London Unveiled

great places to visit off the beaten path.

The Ten Bells ~ a pub deeply connected with ‘Jack the Ripper’ lore

The Ten Bells pub sign

The ‘Ten Bells’ pub is a Grade II listed building that has a significant connection with Jack the Ripper, but is also worth a visit for its interior decorations and murals.  In addition, it is located adjacent to Spitalfields Market – a great place to visit.

History:  It has been in this general location since the mid-1700s.  It moved to its current location in the 1850s after its original location (12 Red Lion St) was demolished.  Now standing on the corner of Commercial Street and Fournier Street, it is arguably the most infamous pub in Ripper folklore.

The Ten Bells

The pub’s name has changed over the years.  Originally it was the ‘Eight Bells Alehouse’ which was certainly chosen due to its location next to Christ Church, Spitalfields – a wonderful Nicholas Hawksmoor church (Hawksmoor was at first an apprentice under Christopher Wren).  In 1788, Christ Church installed new bells, increasing the set to 10.  Records from the late 1700s show that the pub had changed its name to ‘The Ten Bells’.  While a fire in the steeple in the early 19th century resulted in a reduction back to eight bells, the name stuck… mostly.  There was a brief spell (1976-1988) when the owners of the pub renamed it ‘The Jack the Ripper’.  Certainly a marketing ploy and arguably a crass decision.  Successful lobbying of the owners resulted in the reversion of its name back to ‘The Ten Bells’.

Old Spitalfields mural

Old Spitalfields mural

The 2010 restoration of the pub interior brought back to life the decorative interior that harkens back to Victorian gin palaces.  There is also a significant 19th Century mural – The Spitalfields in ye Olden Time – visiting a Weaver’s Shop and a newer mural – Spitalfields in Modern Times.

The Ten Bells interior

The Ten Bells interior

Jack the Ripper:  Two of the victims of Jack the Ripper are linked to the Ten Bells.  It is generally accepted that Annie Chapman drank at the pub before she was murdered on the 8th September 1888.  Witnesses placed her there drinking as late as 5am that morning.  Her body was found later.

Mary Jane Kelly is believed to have worked as a prostitute from the vicinity of the Ten Bells.  On 9th November 1888 she became a victim of the Ripper – his last.  One witness indicated he had seen her at the pub earlier that day.

In the graphic novel, From Hell, the Ten Bells is mentioned and it was also used in the film adaptation starring Johnny Depp.  In the film, Depp, playing the role of Inspector Abberline, has a drink with future Ripper victim Mary Jane Kelly.

'Upstairs at the Ten Bells'

‘Upstairs at the Ten Bells’

Today:  In addition to the pub, the Ten Bells also houses a restaurant – ‘Upstairs at the Ten Bells’ – that serves modern seasonal British pub food. They even sell a shirt with their logo, I think they  use something simple like TheClothingPeople.com, a branding company.  It is highly regarded and reservations are recommended.  For the modern art lover, there is a great neon piece by Tracey Emin titled ‘Keep Me Safe’ – a clever tie in given the pub’s history.

Located at:  84 Commercial Street London, E1 6LY

Closest Tube:  Aldgate East or Liverpool Street.

15 comments on “The Ten Bells ~ a pub deeply connected with ‘Jack the Ripper’ lore

  1. Melissa
    July 5, 2014

    I’ve walked by this pub countless times and have known that it has connections to the Jack the Ripper story but never ventured inside. It looks really lovely actually, I might go in next time.

    • LondonUnveiled.com
      July 5, 2014

      Thanks for the comment… I think London’s full of places we all walk by without really knowing what is there!

  2. stravaigerjohn
    July 5, 2014

    I used to pop in now and again when walking Whitechapel in the 1990s. The interior inspired one of the pubs I put in my Victorian thriller novel “The Shadow of William Quest” as I didn’t know what the interior of the actual pub I had in mind looked like!

    • LondonUnveiled.com
      July 5, 2014

      John, thanks for your comment… I will have to read your book. I enjoy period mysteries.

  3. lunchingmarie
    July 6, 2014

    Love the history, thanks!

  4. inspiringcity
    July 7, 2014

    Great article, love wandering around this area

    • LondonUnveiled.com
      July 11, 2014

      Thanks for the comment. I love this area too. Often over here as my brother lives in the Barbican.

  5. Bespoke Traveler
    July 7, 2014

    It would be interesting to know whether the marketing ploy had any effect on the pub’s business.

    • LondonUnveiled.com
      July 11, 2014

      I don’t know how it affected trade, but the locals weren’t pleased and found it offensive!

      • Anita Fuller
        June 1, 2016

        I think they have absolutely spoilt the whole ambience of the pub. I have visited many times whilst in its original state, it was iconic. I have not been in there since the refurb and not sure that I wish to!

  6. Emily
    March 5, 2016

    This is a great artical , I loved the history

  7. vanda03
    April 25, 2016

    I visited the pub last year and had a nice couple of drinks soaking in the atmosphere. Then across the road to the markets!!

  8. Pingback: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde meet Jack the Ripper. – niccinacc

  9. Mark Norman
    October 6, 2016

    I used to go to this pub back in the late 70’s before they ruined it with the refurb the bar used to be on the east wall and it had a real old Victorian feel about it now that they have moved the bar to the middle of the room it has lost its originality-not the same – they should have left it alone.

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