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Feb. 20, 2012
John Reginald Halliday Christie
Serial Killer Reg Christie pinned one of his eight murders on the witless Timothy Evans before he was discovered to be the “Monster of 10 Rillington Place.” Evans’s execution by hanging – and his posthumous pardon – helped lead to the abolishment of the death penalty in Great Britain.
by Mark Pulham
When most people think of Notting Hill, there are a few things that first come to mind. One could be the Notting Hill carnival, a colorful event held every year by the West Indian community and, after Rio, the second largest street carnival in the world. Or it may be Portobello Road, home to the worlds largest Antiques Market, held every Saturday, and also the home to the Portobello Film Festival, where over 700 films have had their premiers.
It could be that the first thought is of the 1999 Julia Roberts film, “Notting Hill.”
But for some, those with longer, darker memories, the thought may be of 10 Rillington Place.
What took place in this house, and the subsequent events, make up a tale of tragedy, horror, and disgust.
Once an area known for pig farms and pottery works, Notting Hill, in the northern part of Kensington, began to be developed in the early to mid 1800’s, and became a fashionable area with its own artistic community. Large houses were built in the hope that they would entice the wealthy from Belgravia and Mayfair, but the plan didn’t work, and instead, it drew the upper middle classes, who liked the idea of Belgravia style houses at the lower Notting Hill prices.
In the late 1980’s, redevelopment of the area brought back its affluence and it is now one of London’s most desirable areas to live, and one of the most expensive.
But sandwiched between these two periods of wealth and prosperity, were decades of neglect and decay. At the beginning of the 20th century, the middle classes stopped having servants and the large houses were sold off to property developers who split the houses into multiple dwellings, with each floor making up a separate flat, and each flat rented out as cheap lodgings.
Rapidly, the area went downhill and became, as one put it, “a massive slum, full of multi-occupied houses, crawling with rats and rubbish.”
Rillington Place was a typical street in the area. Number 10 was a narrow, dreary, and depressing house at the end of a narrow, dreary, and depressing cul-de-sac. Built probably around 1869, it was a grimy and cramped house that had been, like many others, split into three flats, one on each floor.
At the beginning of 1948, only two of the flats were occupied. In the ground floor flat lived the Christies, Reg and Ethel. Their flat consisted of a front living room, a back bedroom, and a kitchen, which included a pantry or cupboard. A passageway led from the front door of the house through to the back door, splitting the Christie’s kitchen from their other rooms.
On the next floor was the home of Charles Kitchener, a man in his 60s who was suffering from failing eyesight. His flat was almost identical to the one below, but without the passageway.
The top floor flat was smaller than the others, having only a kitchen and a bedsitting room.
Outside, there was a small wash-house with a sink and a boiler, where the occupants could do small amounts of laundry. Also outside was the only lavatory, which everyone had to use. Access to both of these was through the passageway that separated the Christie’s kitchen from the rest of their flat.
Beyond the wash-house and lavatory, behind a fence, was what only the delusional would call a garden. It was a dirt wasteland less than 20 feet square that only the hardiest of plant life could survive.