What was Whitechapel like in 1888?
According to an April 24, 1889 article in The Palace Journal:
A horrible black labyrinth, think many people, reeking from end to end with the vilest exhalations; its streets, mere kennels of horrent putrefaction; its every wall, its every object, slimy with the indigenous ooze of the place; swarming with human vermin, whose trade is robbery, and whose recreation is murder; the catacombs of London darker, more tortuous, and more dangerous than those of Rome, and supersaturated with foul life...Outcast London. Black and nasty still, a wilderness of crazy dens into which pallid wastrels crawl to die; where several families lie in each fetid room, and fathers, mothers, and children watch each other starve; where bony, blear-eyed wretches, with everything beautiful, brave, and worthy crushed out of them, and nothing of the glory and nobleness and jollity of this world within the range of their crippled senses, rasp away their puny lives in the sty of the sweater.
Whitechapel, 1888. Forever frozen in the annals of history as a terrible place to live. A terrible place to die.
But not everything in Whitechapel was evil. The place first got its name from a small chapel "whose white exterior made it a land mark on the way out of the City" of London. And it is remembered for events other than the Ripper's escapades. Whitechapel is where "The Elephant Man," Joseph Merrick (also referred to as John Merryck), lived and died.
A map of the Whitechapel area still depicts the streets and areas made famous by Jack the Ripper. Whitechapel Road; Bethnal Green; Commercial Road; Spitalfields; Middlesex Street (where Maybrick allegedly rented a room.)
Most streets were narrow in Whitechapel. People frequently lived in cellar rooms with little light and ventilation.
The area was filled with pubs where the Ripper's victims found their "customers." Many of the popular 1888 pubs, like the "Ten Bells" where Mary Kelly allegedly met "gentlemen," are still open and are still famous.