Skip to main content

Dorset & Jack the Ripper!


Three local men believed they had sound theories to identify Jack the Ripper. This was the name given to the murderer who savagely killed five women in London’s impoverished Whitechapel district in 1888. The three men with these views were Henry Richard Farquarson, Frederick George Abberline and Sydney Godolphin Osborne.

Henry Richard Farquarson, who has been unkindly nicknamed ‘loose-lipped Farqie’ was the controversial and outspoken Member of Parliament for West Dorset from 1885 to 1895. He lived at Eastbury House in Tarrant Gunville. Apparently, Farquarson claimed that the murderer was the son of a surgeon who had committed suicide. Fearing libel, he did not identify him specifically but his description pointed to Wimborne-born, Montague Druitt. In February 1892, the Western Mail later confirmed that the West Dorset MP’s theory was that ‘the author of the outrages killed himself.’ Druitt had committed suicide in November 1888 and his body had been recovered from the River Thames. Druitt was a lawyer who supplemented his income by teaching at a boarding school in south-east London. A talented sportsman, he played cricket for Dorset and was a Marylebone Cricket Club member. Druitt suffered from mental health issues and had resigned from his teaching post just prior to his suicide.

Frederick George Abberline was born in Blandford in January 1843. He became a distinguished Inspector in London’s Metropolitan Police and was a key figure in the Ripper investigations. He spent much of his career policing the streets of Whitechapel and Spitalfield. Abberline was  inaccurately portrayed by Hollywood actors Johnny Depp and Michael Caine in films about the murders. Despite in reality being a highly conventional character, Depp unfairly portrayed Abberline as a drug addict and Caine portrayed him with equal inaccuracy as a heavy drinker. Although normally tight-lipped about the identity of the Ripper, Abberline suggested in 1903 that his identity was George Chapman. The latter had qualified as a junior surgeon in Poland and had then come to London. George Chapman was executed in 1903 for the poisoning of his wife. He had four mistresses who all posed as his wife and he killed three of them by poisoning.

However, Frederick George Abberline also did not rule out the possibility that Jack the Ripper was a woman. This theory was shared with Sydney Godolphin Osborne who was the Rector of Durweston from 1841 to 1875. He was fascinated by the case. Lamenting the differences between the rich and poor, he regarded Whitechapel as a human cesspit. He reckoned the murder could have been a woman because of what he regarded as the treachery, jealousy and physical strength of the Whitechapel women!

Despite the theories of three local men, it seems likely the identity of the notorious Jack the Ripper will never be uncovered.

(Illustration: Henry Richard Farquarson)


Popular posts from this blog

True Lovers Knot - a Tragic Tale

True Lovers Knot public house describes itself as a traditional  inn set in a picturesque Dorset valley in Tarrant Keynston. Yet, this historical hostelry is said to have gained its name from a particularly tragic tale and still to be haunted by a distressed former publican. This publican’s son met and fell in love with the daughter of the local squire. Because the young lad was not from the gentry they decided to keep their relationship secret from her father. Unfortunately, a stable hand saw the two young lovers together and told her father. Set firmly against this friendship the squire made plans to send his daughter away from the district. Not able to face up to life without her boyfriend, the young girl decided to commit suicide and hanged herself from a tree in the village. So upset was the publican’s son of hearing of his girlfriend’s death he too hanged himself from the same tree. The Tarrant Keynston publican had, himself lost his wife at child birth and now losing his son b

Tarrant Rushton's Nuclear Secret

Tarrant Rushton was a large RAF base used for glider operations during World War II. It was then taken over by Flight Refuelling for the conversion of aircraft for the development of aircraft in-flight refuelling. However, between 1958 & 1965, the Tarrant Rushton airfield had a much more secretive and less publicised role. This was in support of the nation’s nuclear bomber deterrent, as Tarrant Rushton airfield became a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) dispersal unit.   During 1958, contractors Costain reinforced the main runway and carried out other work to ensure the giant bomber aircraft could be accommodated. At times just a few miles from Blandford, there would have been up to four RAF Vickers Valiant bombers at Tarrant Rushton ready to become airborne in minutes charged with nuclear weapons. The bombers were from 148 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk. As there was no suitable accommodation at the airfield, an old US Air Force Hospital building at Martin was used. At the time, the

Chimney Sweep Tragedy

Crown Hotel, Blandford is reckoned to be one of Dorset’s oldest hostelries. Yet its most tragic day, during a long history, must surely be when a young chimney sweep lost his life. The chimney sweep, who was just a child, suffocated and was burnt to death in a Crown Hotel chimney which had been alight a little while before. ‘His cries were dreadful and no-one could give assistance. Part of the chimney was taken down before he was got out.’ (Salisbury & Winchester Gazette 27th March 1780) The lad had gone up one chimney and attempting to go down another had become stuck. At the time children were used to climb up chimneys to clean out soot deposits. With hands and knees, they would shimmy up narrow dark flue spaces packed thick with soot and debris. After the 1731 Great Fire of Blandford it was realised that it was important to sweep chimneys regularly while many rebuilt houses had narrower ones. Smaller chimneys and complicated flues were a potential death trap for children. The sw