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PC 881 Edward Watkins City of London Police

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Great to sit and ponder this sort of thing, isn’t it. If only we could speak to him and the other area Bobbies, what tales they could no doubt tell!


Just with regards identifying which station the collar number 944 would have been assigned to. I don’t think it’s as simple as all that. There was an officer 944 stationed at Bishops Gate in November 1884. 

Edited by bigjarofwasps
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Interesting facts :-


Here we can identify 3 City of London Police Constables who all joined the City of London Police Constabulary in 1871 and were still using their originally issued collar numbers in 1888. [During the Jack the Ripper period]


Police Constable 881 Edward Watkins.

Police Constable 882 Joseph Phipps.

Police Constable 883 James Ferguson.


Police Constable 883 James Ferguson's full history is located on page 8 within this particular thread but here is a summary of the important points.


On the 26th of July in 1887, James Ferguson joins the City of London Police and is residing at 21 Cottage Lane, City Road. James is lodging with the Brider family.

This address would have been well known locally because James Kelly murdered his wife of only three weeks, ''Sarah Ann Kelly'' [nee Brider], in the family home in 1883. James grabbed Sarah around the neck, pushing her head down on the floor, stabbed her with his penknife in the neck, digging away with the blade into the wound and she died soon afterwards in hospital. Mrs Brider attempted to stop the attack on her daughter but was thrown across the room knocking her unconscious. James Kelly was found ''guilty of murder'' and ''sentenced to death'' but later this was commuted to ''murder whilst insane'' and he was sentenced to be held at Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum indefinitely.

James Kelly was a cunning, volatile, devious and a manipulative individual. James was employed as an upholsterer and used various knives and sharp tools and knew the Whitechapel/East End district very well. James was a loner and had problems relating to women and so used prostitutes to relieve his sexual needs. He suffered from mental instability throughout his life an was also infected with a sexually transmitted disease. 


There are several published books which consider James Kelly as a possible Jack the Ripper suspect.

On the 23rd of January in 1888, the insane James Kelly, after several years of careful planning escaped from Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum and headed back to London.

The Metropolitan Police obviously considered James Kelly as a possible suspect for Jack the Ripper because they officially questioned Mr and Mrs Brider about their daughter's murderer. They also at one point raided 21 Cottage Lane to ensure he was not hiding at the premises. After James Kelly was sentenced to death, Mr and Mrs Brider added their names to a petition to request clemency in an attempt to prevent the death sentence from being carried out and one should also remember that James Kelly had resided at 21 Cottage Lane for some considerable time prior to the marriage and murder.


Now back to Police Constable 883 James Ferguson who on the 24th of October in 1889 married Ellen Mary Brider. She was the sister of the murdered Sarah Ann Kelly [nee Brider] and the marriage certificate states that James Ferguson was still residing with the Brider family at 21 Cottage Lane, City Road.

Therefore Police Constable 883 James Ferguson was residing at the famous 21 Cottage Lane before and during the investigation and hunt for Jack the Ripper and after the investigation had ended.


James Kelly evaded capture for decades and never explained his whereabouts for the late 1888. In fact it was not until the 11th of February in 1927 when he handed himself into the ''Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum authorities'' that he was recaptured. By this time he was an old man in poor health and almost totally deaf. James Kelly soon realised he did not care for being back within the walls of Broadmoor but he was too old and carefully watched which prevented him from escaping again.


On Tuesday the 17th of September in 1929, James Kelly dies in Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum and took his secrets of what he actually did and where he was in 1888/1889 to his grave. It is known he left London and travelled to France and travelled extensively in America and Canada over the decades.


Prior to Covid, I had attempted to find out if Police Constable 883 James Ferguson had a personal file at the London Metropolitan Archives but the museum had closed down.

In the last week, I sent another 'e' mail to them requesting information on this subject and they have replied and confirmed his personal file had survived but only consisted of 9 sides of A4 paper and also gave me some details from the City of London Warrant Book relating to him. I filled in the form attachment and sent it away with a cheque for £20 so that they can delve into the file and give m an exact itemised list of the pages and the cost of duplicating those pages. It will probably work out at approximately £5 per A4 single side page to photocopy but their reply will inform me of the charges. They are usually very helpful and tell you when a page has little information on it so that your can make an informed judgement on whether to copy that individual page or not. 


I will post the results of the information I receive on Police Constable 883 James Ferguson probably in a couple of weeks time. 









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''Obtaining information from the London Metropolitan Archives regarding Police Constable 883 James Ferguson.''


I received an 'e' mail from the London Metropolitan Archives yesterday [5/10/21] stating they had received the £20 fee and can now confirm the following regarding the contents of Police Constable 883 James Ferguson's personal file.


It contains the following :-


''James Ferguson's application for joining the City of London Police,'' includes 4 x A4 single sheet colour prints.


''Record of Service Sheet,'' includes 3 x A4 single sheet colour prints.


''Unfit for Service document,'' includes 1 x A4 single sheet colour print.


''Report Sheet,'' includes 1 x A4 single sheet colour print.


Total of 9 x A4 shingle sheet colour prints = £45.


I have now sent away the required sum to ensure I receive all the pages from the document. It is a bit like doing a  lottery, there is real potential of discovering something special but you also know you have much of the information already.


For example, the ''Unfit for Service document,''  we already know that James Ferguson died from ''General Paralysis'' which is also known as ''General Paralysis of the Insane.'' Of those infected by syphilis, only approximately  7% go on to develop general paralysis and the prognosis is quite simple ''your going to die and it is not going to be very nice.'' It is most common in men and your end up bedridden and completely disoriented. By the 1940's the disease was eradicated by the widespread use of penicillin.


Hopefully, I will post photographs of the additional 9 single sided pages of information within the next two weeks. 


general paralysis of the insane.jpg



It is also interesting to note that James Kelly, the murderer, was also infected with 

venereal disease and at one point attempted to treat himself so that he could

keep his secret from the Brider family.




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The London Metropolitan Archives sent me an 'e' mail the other day which I thought was very nice..........they were just letting me know the individual who is dealing with the Police Constable 883 James Ferguson enquiry....... is off on leave for a week but will continue with my order on his return.


I just thought they were very professional in keeping me informed on what was happening and it was much appreciated. 



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  • 2 weeks later...


James Ferguson and the City of London Police :-


James Ferguson was born in the Parish of Neithrope, near the town of Banbury, in Oxfordshire, in 1861.


From the 27th of May in 1878 to the 12th of November in 1884, James Ferguson served in the 22nd Middlesex Volunteers,


From July of 1886 to June of 1887, James Ferguson worked as a cigar maker with the company of J R Freeman & Son.


On the 28th of July in 1887, James Ferguson applied to join the City of London Police and his physical description was recorded as being........

25 years and 10 months old.

Five feet and nine inches tall.

Hazel eyes.

Dark hair.

Dark complexion.

No distinguishing marks.

Marital status - single.


James Ferguson on joining the City of London Police was lodging with the Brider family at 21 Cottage Lane, City Road which was the place where James Kelly murdered his new wife Sarah Ann Kelly [nee Brider] in 1883 and who was considered as a possible suspect for the Jack the Ripper murders.

We can evidence the City Police Constable James Ferguson remained lodging at this address before, during and after the Jack the Ripper murders.

James Kelly was found guilty of murder but was deemed to be 'insane' and sent to Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum.

On Monday the 23rd of January in 1888, James Kelly escaped from Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum and it is believed returned to London and remained at large for several decades.


On the 23rd of September in 1887, City Police Constable James Ferguson was certified fit for the service and started on a 3rd Class rate of pay at 25/- shillings per week and is issued with the collar number of 439 and the warrant number of 5955.


On the 27th of September in 1888, City Police Constable James Ferguson had advanced to 2nd Class rate of pay at 28/- shillings.


On the 7th of July in 1893, City of London Police Constable James Ferguson was placed ''on report'' for being drunk whilst on duty and his rate of pay was reduced to, ''3rd Class rate of pay,'' as a punishment.


On the 10th of May in 1895, City Police Constable James Ferguson is advanced to the rank of Detective Constable [Collar number 883 and it later changed to 1128] and on a rate of pay of 34/- shillings per week and there was also an allowance of 5/- shillings.


In 1897, awarded the City of London Queen Victoria Jubilee medal.


On the 2nd of November in 1898, City Detective Constable James Ferguson is awarded 10/- shillings for praiseworthy conduct in detecting and arresting two men for stealing and receiving bicycles.


In 1902, awarded the City of London Coronation medal.


On the 23rd of December in 1910, City Detective Constable James Ferguson is, ''on report,'' for rendering himself unfit, through drink, to perform his duty at 12 midnight. He was reduced to 3rd Class rate of pay and returned to uniform duties. I suspect Police Constable James Ferguson's collar number now changes to 74D and later it again changes to 79B. It is extremely likely that this change in behaviour was due to the fact he is now suffering from ''General Paralysis''  also known as ''General Paralysis of the Insane,'' and within approximately the next 6 months, he will be officially diagnosed as having the disease.


On the 7th of June in 1911, there is a report from the, ''City Police Hospital,'' which was located adjacent to Bishopsgate Police Station that City Police Constable 79B James Ferguson is no longer fit for duty as he is suffering from ''General Paralysis.'' James had completed 23 years and 10 months of service. 


On the 8th of June in 1911, City Police Constable James Ferguson is retired as unfit for duty and awarded a pension of £54.5s.4d. James Ferguson leaves the City Police Force with a certificate which rates his conduct as ''good.''











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City Police Constable 881 Edward Watkins served in the Metropolitan Police from the 31st of October in 1870 to the 15th of May in 1871 so why did he leave the Metropolitan Police to join the City of London Police?


I believe, that part of the answer to that question, can be found in City Police Constable James Ferguson's records.


Item No1. I remember reading somewhere that the rate of pay for the City of London Police was greater in value, than that rate of pay which was given to the Metropolitan Police. The City of London Police was a much smaller force which meant it would have been easier to pay a slightly greater amount and especially since they were protecting the more prosperous square mile of London.


Item No 2. The, 'City Police Hospital,' was operational from 1866 to 1947 and was located behind the Bishopsgate Police Station which was built in 1861. It was established by the Police Surgeon Mr Borlase Childs and he also arranged the financing for the project. It was staffed by a Matron and several nurses and a surgeon was also employed. They also used Police Officers that were placed on 'light duties,' as porters and they would wear a blue uniform. 

Any Policemen that were likely to be absent form duty for more than a few days were obliged to attend the Hospital for assessment and they would treat officers who were injured in the line of duty etc. On admission they would receive free medial and nursing care.


Conclusion. I think Edward Watkins in 1870, would have been persuaded by the better rate of pay and additionally the bonus of a good Police healthcare system. 



I have also attached two photographs of the England Census for 1911 relating to the ''City Police Hospital'' and it identifies those employed by the hospital and those that are patients in the hospital. 




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City Detective Constable James Ferguson giving evidence at the following three trials, at the Old Bailey.


Old Bailey trial, dated the 8th of September in 1896.

Henry Lavender, William Dear and Peter Henry Bock charged with deception and fraud.

They used false pretences to obtain from drivers and tradesmen their goods with the intent to defraud.

City Detective Constable Ferguson was following the suspects and observing and gathering both information and evidence.

All three sentenced to 5 years Penal Servitude each.



Old Bailey trial, dated the 8th of September in 1908.

Thomas Finn and Frederick Edwards charged with stealing 4 reams of account book paper.

Finn sentenced to 10 months hard labour. Edwards sentenced to 14 months hard labour.



Old Bailey trial, dated the 16th of November in 1909.

William Johnston, Frederick Sullivan and Frank Ellis charged with breaking and entering a shop and stealing cigar and cigarettes and other goods.

Sullivan sentenced to 2 months hard labour, Ellis sentenced to 3 months hard labour and Johnston released on his own recognisance. 


City Police Constable James Ferguson appears to have been a very good Policeman and had only have ''2 on report incidents'' against his name and this is over a period of nearly 24 years of service with the City of London Police. The original incident of being drunk on duty in July of 1893 was his one mistake because I believe the second incident of being drunk on duty, on the 23rd of December in 1910, was caused by the personality changes that occur when you are in the final stages of being infected with ''General Paralysis.'' Remembering that within the next six months James Ferguson will be officially diagnosed as having this disease and retired as unfit for further service with the City of London Police. 


I have only enclosed one example of DC Ferguson at the Old Bailey and it relates to Peter Henry Bock case etc. The photographs only briefly summarise the case, as the document covers 18 pages of information.   



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  • 2 months later...




What did Edward Watkins enjoy doing in his spare time ie music halls or theatre etc, well we will probably never know.


But this Liverpool theatre programme from 1888 does give us an insight into one theatrical aspect of social conflict which 'Jack the Ripper,' caused in 1888. It refers 3 times to the play, 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' which was about to leave London and be performed in Liverpool in December of 1888. A play about a respectable doctor during the day and a murderous fiend by night.


The play, 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,' performed in London in 1888 and its connection to Jack the Ripper.............


Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, 'Dr Henry Jekyll and Mr Edward Hyde,' and the book was published in 1886.


It was about a respectable London doctor who creates a potion to separate the good and evil which is locked within every individual. The doctor experiments with a potion on himself and releases the loathsome and murderous Mr Hyde.


An unauthorised version of the play by Mr Bandmann, first opened in March of 1888, on Broadway, in America and he later took the play to London in August of 1888.

It was in direct competition with an authorised version which starred with Richard Mansfield. Both plays opened in London in August of 1888 but only Mr Mansfield's production was allowed to continue due to copyright regulations.


It is said that audiences originally loved the play especially due to Richard Mansfield's transformation from Dr Jekyll to the loathsome and criminal Mr Hyde. The theory that a doctor could be respectable by day and a murderer by night fascinated audiences. The critics, on the other hand, did not think the play was very memorable.


Within a month of the play's opening, the East End of London was terrorised by the 'Jack the Ripper murders.' Maybe this East End murderer was also a respectable man who could later turn into a hidious criminal etc. The press also picked up on this idea especially since Jack the Ripper never seemed to get caught.


On the 5th of October in 1888, the City of London Police received a letter suggesting Mr Mansfield should be considered as a suspect, as the actor could have easily disguised himself and committed the murders.


Richard Mansfield attempted to defuse the public's concerns by staging the London opening of the comedy, 'Prince Karl' and performing the play for charity.


On the 1st of December in 1888, Richard Mansfield took his company and left London and played 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' to audiences in Liverpool and Darby and also performed other plays, in other cities around England.


Richard Mansfield and his company, in June of 1889, returned to America. Richard Mansfield had accumulated considerable debt due to the production costs and mediocre attendances on his England tour. The free publicity and the connection between 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' and 'Jack the Ripper' had not helped the success of the venture.






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Here is a photograph of Robert Louis Stevenson.


A famous actress from one of the productions of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde but I just can't remember her name.


A picture depicting Mr Hyde in the process of murder.

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Observations on the play..........


An interesting point is that Mr Bandmann's production of 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,' was rather basic in one important area. It was Mr Bandmann's transformation from Doctor Jekyll into Mr Hyde, as he simply put in false teeth to make the necessary change in his appearance to create the different character. I believe the London audience laughed when this was done on stage.


Whilst Richard Mansfield excited and scared the audience with his transformation into Mr Hyde. He changed his facial features, his body posture, used makeup, special lighting and coloured filters etc. Richard Mansfield's transformation was so good that member of the public wrote letters to the police and to the press, that he should be considered as a suspect for the Jack the Ripper murders.


One should remember, in Victorian times, these audiences believed that crime came from the lower classes and these were the people to fear. Now this play was suddenly questioning the reliability of professional classes and the crimes they may be associated with. All these suttle suggestions came from Mansfield's masterly depiction of the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde roles and making the transformation so believable that audiences were truly scared of what they saw.


Remember London was in the grip of a series of horrifying murders that were being committed by 'Jack the Ripper' and this was spreading fear throughout London. The Ripper murders eventually impacted on the play and was eventually responsible for its closure in London. The uncanny timing of the 'play and murders,' occurring at the same period in history.    

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  • 1 month later...



'''''Tragedy in the Family.'''''


Stanley Gordon Meek was 37 years old and was the ship's Chief Steward on the S.S. Glenfinlas, with the Glen Line, in August of 1940.


The S.S. Glenfinlas was sailing from the Far East to London and had embarked at Singapore and Port Swettenham.


On the 10th of August in 1940, the S.S. Glenfinlas was entering the Thames River estuary so as to dock at the port and disembark her passengers etc. Harry Roberts, 2nd steward said he saw, ''Stanley Meek dash out of the room without saying anything. Stanley Meek then went into the Saloon on the starboard side of the ship and a moment later Harry Roberts witnessed Stanley Gordon Meek in mid-air between the top level of the ship and the level of the sea in the Thames River.'' Harry Roberts also stated he thought, ''Chief Steward Stanley Meek had recently appeared to be nervous and worried.''


A small boat picked up the body of Stanley Meek.


The coroner, at the Inquest held at Southend, found that Stanley Gordon Meek had drowned whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed.


On Stanley Gordon Meek's Merchant Seamen record it states, ''the company had done all in their power for the deceased man.''


I have found only 2 newspaper articles relating to Stanley Gordon Meek's death and they were published by :-

[a] Chelmsford Chronicle dated the 16th of August in 1940.

[b] Essex Newsman dated the 17th of August in 1940.

Both these newspaper articles share the same basic story of events.


Stanley Gordon Meek was Edward Watkins [ex City of London Police Constable 881.] grandson.

Stanley Gordon Meek's mother was Julia Ann Meek [nee Watkins] who was Edward Watkins daughter.


The above is the sad ending for Edward Watkins grandson and we will probably never know what drove him to end his life in such a way. It should be remembered that World War II had already started and there was a great deal of suffering in the world. I did not have a high expectation of finding any coverage of this one act of suicide. Fortunately, I was wrong and so we have an eye-witness account of Stanley Gordon Meek's last minutes on the S.S. Glenfinlas which highlights the last acts of an individual in pain.   

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