Culture Magazine

Across the Road from Jack the Ripper?

By Thecleverpup @TheCleverPup
Across the Road from Jack the Ripper?My family of Smiths is pretty messed up. My father was orphaned 2 days before Christmas 1936 and none of the multitude of available aunts and uncles took him in. He and his brother Ivan were sent to live in a "Children's Home", an orphanage, while his sisters were raised by their dead father's boss.
Back a further generation and my grandmother was shuffled off to be raised by her aunts while her birth mother and father went on to have more children. The 1901 English Census indicates that she was "deaf". I can only guess this is the reason they didn't keep her.

Across the Road from Jack the Ripper?

Not my Great-Grandfarther, but close - his brother Cecil

So my Dad grew up - and I grew up - knowing very little about his side of the family. Over the years I've dug about in, following rumours and leads and confirming some of them. Smiths marrying Smiths, for example, a widowed daughter-in-law marrying her new step-father-in-law's unmarried son. The mind boggles. I did find out a couple of indisputable facts. My great-grandfather, Walter Alfred Thomas Penny Smith was a London bobby. In 1901 Constable Walter Smith lived at 55 Broadhurst Gardens in London's district of South Hampstead. I don't know how long he lived there, I just know from the 1901 Census that that's where he and his wife and one of my great-uncles lived.
Across the Road from Jack the Ripper?

The infamous artist Walter Sickert, prime suspect for the Jack the Ripper murders, once lived across the road at number 54 Broadhurst Gardens with his wife.  From this article it looks as if he and his wife remained at 54 Broadhurst Gardens until they divorced in 1899 and he moved to Dieppe. My great-grandfather may have moved into Broadhurst Gardens after the Sickerts had moved away from the street, but boy oh boy, what a coup that would have been. I wish I could definitively prove that my ancestor, Walter Smith,  twitched the curtains when Sickert walked by.

Across the Road from Jack the Ripper?

55 Broadhurst Gardens, found on Picasa, photographer unknown.

Whether Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper or not, I don't know. I know that he did have a penchant, easily found on Google, for painting of bosomy nudes sprawled uncomfortably on iron-frame beds.You're free to make up you own mind.

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