The backdrop to noted masonic historian and author, Mike Neville, is the warehouse of 19th century brush-maker, Henry Wainwright. Here in the shabby backstreets of Whitechapel; Mike, a former Scotland Yard detective, described the grisly murder which occurred inside this building in September 1874. His 30-strong audience, comprising members of Gloucestershire Masonic Society, wives, and guests, included PGM Tim Henderson-Ross and wife, Tricia. They were all being treated to a walking tour of the East End, eagerly feeding on Mike’s entertaining patter as he revealed the many masonic connections to the area.
In nearby Sidney Square, Mike explained, Wainwright maintained a mistress, one Harriet Lane. But tiring of the lady, he lured her to the warehouse, shot her three times, cut her throat, and buried her in lime. A year later and being chased by creditors, he realised he had to vacate the warehouse. Returning to the shallow grave inside, he was horrified to discover that, far from dissolving the body, it had been preserved. He proceeded to dismember poor Harriet, wrapping the body parts in parcels and, with the aid of his brother and one Alfred Stokes, took the remains in a hackney towards the river. Stokes, having spotted a human hand in one of the parcels, chased after the cab, alerted the police and the brothers were arrested. Justice was swift and Henry’s Christmas present was an appointment with the hangman, William Marwood; becoming one of the many to experience his newly perfected “long drop”.
Examination of Grand Lodge records reveal the wretched Wainwright had been initiated into the Victoria Lodge No 1056 in Fleet Street on 15th June 1865. By the year of the murder, he was already “in arrears” with his subs, and in 1876 is penned “gone away”!
The tour had started at the Blind Beggar, the pub where in 1966, Ronnie Kray coolly killed George Cornell. It was the late ‘Nipper’ Read, a 50-year Hertfordshire mason, who successfully captured the Krays and put them behind bars. Just the other side of Whitechapel Road was Sidney Street, where the famous 1911 siege took place; we all know the famous photo of [Brother] Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary, in top hat, peering around a corner. The Armenian anarchists, who had two weeks previously attempted the rob a Jewish jeweller [and mason], and shot dead three policemen, had been tracked to Sidney Street by Fred Wensley. Brother Fred, who was then a fairly new member of Temple Lodge No 101, would later be the founder of The Sweeney [Flying Squad] and become Chief Constable of London’s CID.
Buildings along the route provided opportunities to extol the virtues of eminent medical men who were also masons, such as Percivall Pott, the first scientist to demonstrate that cancer could be caused by an environmental carcinogen. Dr Sir William Blizard founded the medical college in Whitechapel, and Dr Francis Treves’ expertise with appendicitis saved the life of King Edward VII, and famously rescued Joseph Merrick [The Elephant Man] from being exhibited. And Dr Frederick Brown was the examining pathologist in the case of ‘Jack’ victim Catherine Eddowes. Naturally, the tour included references to the ‘Ripper’ murders, passing the scenes where some of the killings occurred, and referencing detectives such as Fred Abbeline and Edmund Reid, who were also on the square. George Lusk, the recipient of the famous ‘From Hell’ letter, was a respected local builder and a mason; the complete opposite of the anarchist thug portrayed in the shockingly ridiculous Michael Caine film.
There were almost too many fascinating facts to absorb. Yet the GMS members were all clamouring for more, tentatively requesting another of Mike’s tours next year. [Watch this space.] Mike’s book Crime & The Craft, which covers some of those Whitechapel subjects, has proved highly popular. You can buy directly from Mike at email@example.com. He has other books too, and a new one, ‘Crafty Characters’ [Tales of famous and infamous Masons], is being published on 17th August. Feel free to contact him.