capital that were associated with the life and works of England's greatest novelist. Richard remains the longest running of the London walking tour guides to have started his organisation from scratch, rather than to have bought it off someone else.
THE JACK THE RIPPER WALKING TOUR BEGINS
Later that year Richard added the Jack the Ripper Tour to his portfolio of London walks and the rest, as they say, is history. Richard's Jack the Ripper Walk was soon one of the most popular tours in London.
A GAMBLE THAT PAID OFF
In 1985 Richard joined a sales exhibition to New York, that was organised by Virgin Atlantic, to showcase London's more offbeat attractions to American tour operators. The £2000 fee was a little beyond his means but, thanks to a bank loan (you could get them in those days) he was able to finance the trip and so, armed with a suitcase of leaflets, he jetted off to the Big Apple.
In the course of that trip he met Joan Schecter from Arthur Frommer Vacations who agreed to include Richards London tours in the Frommer's London Theatre packages.
In addition he met with several other tour operators who agreed to promote his walks of London and this, coupled with a pledge from the British Tourist Authority in New York to promote his leaflets to their call in customers, gave him his big break and his business took off.
THE FIRST EXPERT LED JACK THE RIPPER WALK
In 1988, the centenary year of the murders, Richard teamed up with Martin Fido, co-author of the Jack the Ripper A - Z, which has been described as "the Bible of Ripperology". Through Martin Richard met Paul Begg, fellow co-author of the A to Z and author of the definitive book on the subject The Complete History of Jack the Ripper.
Richard and Paul have remained close friends ever since and, indeed, they were the first people to visit the Berkshire Records Office in November 2008 to view the newly opened asylum records of Thomas Cutbush, a major suspect for the mantle of Jack the Ripper.
THE FIRST SEVEN NIGHTS A WEEK JACK THE RIPPER TOUR
Martin's involvement provided the extra guide capacity to run the Jack the Ripper Walk seven chilling nights a week and made Richard's tours the first to actually offer tour participants an expert on the case as their guide.
THE PRESS TAKE NOTE
Since 1988 was the centenary year of the Whitechapel Murders, the expertise of Martin and Richard (who with Martin and Paul's mentoring rapidly became and Jack the Ripper historian - or Ripperologist to use the generally accepted term!- in his own right) meant that newspapers all over the world began to take note of Richard and Martin's tours and many newspaper articles about Richard's walks in London began to appear in the international press.
The Orange County Register described Richard as "...a delightfully animated guide, [who] takes his captivated audience past some parts of London it's a sure bet they would never see otherwise.."
THE SUNDAY TIMES - SO MUCH YOUNGER THEN
In 1989 Richard even appeared on the cover of The Sunday Times Magazine when they did an article entitled A Guide To The Guides which covered all the major walking tour operators in London. Of all the operators who were featured in the article, Richard is the only one still going strong.
The cover photo showed a - he regrets to say - much younger and far slimmer Richard than the current version - standing on the steps of the old Apple headquarters in Saville Row guiding a group of participants on his newly launched Beatles Walk. He also sported a very 1980's moustache which, he regrets to say, he forgot to shave off when the 1980's became the 1990's! A crime against fashion that he profoundly regrets.
Richard was the first person to actually devise and conduct a walk around Beatles London, another of his innovations in the London walks field.
The journalist who wrote the article took several of Richard's walks and commented how "...without a single prop, Richard Jones succeeds in conjuring more potent memories out of the area than from a neighbourhood full of palaces ..."
THE JACK THE RIPPER TOUR GROUPS GET HUGE
One of the downsides of this increased publicity was that Martin and Richard's tours frequently attracted huge numbers of attendees. On Saturday and Sunday nights in particular there might be in excess of 200 people on the Jack the Ripper Walk.
Although Martin and Richard both have booming voices, and were both able to project them to massive tour groups, people began to express concerns over the size of the groups they encountered when they "just turned up" for the Jack the Ripper Walk.
The problem with the policy, which walking tour companies had always operated, of asking people to "just turn" up was that there was no way of knowing how many people would do just that and "just turn up." So there was no way of restricting the numbers on the tour.
THE FIRST JACK THE RIPPER WALK TO LIMIT NUMBERS
It was this first hand experience of client dissatisfaction with turning up, paying cash and then exploring the Jack the Ripper murder sites on huge cattle drive tours, that persuaded Richard to change direction.
Throughout the 1990's he began operating booking only private walks for groups of 15 or more people. This policy had two advantages.
Firstly, it was a much more pleasant and enjoyable experience, both for the participants and for the guide. It was most certainly more pleasant for the local residents who had started to become annoyed at the disturbance the large tours were creating.
THE MEETING POINT MOVES FROM TOWER HILL
The other advantage of smaller groups was that, freed from the need for a large open space on which to assemble a huge number of participants, Richard was able to move his meeting point from Tower Hill Underground Station (a meeting point which had always entailed 40 or so minutes walking people through modern streets lined with 20th century office blocks before reaching a site connected with the Jack the Ripper case) to a far more atmospheric starting point - Aldgate East Underground Station.
WEDDING BELLS - JOANNE JOINS THE COMPANY
It was in the early 1990's that Richard met Joanne, who at the time was working as a nurse at St Bartholomew's Hospital (Barts) in London. They got married and by 2000 Joanne had abandoned her nursing career to take over running the administrative side of the business.
To this day Joanne is very much the mainstay of the business and it is she who our clients talk to whenever they phone to enquire about our tours. She organises the guide rotas, ensures our customers enjoy a friendly and efficient service - indeed many of our clients comment on her pleasant phone manner and her efficiency - and she ensures that the business runs smoothly.
Joanne also man's (or should that be woman's?) the emergency phone line that ensures our clients reach the tour should they encounter any difficulties or delays on the night of their walk.
In short, Joanne, is the lynchpin that holds everything together.
THE PATTER OF TINY RIPPER FEET
In 1997 Joanne and Richard's first son, Thomas, was born and, two years later, their second son William followed. To this day the walks are very much a family run business in which the children chip in and help with web design and other aspects of the business. They sometimes even answer the phones when it gets really busy, on nights, for example, when the tube lines go down and our clients need guidance on the fastest way to get to the tour.
Thomas and William can also be relied upon to provide their own personal brand of light hearted relief. On one occasion Thomas was asked by his teacher to tell the class what his dad did for a living. His reply - "Oh he's Jack the Ripper!"
On Halloween 2002 Richard and Thomas appeared on the BBC Breakfast News to talk about trick or treating. A five year old Thomas appeared in his skeleton trick or treat outfit, which he promptly proceeded to wriggle out of when the studio lights got too hot. Richard is eager to post the clip on Youtube, but a - now twelve year old Thomas - has outright forbidden him from doing so!
MORE GUIDES JOIN RICHARD
Throughout the late 1990's, such was the demand for the Jack the Ripper Walk, Joanne and Richard decided to begin taking on other guides. One of the big worries was compromising the reputation - set by Martin (who had left England to take up a teaching post in Boston USA) and Richard - for expert guided quality tours.
A Jack the Ripper Walk is not like a basic sightseeing tour of London, but rather, it requires specialised knowledge since many of the participants know a great deal about the subject and they, therefore, both expect and deserve a guide who is up to speed on every twist and turn of the case.
It was around this time that Richard met with the legendary Professor William (Bill) J Fishman, author of the acclaimed works The Streets of East London and East End 1888.
JENNY PHILLIPS JOINS THE TEAM
Bill was, at the time, Visiting Professor at Queen Mary's College, University of London. But he had also been running a course teaching local people how to guide visitors around his beloved East End of London.
One of his students was Jenny Phillips, a cockney born and bred, who Bill raved about as a potentially great guide.
Jenny soon joined the team and has since excelled as the truly brilliant guide that Bill Fishman said she would be. She has won numerous plaudits from satisfied clients who have subsequently written in to say how much they enjoyed the time they spent in her company.
Patricia Johnson of N. J. USA was looking for a guide for an extremely special occasion, taking her guests on a tour as part of her wedding celebrations when she got married in London in August 2008.
Needless to say it was extremely important to Patricia that she get the best guide, and so she had come over the previous December in order to check out the various Jack the tours on offer. Here's what she had to say:-
"...We want to book a private group tour for Sunday 31/08/2008 and I would like to request Jenny Phillips be our guide. If Jenny is not available, maybe we can have Richard Jones as our guide. We took a tour with Jenny in December and loved her. That was actually our third tour in a week -- we tried two other companies first and were not impressed at all and had just about given up on having a tour as part of our celebration.
I have to say you guys are by far the best. I was very impressed with how Jenny kept us entertained and interested despite the cold weather and after we had already been on 2 other tours that week -- that really says something about her abilities..."
TELEVISION APPEARANCES BEGIN
In 1997 Richard, still sporting his 1980's moustache, appeared in his first drama/documentary about the case "London Legends - Jack the Ripper." He is the first to admit that this was, in parts, a little on the cheesy, not to say hammy, side, but for a first attempt it wasn't too bad.
POPULAR WITH HISTORY STUDENTS - IT'S THE WAY HE SAYS IT
Indeed many history teachers still use this documentary to provide an introduction to the case for their students. Once a year Richard flies out to Toulouse to lecture at the International School, where the way he says "Jack the Ripper" has become something of a legend amongst the students who each year ask him to say "Jack (dramatic pause) the Ripper" for them. Indeed, several students do a pretty mean imitation of him saying it.
You can watch Richard in action on this clip
It was filmed on location in the streets of East London and in the House of Detention in Clerkenwell. Richard, suitably top-hatted, played the part of Jack the Ripper making his way through the swirling fog of Victorian London. This footage has since been used by several major television productions on Jack the Ripper.
In 2000 Richard, still with the moustache, took part in the History Channel's History's Mysteries:- The Hunt For Jack the Ripper, for which he acted as both an interviewee and guide, taking viewers around the Jack the Ripper Murder sites.
Jenny Phillips also appeared on the programme playing the part of a Victorian lady of the night, in which capacity Richard murdered her in the nicest possible way!
MORE TELEVISION APPEARANCES
Since then Richard has appeared in twelve major documentaries about Jack the Ripper and he even showed up on the DVD The Making of From Hell which, as the title suggests, was about the making of the Johnny Depp film about the Whitechapel Murders From Hell. And yes, he still had the moustache.
MOST HAUNTED AND UNMASKING JACK THE RIPPER
In 2003 Richard joined the team of the hugely popular cult programme Most Haunted Live and was their resident historian until October 2005.
In that year he wrote and presented the drama/documentary Unmasking Jack the Ripper. This production featured appearances by fellow guides Lindsay Siviter and Jenny Phillips as well Paul Begg. It won universal acclaim as one of the best Jack the Ripper documentaries of recent years with influential magazine Ripper Notes hailing it as
"...far and away the best independent documentary on the subject to have come along, and it even puts to shame many of the televised productions of years past..."
WATCH THE FILM AND SEE OUR GUIDES IN ACTION
Unmasking Jack the Ripper was a collaborative production between Richard and top flight film producer and director Mark Ubsdell. It also featured Jenny Phillips as well as expert input from Richard's old friend Paul Begg. You can watch the introduction, narrated by Richard Jones - and starring, amongst others, Paul and Jenny - on the following clip.
Ripper Notes went on to say that "Unmasking really rests on the efforts of one man: Richard Jones. Familiar to viewers of the History Channels documentary on Jack the Ripper, Jones has been a relatively quiet contributor to the case until now. While many of us can be regularly found in the pages of journals such as the one you're holding...Jones has been in the field, conducting walking tours and amassing a terrific knowledge of the East End's history in general and the Jack the Ripper crimes in particular.
As not only the writer and director of the film but also its host and narrator, the success of Unmasking rests solely on Jones' ability to convey this knowledge. Thankfully, he does so with exceptional skill, and the result is a fluid narration that is appropriately dramatic, even chilling at times, without stepping over the line into Cheeseville... You can now count one more voice among the ever growing chorus calling Unmasking Jack the Ripper one of the best, if not the best, Ripper documentaries in years..." Ripper Notes
OUR LIMITED NUMBERS POLICY GOES PUBLIC
In May 2005 we began offering our tours to the general public on a booking only basis. The reason we did this was because we wanted to keep our numbers low.
There was (and still is) a lot of criticism about the huge cattle drive Jack the Ripper Tours that depart from Tower Hill and which, as many people have commented on online forums, could and still do, often cram over 100 (and sometimes even 200) people onto one tour with just one guide.
NOT OUR STYLE, NOT OUR POLICY - WE DON'T TAKE CASH
Whereas the reasons for and benefits of being a cash in hand business (just turn up, hand over your money to the guide and off you go) are obvious Richard and Jo wanted to create a legitimate business model that complied fully with UK tax law.
We chose to do this by introducing a credit card and debit card booking system. Obviously online security was extremely important to us, so we chose to take our bookings through PayPal, one of the most trusted names in online payments.
To be able do this we had to go through the stringent anti money laundering checks that are now a legal obligation. In addition to knowing that they are dealing with a legitimate company that is paying its fair share of tax and VAT, our customers also get a receipt of their booking and are able to hold us fully accountable.
OUR GUIDES PREFER IT
Several of our guides, who have also conducted tours for the cash in hand London walks, comment that they much prefer our system. If you think about it, the guide doesn't have to collect money, fiddle about trying to find the correct change, and - since the cash tours often have over 60, 100 or even 200 people on them - doesn't have to walk around the streets of the East End carrying a huge amount of money.
Our clients, having paid in advance, just have to turn up, check in with the guide, have their names ticked off that night's guest list and that's it. It gives the guides more time to chat with the clients, learn a bit about them and their interests and, as several of our Blue Badge Guides have commented, makes for a far more relaxed start to the tour.
In 2007 Richard's book Uncovering Jack the Ripper's London was published. This was followed a year later by his Jack the Ripper: The Casebook. Reviewing the latter on the web resource Casebook.org, Mike Covell had this to say:-
This week I am a little late in writing about the Ripper book that has my vote this week, purely because I got so engrossed in it!
"After what seemed like forever, the book finally landed, and I was not disappointed. It’s smooth black cover and folding magnetic flaps ooze with class, but the real magic is contained within.
What follows are a series of well written, well presented dissertations on the victims, suspects, police officials, people and social conditions, and my fave chapter - The Press!
Some nice pictures, with colour and black and white used effectively to draw one into reading but there is more…Contained within are a selection of Rare and removable facsimile documents and memorabilia, including Ripper Letters, the Ripper Postcard, Notice to the Occupier sign, and loads more!!
The idea being, that when you reach a certain point in the case, you can read and look at the primary sources from the period! The book is not just an ideal starting point for new students to the case, but seasoned veterans will enjoy this too. I know I did! " Mike Covell - Casebook
PHILIP HUTCHINSON JOINS THE TEAM
In keeping with their policy of bringing in the best guides to conduct their Jack the Ripper Walks, Richard and Joanne next sought the services of two of the best known names in Ripper circles, Philip Hutchinson and John Bennett.
Philip Hutchinson is the author of the books Jack the Ripper's London Then and Now and The Jack The Ripper Locations Photographs The latter concerns an extremely important find that Philip made when he located a photograph of Dutfield's Yard, where the body of Elizabeth Stride, Jack the Ripper's third victim was discovered. He has lectured extensively on the Whitechapel Murders in both England and America. His guiding abilities had won praise from many of our clients
Craig Hallam, head of history at The Westlands School, brought his pupils on a tour with Philip and wrote to say the he found him to be "... a real showman who mixed both hard facts and gruesome recounts with dark humour and jolly banter. He was just what the students needed to keep them interested and entertained..." Rob Bell, Westlands School.
JOHN BENNETT ON OUR JACK THE RIPPER WALK
John Bennett is the author of E1 - A Journey Through Whitechapel and Spitalfields and, like Philip and Lindsay, has been studying the Jack the Ripper case for many years. He too is a great showman who has a superb talent for mimicry - he does a mean impression of James Mason.
Reviewing John's book on Amazon Phil Carter had this to say:-
What the author has done here is put together an essential overview on the current view of the East End. Not flowery, not over influenced by history, but a balanced view of the area as of today. He cleverly interweaves the ever present ghosts from the past into today's society, and the photographic images are quite beyond reproach. If you are going to buy a combined pictorial and written work on the area, this book is probably the best you will find. I have read and re read it, and find new things out about the area every time. The author really has, in my honest opinion, caught the mood, the ambience and the conditions perfectly. Phil Carter - Amazon Review.
TOP FLIGHT BLUE BADGE GUIDES JOIN THE TEAM
From 2007 onwards Richard and Joanne began utilising the services of several Blue Badge Guides. The Blue Badge course is a two year affair during which candidates must pass a series of rigorous exams in order to obtain their qualification.
Annett Tate, Heather Davies, Fiona Attrell, Vicky Wood, Clarissa Fell, Karen Sharpe, Warren Grynberg and Adrian Gladwin are all established, popular and extremely knowledgeable guides who bring the kudos of one of Britain's highest guiding accolades - the Blue Badge - to our team.
SO JOIN LONDON'S PREMIER JACK THE RIPPER TOUR GUIDES
So there you have it. A detailed history of our company and an introduction to the staff and guides who you will meet or speak with on our London Walking Tours. Hopefully you've found this introduction to us useful and its given you an insight into how we operate and the personalities of our team.
It's perhaps a cliché but, as they say, there's no i in team. All our guides have their own area of expertise on the Jack the Ripper mystery or the history of the area. You will find us professional, knowledgeable, friendly and courteous at all times.
But, above all else, you will find that we really are the specialists on the Whitechapel Murders. That is why many people - including history teachers, local businesses and tour groups - who have tried out the different organisations that offer the walks - have been happy to give us testimonials declaring ours to be, quite simply, and without doubt, London's best Jack the Ripper Walk.