Brick Lane ran from Columbia Market to Flower and Dean Street near Whitechapel
Road and was a hotbed of villainy, prostitution, murder and terror. Toward the
Whitechapel Road end lived a Jewish population of first generation immigrants,
mainly from Russia and Eastern Europe. Ikey ‘The Coon’ Bogard was a Jewish gangster who ran a gang of ‘shundicknics’ (pimps) at the Jewish
end of Brick Lane.
Many colourful characters inhabited the street and the smaller alleys and dives
which cropped off. One such character was ‘Scabby’, a smelly man who used to get
protection money from people. One night he walked into a doss-house with a bag
of fish and chips and offered round the chips. A man who was drunk thought it
clever to take the piece of fish instead and Scabby, now enraged, gave the man
a fatal stabbing.
Another character was Biddy the Chivver who was a natural enemy to a man named
China Bob; she carried a little hatchet with which she cut China Bob regularly.
She used to be in to bullying people for their money, sometimes by luring men
into dark alleys and then stripping them of their possessions. Eventually she
got married to a man who treated her so badly, that on finding him with another
woman, motivated Biddy to kill him there and then. She died in prison after the
Another character was ‘Spud Murphy’, who in the words of Arthur, was “a mental
case, an ignorant, homicidal, mentally sick animal.” He was responsible for the
murder of many women, most of which he got away with, just like Jack the Ripper.
Once he came up to Arthur and asked him how many women Jack the Ripper had done
in. He was eventually hanged at Pentonville Prison.
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