I have always had a problem with New Cottage. Some writers of Ripper books have stated that Polly Nichols' body was discovered in Bucks Row outside a house with this name, but others, outside No. 9. It has always puzzled me why the first house of a row should be qualified by it's own name. In modern photos of this site one sees a row of small terraced cottages, all identical, and I have assumed as I'm sure others have too that Polly's body was found slightly to the right of this building. In fact, this doesn't seem to be so.
When the row of cottages was built (probably in 1864 when the street was named Bucks Row) they stretched from North Street (Brady Street) right to the edge of the National School for Boys and Girls (later the Board School), and were numbered consecutively from No 1, beside the school, to No 30 at the North Street end, on the corner of which stood The Roebuck (John and Charlotte Turner, beer retailers. All this is seen on the 1873 Ordnance Survey map.
In the creation of the East London Railway in 1875 (opening on 10th April 1876), a cutting was dug through the street, beside the school, destroying several cottages. This left a fairly large site between the railway and the row of cottages on which was built a separate house, different in design from the rest of the row, and designated New Cottage. In 1881 this house was occupied by Walter Borton(?) Parkins and his wife, Mary Ann, her mother, Sophia Ballard, their two daughters, Lillian Ellen and Florence May, and their son, Sidney Walter.
On the Ordnance Survey maps of 1894 and 1913 this cottage is clearly seen at the end of the row, being of a slightly different shape, with a space between the house and the railway cutting that was a small stable yard. On the 1938 map, the cottage is still there, but on the 1948 map it is gone, along with the next house as well, which naturally leads one to the conclusion they were bombed during the war. This map also shows that the numbering has been changed from consecutive to even running únumbers, now starting at No 6, which is the house shown in Tom Cullen's book, Autumn of Terror (opp. Pg 177).
What lead me to the realisation that New Cottage had been a separate house was two pre-war pictures, in Murder Most Foul No. 22, of the house itself, which I had not seen before.
I believe we have assumed Polly Nichols body was found next to the last house of the row, ie: to the right of the house in Cullen's picture. This was not so, as New Cottage and the other bombed house were between this house and the railway cutting.
For a clearer view, look at the picture Stewart Evans took in the mid 1960's and published in The Lodger (or the well-known 1967 view from the other angle). This shows a large building of a garage type which covers the ground on which New Cottage and the bombed house stood in 1888. It makes one realise the possibility that Nichols body was actually found some three or more metres east of where we have assumed it was found (and been told it was by Cullen, in his picture caption).
The writers quoting New Cottage as the murder site are correct, but the ones suggesting Polly was found outside No 2 are also correct, because, at some time between the late 1880s and the post-war period, the numbering was changed to run as even numbers from No 2 to No 48 (No 2 being given to New Cottage, as seen from the 1938 map).
The confusion has arisen because no one has ever explained that New Cottage (and the first house of the row) no longer exist. One has believed - or I certainly have! - that the first house of the row (Cullen's picture) was No 2 New Cottage.
In the overall scheme of things this is merely a small and insignificant matter, but nevertheless, I particularly enjoy researching these odd inconsistences and trying to correct small details whenever possible, and my research in this instance has clarified, at least for me, the riddle of New Cottage.
This article first appeared in Issue 9 of Ripperologist, published by the Cloak and Dagger Club.