When Joseph Merrick died at age 27, his body didn’t go into the ground in one piece. Instead, the bones of the so-called “Elephant Man” were bleached and put on display at Queen Mary University of London’s medical school, and some of his flesh was saved for medical study. Yet for over a century, no one knew where the rest of him was buried, or even if those remains were buried at all.
Now, a biographer of Merrick says she has found his plot. Joanne Vigor-Mungovin, author of Joseph: The Life, Times, and Places of the Elephant Man, had a hunch Merrick might be in the same cemetery as Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols and Catherine “Kate” Eddowes, two of the women Jack the Ripper killed. Merrick lived in the same Whitechapel neighborhood as Polly and Kate, and died just a couple of years after them. Vigor-Mungovin started going through records for the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, and discovered that Merrick was indeed buried there with them.
“It was what we call a common grave,” Vigor-Mungovin says of Merrick’s plot, which she visited in early May 2019. “There are people below Joseph and probably people above Joseph, so he’s not on his own. And because it’s a common grave, it is usual practice not to have a headstone or for it to be marked."
The discovery confirms that Merrick, who was very religious, was buried the way he would have wanted—with a Christian ceremony in consecrated ground. Vigor-Mungovin says many people, including herself, have petitioned Queen Mary University of London to give up ownership of his bones and bury them in a Christian ceremony. Now that she’s found his grave, Vigor-Mungovin says it’s enough for her to know that he received the burial he would’ve wanted at the end of his short life.
Merrick was born in Leicester, England on August 5, 1862. Accounts tell us he was a kind, sensitive and intelligent man. He could write, and enjoyed reading Jane Austen novels and the Bible. Around age five, his parents began noticing unusual growth in his skin and bones.
In adulthood, the circumference of his right wrist was one foot, and the circumference of his head was three feet. Merrick also suffered heart problems, had difficulty walking and slept sitting up so he wouldn’t suffocate himself. Doctors today still aren’t sure what medical condition Merrick had, since there are no other documented cases like his (there’s some speculation he had Proteus syndrome).
At age 17, Merrick began work in a brutal workhouse with little food and poor medical facilities, especially for a person with his unique needs. “One of the jobs the workhouse people used to do was called bone crushing, which is where they’d crush bone for fertilizer,” Vigor-Mungovin says. Because the food there was so bad, “it wasn’t unknown for the workers and inmates to eat the putrid remains of the flesh off of these dead bones. So that’s how bad it could get.”
READ MORE: Poorhouses Were Designed to Punish People for Their Poverty
Just before his 22nd birthday, Merrick left the workhouse to become an attraction in a traveling “freak show.” “I think Joseph knew that his appearance drew interest,” she says. Likely, he realized “he could probably earn a lot more money and a better standard of living if he went out and exhibited himself.” Merrick traveled with different shows for a couple of years, but his health deteriorated. After being robbed in continental Europe while traveling with a freak show, he returned to Britain and was admitted to London Hospital.
He ended up living out the rest of his life in London Hospital under the care of surgeon Frederick Treves, and passed away on April 11, 1890. Merrick was found leaning over, and the official cause of death was listed as asphyxia caused by his unique condition. But Vigor-Mungovin says we can’t be sure of the exact circumstances of his death. For example, he may have fallen over from a stroke or a blood clot.
There wasn't much public interest in Merrick’s story immediately after his death, says Vigor-Mungovin. It was only later in the 1970s and ‘80s, when stage and film adaptations of his life appeared, that people started to become interested in him. Now that Vigor-Mungovin has found his grave, she has one more idea for a way the public could remember him.
“All I want is Joseph to have a little memorial plaque so people can go remember him, and lay a flower if they want to,” she says. “That’s what Joseph deserves.”
The Long-Lost Remains Of "The Elephant Man" Might Have Been Discovered
After nearly 130 years, the remains of Joseph Merrick – better known as “The Elephant Man” – have been found, an author has claimed.
Merrick’s skeleton has been stored at the Royal London Hospital ever since his death in 1890. However, the location of his soft tissue was never officially logged.
Author Jo Vigor-Mungovin now says that the mystery has been laid to rest. While carrying out research for her biography about Merrick, she claims to have discovered that the remains of Merrick's soft tissues were buried in an unmarked grave at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium in the London Borough of Newham near Epping Forest.
Strangely enough, the discovery is linked to another famous figure of gloomy Victorian London: Jack the Ripper. Vigor-Mungovin noted that many of Jack the Ripper’s victims were killed in Whitechapel in 1888, the same district of London where Merrick died just two years later. This led her to the records of the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, where two of the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Ann Nichols , were laid to rest.
One unmarked grave, in particular, seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
"The burial is dated 24 April 1890, and Joseph died on 11 April,” Vigor-Mungovin told BBC News.
"Everything fits, it is too much to be a coincidence."
Merrick was born in Leicester in 1862. Following a seemingly healthy first few years of life, he started to develop unusual symptoms. The rest of his life became defined by his condition, characterized by large abnormal growths across much of his skin and bone, especially on his head and right arm. Merrick was confined to a workhouse at age 17, before joining a “freak show” that toured across Europe as part of a circus.
While on exhibition, he was eventually spotted by a London physician, Frederick Treves, who brought him back to the London Hospital. Here, he was thoroughly examined by Treves and became a medical curiosity. He died on April 11, 1890, aged 27, after becoming asphyxiated by the weight of his own head, apparently after trying to lie down.
Merrick's story still continues to fascinate people to this day. He has been the subject of numerous books, plays, and films, most notably the 1 980 film The Elephant Man directed by David Lynch, in which he is brilliantly depicted by the late John Hurt.
Even after a century of biomedical progress, it still uncertain what caused his condition. In 1986, two scientists argued it was caused by Proteus syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that was identified in 1979. Others have since suggested that he suffered from a combination of Proteus syndrome and neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that causes tumors to grow on nerve tissue. However, all genetic tests on Merrick’s remains have proved inconclusive.
An illustration of Joseph Carey Merrick. Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0
ELEPHANT'S GRAVEYARD Verger uncovers final resting place of deformed Victorian celebrity Merrick.
ACHURCH verger who became an expert on the Elephant Man believes she has found his forgotten grave.
When Joseph Merrick died in 1890, the flesh was scraped from his bones and his skeleton was put on display in the Royal London Hospital, where it remains.
What happened to the flesh was a mystery.
Joanne Vigor-Mungovin, verger at Leicester Cathedral, has been hooked on history for the past 20 years after she began researching her own family's past.
One distant relative she discovered was Tom Norman, the Victorian showman who took the Elephant Man around the country.
That discovery led to a fascination with Merrick and last year Joanne published a book, Joseph - The Life, Times and Places of the Elephant Man.
She said: "Back in 1997, I saw an episode of QED on the BBC and there was a story about a private burial Joseph Merrick was given in an unmarked grave at a cemetery in London.
"This April, I was talking at a conference in London and a friend told me about a friend of hers who each year would put a bottle of gin on the grave of Jack the Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes, who is buried at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium in Newham.
"Another of the Ripper's victims, Polly Nichols, is also buried there.
"At the conference I was discussing the theory about the private burial for Joseph Merrick and someone asked where I thought he was buried.
"I'd never really given it much thought, but I said maybe he was at that same cemetery.
"The Ripper was active in 1888 and Joseph Merrick died in 1890, so it seemed plausible.
"Back home in Leicester, I got on my laptop and had a look at the online cemetery records and the burial was right there," she said.
"Joseph died on April 11, 1890, and the records state that on April 24 a Joseph Merrick was buried at the cemetery.
"His residence was even listed as London Hospital, which was where he lived. It wrongly states his age as 28 instead of 27, but people often got his age mixed up.
"I was so happy because Joseph was a member of the Church of England and it's good some of his remains were buried on consecrated ground.
"The superintendent registrar didn't know anything about the burial and was surprised.
"We talked about it and we're both nearly 100 per cent certain that is where some of his remains were buried.
"I feel a bit like Philippa Langley after she worked out where Richard III was buried."
Joanne will be publishing a second edition of her Elephant Man book to include the new information. She is also writing a book on her relative, Tom Norman.
"History was a hobby for many years and because of my great-grandfather, whose house is still standing in Friar Lane, Leicester, I became particularly interested in the Victorian era," said Joanne.
"That's the same era as Joseph, so I developed an interest in him from there."
Joanne has been involved in a campaign to get a statue of Joseph Merrick erected in Leicester.
She added: "We've been talking with councillors about it since last summer and the same sculptor who did the Alice Hawkins statue (Sean Hedges-Quinn) has said he's happy to do one.
"It's a shame we don't have one yet because Joseph was born in Leicester and spent 22 years of his life here so we should celebrate him more."
| Joanne Vigor-Mungovin places flowers at the grave of Elephant Man Joseph Merrick
She claims the detail contained in the Victorian burial records make it “99 per cent” the grave is that of Merrick and that it’s “too much to be a coincidence".
"The burial is dated 24 April 1890, and Joseph died on 11 April,” she said.
"It gives his residence as London Hospital, his age as 28 - Joseph was actually 27 but his date of birth was often given wrong - and the coroner as Wynne Baxter, who we know conducted Joseph's inquest.”
Merrick’s skin appeared to be thick and lumpy and there was a large protrusion on his forehead.
He also developed enlarged lips, an enlarged hand and enlarged feet.
At the age of nine his mother died and his father soon remarried, but after he left school at 13, he struggled to find work.
After being rejected by his father and stepmother, Merrick entered a workhouse when he was 17.
He remained there for four years before contacting showman Sam Torr and proposed he exhibit him in a freak show in 1884.
Merrick became known as the ɾlephant Man' as a result of his appearance and was billed as 'Half-a-Man and Half-an-Elephant' on touring show.
He then moved to London where he was exhibited at a shop on Whitechapel Road which was rented by showman Tom Norman.
The shop was located across the road from the London Hospital and visited by surgeon Frederick Treves who invited Merrick to be examined and photographed.
- Born in August 1862 in Leicester
- His condition did not develop until he was five years old
- Following years in a Leicester workhouse, he contacted a showman who set him up as a travelling exhibit in 1884
- After being robbed and abandoned he went to London in June 1886 and contacted doctor Frederick Treves, who found him a room at the London Hospital
- His head measured 36 inches (91cm), his right wrist 12 inches (30cm) and one of his fingers 5 inches (13cm) in circumference
- He died on 11 April 1890, aged 27, asphyxiated by the weight of his own head, apparently after trying to lie down
- The cause of his condition is still uncertain but many researchers favour Proteus syndrome, a rare genetic disorder
- His story has inspired a number of books, an award-winning play and a film starring John Hurt
Mrs Vigor-Mungovin, who has written a biography of Merrick, said a story about his soft tissue being buried had not been followed up due to the number of graveyards in use at the time.
"I was asked about this and off-hand I said 'It probably went to the same place as the [Jack the] Ripper victims', as they died in the same locality.
"Then I went home and really thought about it and started looking at the records of the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium near Epping Forest, where two Ripper victims are buried.
"I decided to search in an eight-week window around the time of his death and there, on page two, was Joseph Merrick."
The detailed Victorian records make it "99% certain" this is the Elephant Man, said Mrs Vigor-Mungovin.
"The burial is dated 24 April 1890, and Joseph died on 11 April.
"It gives his residence as London Hospital, his age as 28 - Joseph was actually 27 but his date of birth was often given wrong - and the coroner as Wynne Baxter, who we know conducted Joseph's inquest.
"Everything fits, it is too much to be a coincidence."
Initially, the area was narrowed down to a communal memorial garden, but Mrs Vigor-Mungovin said a specific plot had now been identified.
"The authorities said a small plaque could be made to mark the spot, which would be lovely.
"Hopefully, we can soon get a memorial in his hometown of Leicester."
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“Elephant Man” Biographer Announces Discovery of His Unmarked Grave
After more than a century, the final burial site of Joseph Merrick, more commonly known as the “Elephant Man,” has been located. Jo Vigor-Mungovin, who has written a biography of the famously deformed man, just announced that she has found records of his internment in the City of London Cemetery not long after his death in 1890.
Today after weeks of emails, research & visits to the #CityofLondonCemetery the final resting place of #JosephMerrick has been located. His bones are @BHAandM for medical purposes but his flesh/remains were buried in consecrated ground after a small service. #Leicester R.I.P pic.twitter.com/MNSSf68Bh2
— Jo Vigor-Mungovin (@Berliozjo) May 3, 2019
Merrick began to suffer from extreme skeletal and soft-tissue deformities after the age of five and eventually became a curiosity, traveling for a time as an exhibit in a circus. His poignant struggles to be recognized for his humanity—instead of just a physical oddity with a misshapen body—earned him worldwide renown and his story was ultimately made into an award-winning play and then a movie in 1980.
Upon his death, his skeleton was donated to the Royal London Hospital and is still on display there. But the whereabout of his soft tissue became a mystery. Vigor-Mungovin said she began to suspect Merrick’s remains might have been sent to the same graveyard as some of Jack the Ripper’s victims. After a search of several weeks, she said she found his name in the City of London Cemetery’s burial records, marked down just 13 days after his death of asphyxiation.
“Everything fits, it is too much to be a coincidence,” Vigor-Mungovin said.
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The tragic true story of Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick
When Joseph Merrick began to grow a “trunk” on his face, he became a household name. But his story is only just reaching a conclusion.
With his “trunk-like” facial growth, curved spine and enormous misshapen skull, the “Elephant Man” was the main attraction at London sideshows, the star of the so-called freakshows popular in the Victorian period.
While most of the people paraded on stage as part of the shows had a tragic story — of disability, abandonment and homelessness — Merrick’s tale is perhaps the most upsetting story of all.
From a yo u ng age, Merrick had developed scoliosis, skull bone outgrowth, with skin protruding from his face and an overgrown right arm.
He came to be known as the Elephant Man due to the skin on his face.
His facial deformities led people to see Merrick as a “monster” and a threat to society. But the opposite was true. He was said to be a kind and gentle man trying to survive in a society that didn’t care for him, aside from a few people who tried to help him.
Since his death, Merrick’s extreme deformities have made him the intriguing subject of posthumous film and stage productions, exploring the man who was trapped inside a deformed body.
David Lynch’s 1980 film Elephant Man, starring John Hurt as Merrick, is credited for being the closest depiction of his life, where we are able to see a glimpse of the heart of the man who had been cruelly labelled a monster.
Merrick died 129 years ago and today there’s a new reason to remember him, with the discovery last month of his grave — in the same cemetery where two of Jack the Ripper’s victims were laid to rest.
Officials in the U.K. placed a plaque at the newly discovered gravesite more than a century after he died.
Merrick’s remains were buried on April 24, 1890. Their precise whereabouts were unknown until Joanne Vigor-Mungovin, author of Joseph: The Life, Times & Places of the Elephant Man, recently traced them to the London Cemetery.
THE EARLY YEARS
Born August 5, 1862 Joseph Merrick was a healthy baby until the age of 21 months when his lips began to swell. This was followed by the development of a bony lump on his forehead, which later grew. The skin on his face also grew and became very loose.
By the age of five he was showing more extreme signs of deformities his right arm was at least twice the size of his left arm and his feet were also enlarged and deformed.
As he grew older, his skin thickened and he developed several large growths on various parts of his body.
As a child, Merrick was told that his condition was caused by his mother, Mary Jane, being frightened by an elephant she’d seen at a fairground when she was pregnant.
There are two medical conditions that have been considered for Merrick Proteus syndrome, a rare disease that causes overgrowth of the bones as well as the skin.
There’s another theory that he had neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumours on nerve tissues, which then spreads to the brain and the spine.
A TERRIBLE CHILDHOOD
One of the worst things that happened to Merrick was the death of his beloved mother Mary Jane. She died of pneumonia when Merrick was just 11 and he was said to be devastated. Mary Jane was handicapped herself and three other children had died before Merrick was born.
Merrick’s father (also named Joseph) remarried, but his new stepmother didn’t want Merrick in the house and she demanded the child leave school at 13 and earn a living.
It was an awful childhood for the handicapped boy.
As his deformities got worse, he managed to find a job at a cigar shop, but it became too difficult for him to do the fiddly job of rolling cigars with his large right hand.
His father arranged a hawker’s license so the boy could sell gloves as a door-to-door salesman. But his appearance frightened potential customers and he struggled to make any money.
Joseph Senior was said to be a very cruel man, beating the boy if he came home with no money. His stepmother would refuse to give the boy any food until he’d made enough money to pay for his keep.
He was so miserable at home, he ran away several times. Luckily there was one kind person in his life, his uncle Charles Merrick who let him live with him and tried to help him with his business selling gloves. But his licence was revoked after a couple of years due to customers being scared of him.
At 17, and with no way to support himself, Merrick was forced to go to the dreaded Leicester workhouse.
A WORKHOUSE & THE FREAKSHOW
The workhouse system was a notorious Victorian institution for the poor and destitute. It was unspeakably cruel and a tough place to be even for an able-bodied person. Merrick was forced to spend five years in what was said to be a hellhole.
According to Steve Moore, who manages Merrick’s skeleton at the Queen Mary University of London, the teenager was desperate to escape the workhouse.
“It was so awful, he felt the only way to make money was to join the circus. He contacted showman Tom Norman, and went to London to star in his freak shows,” Moore said.
“There has been a lot of debate about whether Norman was using or abusing Merrick. Merrick made a lot of money starring in the shows, but Norman made more. Whatever the truth, Merrick never experienced freedom.”
At first people believed Merrick was mentally handicapped, but that was far from the truth as he managed to teach himself to read and write. But he wasn’t able to speak due to his facial deformities.
The young man was forced to survive in the most harrowing conditions. At one stage he was living on his own and slept in a shop, with only a single flame for heat, in the middle of a brutal British winter.
Due to his facial deformities he struggled to eat and he had absolutely nobody to help him.
“Just think about the quality of food that he would have eaten, and the difficulty that he would have had eating it. You or I would have gone mad with frustration,” Moore said.
During the mid-late 1800s thousands of Londoners would flock to freakshows to gawk at the people modern society had rejected — the disabled, the fat, the tall, the bearded ladies, Siamese twins — but nobody had a person onstage quite as incredible as ‘The Elephant Man.’
He was promoted as being ‘half man, half elephant,’ but the only similarity to an elephant was the skin protruding from his face like a trunk.
On stage, Merrick displayed his increasingly misshapen body he’d become a huge ‘freak show’ sensation. But, his health was rapidly declining.
As Merrick was working on the sideshow, he lived near the London hospital and, thankfully, he came to the attention of surgeon Frederick Treves, who was intrigued about the ‘Elephant Man’ and asked if he could inspect Merrick’s body.
Merrick agreed and Treves found Merrick’s deformities were incredibly extreme — there were bony protrusions and soft-tissue swellings covering much of his body and he was also suffering from physical and psychological pain.
His body was riddled with tumours and his leg had worsened to a stage where he could only walk with a cane. The only time Merrick went outside, he’d cover himself with a cape and hood, in a desperate attempt to avoid people staring at him.
One thing Treves took away from his meeting with Merrick was the fact that the young man was a person to be admired a survivor.
Treves stayed in touch with Merrick, even after the freak show closed in London and moved to Belgium. But life in Belgium was even worse than London. Merrick’s new manager abandoned him, and he was robbed and left homeless in a country where he knew nobody.
He managed to get himself back to England where he went to see the one person he felt truly cared about him Dr Treves.
By the age of 24, Merrick’s health had deteriorated, and Treves made sure he was able to live at the hospital. He also set up a fund for people to donate to the special medical care he required. During the four years he spent at London Hospital, Merrick was visited by several famous people from the theatre, people keen to show their support for the man so many had used for entertainment. By then, public opinion had turned against freak shows which were seen as unnecessary and cruel.
Merrick died in his hospital bed on April 11, 1890. It’s believed he’d tried to sleep lying down on his bed, which caused his head to fall at an angle that dislocated his neck. The official cause of death was recorded as asphyxia.
While much of Merrick’s 27 years of life were dominated by cruelty and inhuman treatment, at least his final four years were said to be peaceful and comfortable.
When author Joanne Vigor-Mungovin was researching her book, Joseph: The Life, Times and Places of the Elephant Man, she had heard of a story that part of Merrick’s remains were buried somewhere while his skeleton was preserved at Queen Mary University of London.
She wasn’t actively looking for it until a friend told her about a woman who, each year, places a bottle of gin on the grave of Jack the Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes, who is buried at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium in Newham (another Ripper victim, Polly Nichols, is also buried there).
The Ripper was active in 1888 while Merrick died in 1890 so it made sense they could be buried in the same cemetery.
Vigor-Mungovin told me that it was a huge shock to see Merrick’s name in the burial records — which had his address listed as London Hospital, where he spent his final years.
“After realising that the record I was looking at was Joseph I went down to London where was shown the actual book with his burial record in and the map with the plots. Then it started to sink in,” Vigor-Mungovin said.
“Looking at that old Victorian handwriting and knowing that someone sat there and wrote his name started to send shivers up my spine, I was looking at a piece of history.
“I then started to feel a bit emotional. I bought a posy of flowers from the florist and laid them on his plot. I said a little prayer and that was it.”
“As a researcher it was a great find, but because I’ve spent so long looking into his life, his family and how he lived, I felt I’d found a friend. I had this inner calm knowing that he had a Christian burial and was laid to rest in consecrated ground.
“Bones or no bones, Joseph is at peace.”
Vigor-Mungovin, who also discovered she is related to Tom Norman, the showman who looked after Joseph whilst he exhibited himself in London, wants to see Merrick honoured in his home town with a statue.
“He was more than a freak show. Those who met him saw beyond his deformities, as I did when I wrote my book. I focused more on the man, not on his condition. He was an educated young man with an inquisitive mind.
“Joseph had the ability to make good judgements and make quick decisions which saw him turn his disadvantage to a great advantage.,” Vigor-Mungovin said.
“Knowing now that Joseph rests in peace and has a burial site does not end his story. But hopefully it will be the start of the true story of Joseph Carey Merrick.”
Elephant Man: Joseph Merrick's unmarked grave discovered in London, says author
The unmarked grave of Joseph Merrick – the Victorian freak show exhibit better known as the Elephant Man – has been discovered in London, an author has claimed.
Jo Vigor-Mungovin said she tracked down the precise burial spot of his remains in an east London cemetery almost 130 years after died.
A circus attraction deemed a medical marvel due to his severe deformities, Mr Merrick’s skeleton was carefully preserved at the Royal London Hospital after his death in 1890. The final resting place of his soft tissue, however, has remained a mystery for over a century.
Mr Merrick’s life was depicted in a 1980 film by director David Lynch titled The Elephant Man. The cause of the Leicester man’s deformities is still uncertain, but some believe he had a genetic disorder known as Proteus syndrome.
Ms Vigor-Mungovin consulted cemetery records around the time of his death and found he had been interred at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium near Epping Forest.
The author, who has written a biography of Mr Merrick, said her hunt began after she was questioned about the location of his remains.
“I was asked about this and off-hand I said, “It probably went to the same place as the [Jack the] Ripper victims”, as they died in the same locality,” she told BBC Leicester.
“Then I went home and really thought about it and started looking at the records of the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium near Epping Forest, where two ripper victims are buried.
“I decided to search in an eight-week window around the time of his death and there, on page two, was Joseph Merrick.”
The burial date listed in the records is 24 April 1890, less than two weeks after Mr Merrick’s death on 11 April.
It also providers the name of a coroner and final residence which correspond with previously established details about Mr Merrick.
Merrick’s Family Disowns Him
Wikimedia Commons Due to the weight of his head, Joseph Merrick had to sleep sitting up or else his neck would snap.
As if Joseph Merrick’s life wasn’t melancholy enough, he soon encountered his very own “evil stepmother.” She arrived only 18 months after his mother’s death.
Merrick later wrote, “She was the means of making my life a perfect misery.” His father withdrew affection as well, leaving the boy essentially alone. He couldn’t even run away. The few times he tried, his father brought him right back.
If he was not at school, his stepmother demanded, then he should be bringing home income. So at age 13, Merrick worked at a cigar rolling shop. He worked there for three years, but his worsening hand deformity limited his dexterity, making the job increasingly difficult.
Now 16 and unemployed, Joseph Merrick wandered the streets during the day, looking for work. If he returned home during the day for lunch, his stepmother would taunt him, telling him that the half-meal he got was more than he’d earned.
Merrick then tried to sell goods from his father’s shop door to door, but his contorted face made his speech unintelligible. His appearance frightened most people, enough to make them refrain from opening their doors. Finally, one day his frustrated father severely beat him and Merrick left home for good.
Merrick’s uncle heard about his nephew’s homelessness and took him in. During this time, Merrick’s hawking license was revoked, as he was erroneously seen as a menace to the community. After two years, his uncle couldn’t afford to support him anymore.
The now 17-year-old boy left for the Leicester Union Workhouse. There, Joseph Merrick spent four years with other men ages 16 to 60. He hated it and came to realize that his only escape might be peddling his deformity as a novelty act.
DIRECTIONS TO THE MEMORIAL PLAQUES
Keep ahead along that path, and at the crossroads, turn right (the white cross on the grave of George Leslie Drewry will be to your right on the corner as you turn right).
Keep ahead along that asphalt roadway, and in a little while, away to your left, you will see the red-tiled roof of the Traditional Crematorium. This is what you will be heading for, so look out for the left turn towards it – just after a red circled 10 speed limit sign – then walk to the Crematorium, proceed counter-clockwise around it, and then continue straight along the path on its other side.
You will pass a pond on your right, and then turn right along Memorial Gardens, Gardens Way and keep ahead, to pass the end of a hedge on your right, and, a little further along, you will pass the end of a wall, and a line of trees.
Keep ahead – you will pass the memorial plaque to Mary Nichols on the lawn to your right – pass a white board on your left – the memorial plaque to Catherine Eddowes will be on the lawn to your left – and go past a holly hedge a little further along on the left. Two trees past the hedge, you will come to a bench on your left. Turn left past it onto the grass, veer right and look for a plaque on the left marking “Bed 1771”.
Walk along the right side of this bed and you will see the memorial plaque to Joseph Merrick, a little way along on the left.