The Snow Hill Massacre

The Snow Hill Massacre refers to the murder of 8 men on 12th September 1884 on Snow Hill, near the Holborn viaduct, and the now abandoned Smithfield Fish Market, in the City of London.

The murdered men were all identified as members of the ‘Cheapside Boys’, a gang from a neighbouring area of the City of London. Five of the Cheapside Boys were killed with ‘Bladed instruments, as that of a butcher’, two were apparently beaten to death, and the final man was found at the bottom of the hill, ‘submerged face down in a trough’. The murdered men were Jack Penny, Tom Bull, Frank Higgins, Joshua Jones, John Abrahams, Phillip Gladstone, Andrew Longstaff and Peter Wertheimer.

Although nobody was ever charged with the murders, the press of the time firmly laid the crime at the doors of William ‘Bill’ Cutter and Josiah ‘Jo’ Savage. The unlikely names of the two men briefly made them famous both in the Press and in Music Hall songs, although it seems that they mostly stayed out of the public eye.

The murdered men included Jack Penny, the leader of the gang, who had been in trouble with the police on several occasions for public brawling, disturbing the peace and burglary. Penny grew up in the Cold Harbour area of east London, which was then famous for its high crime rate. It was Penny’s body that was discovered drowned in the trough.

Police found no witnesses to the crime, which considering Smithfield was at this point one of the busiest parts of the City, was in itself highly suspicious.

The crime was particularly newsworthy as all of the men’s bodies were said to be in a state ‘made grotesque by the ferocity of violence laid onto them’, causing one police officer to remark that several of the bodies looked as though they had ‘been mangled by a dog cart or hansom running at full tilt’.

The Snow Hill massacre now forms a part of many crime tours in the City of London, although these are overshadowed by the much more popular Ripper tours of the East End.

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