East London, now a trendy and hipster place (in some areas only), used to be notorious for its deep poverty, overcrowding and associated social problems, illegal activities and crime.
Notable crimes in the area include the Ratcliff Highway murders (1811); the killings committed by the London Burkers (apparently inspired by Burke and Hare) in Bethnal Green (1831); the notorious serial killings of prostitutes by Jack the Ripper (1888); and the Siege of Sidney Street (1911) (in which anarchists, inspired by the legendary Peter the Painter, took on Home Secretary Winston Churchill, and the army).
Most popular criminals
Ronald Kray and Reginald Kray, were identical twin brothers, gangsters and convicted criminals. They were the foremost perpetrators of organised crime in the East End of London, England, from the late 1950s to 1967.
They even became celebrities themselves in the 60s and were interviewed on television. They were arrested on 8 May 1968 and convicted in 1969 to life imprisonment.
Popular movies/shorts about them are The Kray Twins (2016), Legend (2015), The Krays (1990) and The Rise of the Krays (2015).
The following places are strongly linked with the twins.
Krays’ house – 178 Vallance Road
The house shown above used to be the home to the Kray family after they moved from Stene Street, Haggerston in late 1938 when they were aged five.
They lived at this property from that moment until (almost) they were arrested and put in prison for life.
Repton Boys Club
Repton Boxing Club is a boxing club in Bethnal Green, East London. The club grew out of Repton Boys Club, which was founded by Repton School, a public school in Derbyshire. Repton Boys Club was set up by the school to help underprivileged young men in east London.
The club has produced many notable alumni, including world champions and Olympic gold medallists. But it is well known as the club where Ronald and Reginald Kray, the notorious gangster twins, trained made donations to it.
And what is more important, the club has remained almost as it was at that time and it is considered an institution in East London.
The Blind Beggar
The Blind Beggar is a traditional British pub in Whitechapel, which takes its name from the ballad and legend The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green. In some versions of the ballad, the beggar was an impoverished noble Henry de Montfort.
It is where Ronnie Kray murdered George Cornell in front of witnesses. It is also the location of William Booth‘s first sermon, which led to the creation of the Salvation Army. Moreover; it was the nearest outlet (or brewery tap) for the Manns Albion brewery, where the first modern Brown Ale was brewed.
The pub was built in 1894 on the site of an inn which had been established before 1654.
The Carpenters Arms
The Carpenters Arms is a relaxed and friendly pub situated in the heart of Brick Lane, offering a hand-picked selection of some draft, cask ales, and bottled drinks.
Reggie and Ronnie bought it in 1967 for their mother Violet. The pub was their meeting place during the late 1960s for business meetings and family parties including Christmas and New Year.
The current manager stated that “the Krays liked it because the bar was long and narrow and had just one entrance, which meant they could see anyone coming in.”
There is currently a portrait of the twins in the pub, with a sign stating “The management is watching” (or something like that).
E Pellicci is a traditional workers’ cafe established in 1900 by Priamo Pellicci. It boasts an ornate panelled wooden decor, carved by a regular customer and carpenter Achille Capocci back in 1946. Thanks to his handiwork, Pellicci’s has now been awarded Grade II listed status by English Heritage.
It remains quite popular with locals and tourists. But it is also known to have been frequented by The Krays almost every day, as it is very close to their home 178 Vallance Road.
Wood Close School
Wood Close School, now known as William Davis Primary School is a primary school in Cheshire Street, East London. It is very close to the twins former home on 178 Vallance Road, and just next to The Carpenters Arms, the pub once owned by them.
After attending here, the twins went to Daniel Street School.
Other places related with the twin brothers are:
- The Grave Maurice. It was a Truman’s Brewery public house in Whitechapel which was frecuented by the Krays twins and other ganster. Unfortuntely today is a Paddy Power shop, but there is tiled lettering between the first and second floor.
- The Hideaway. Also known as El Morocco, was a club in Gerrard Street, Chinatown that was bought by the twins in 1965. Today it is a Chinese restaurant.
- G. Kelly. It is a pie and mash shop in Roman Road, which was also frecuented by the twins.
- The Royal Oak. It is a popular traditional pub (Grade II listed) located is at 73 Columbia Road, right there where the flower market takes place. It is not directly connected, but was one of the filming locations used in the 1990 film The Krays.
- The Regal. It was a Billiard Hall in Eric Street, Mile End, opened by the twins in 1954. It was demolished and today it is an old people’s home.
Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper was an unidentified serial killer active in the impoverished districts in and around Whitechapel in the East End of London in 1888.
The name “Jack the Ripper” originated in a letter written by an individual claiming to be the murderer that was disseminated in the media. The letter is widely believed to have been a hoax and may have been written by journalists to heighten interest in the story and increase their newspapers’ circulation.
Extensive newspaper coverage bestowed widespread and enduring international notoriety on the Ripper, and the legend solidified. Five victims—Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly—are known as the “canonical five” were never solved, and the legends surrounding these crimes became a combination of historical research, folklore, and pseudohistory, capturing public imagination to the present day.
The killings took place in the following places.
Durward Street/Bucks Row
Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nicholls was killed in the early hours of 31st August 1888 and her body found on Bucks Row (formerly Ducks Row).
The street is now named Durward Street and it is very different. The ancient school block is the only relic from 1888 still standing, as the whole area has been redeveloped and transformed mostly into flats.
Hanbury Street / Ten Bells Pub
Hanbury Street, now at the heart of the trendy east end with plenty of shops, was the place where Annie Chapman’s body was found on the morning of 8th September 1888. The street number was 29, and the exact place is no longer there as it was replace with brewery buildings.
It was also not far from the popular Ten Bells pub, where Annie Chapman was drinking the night. This pub is strongly linked with Jack the Ripper: Annie Chapman may have drunk at the pub shortly before she was murdered; and it has been suggested that the pavement outside of the pub was where Mary Kelly picked up clients as a prostitute.
Between 1976 and 1988, the public house was named “The Jack the Ripper”, and memorabilia relating to the case were displayed in the bars. The brewery ordered the change back to its original name after a long campaign by Reclaim the Night demanded that a murderer of women should not be commemorated in such a fashion.
Berners Street/Henrique Street
The next two murders were committed on the same day, which was the night of 30th September 1888.
The first victim was Elizabeth Stride, and her body was found in a place called Dutfield’s Yard just off from Berners Street. The particularity of this crime was that the body had not been mutilated as the others.
Berners Street has been renamed to Henriques Street, and the area was redeveloped to make space Harry Gosling Primary School and Bernhard Baron House. Dutfield’s Yard would have been somewhere in the the school playground.
The second victim on the evening of the 30th September 1888 was Catherine Eddowes, and the body was found in Mitre Square, just inside the jurisdiction of the City of London.
That night, the Catherine had already been arrested for being drunk and released at 1am.
This murder was significant for a number of reasons. It was part of a double murder, it was the only murder committed outside the area of Spitalfields and Whitechapel, a piece a blood stained and torn apron was found a couple of metres away in Goulston Street (accompanied with the words “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing” written on the wall), and also because the police received a letter with half a human kidney from a man purporting to be the killer.
The most horrible murder was that of Mary Jane Kelly on 9th November 1888. Millers Court was a dangerous place in the now heart of Spitalfields. The victim had a room there and that’s the place where she was found, horribly mutilated.
The area has been completely redeveloped and there are no traces of the original place. It later became the London Fruit and Wool Exchange development, and nowadays hosts flats and shops.