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Born in the poverty-stricken East End of London in 1933, twins Reggie & Ronnie, were to rise to become London's most feared and notorious gangsters. This walk will guide you around the back streets of Bethnal Green and Whitechapel, to places actually frequented by The Kray Twins and forever associated with their crimes.
There is a book 'The Kray Twins walk' by Louis London walks available on Amazon.
Ronnie and Reggie Kray were born on 24 October 1933 in Hoxton, East London, to Charles David Kray (10 March 1907 – 8 March 1983), a scrap gold dealer, and Violet Annie Lee (5 August 1909 – 4 August 1982). They were of English, Jewish, Irish and Romani Gypsy heritage.
Dan and I set off for Bethnal Green ,while during the week this walk is best done by tube,today is Sunday and we can park for free in surrounding Streets which meant we can drive to the graves in Chingford afterwards.
We arrive and find a parking spot outside Bethnal Green Police Station, we walk to the start at the tube station.
From the Station walk down Cambridge Heath Road, keeping on the right. Turn right into Three Colts Lane and down under the railway bridge.
Then turn left into Tapp Street and walk under the railway arch. As we approached a pair of suspicious looking males were fiddling with a hire bike and rode off as we reached them with a sheepish 'alright ?'
On the right is No 8 Tapp Street, which was the Lion Public House.
The Lion was a Truman's pub close to Bethnal Green overground station that was closed and converted into housing in 2002. There is still a Truman's notice board on the north side of the building facing the railway.
A dangerous feud had grown between the Krays and a South London gang 'The Richardsons' of whom Cornell was a member. The twins believed that The Richardsons were trying to kill them. One evening just after the twins had left The Lion Pub, shots were fired at the pub windows from a passing car.
Later a man who looked like Ronnie was walking down Vallance Road and was knocked down.
Before the feud hit a climax, The Richardsons were involved in a gunfight with another gang on the 8th March 1966 at Mr Smiths Clun in Catford. During this fight a friend of The Krays was shot dead. All the important members of The Richardsons except Cornell ended up in hospital with a Police guard or in custody. With their rivals destroyed The Kray's could have ruled London with no other gang to challenge them. Ronnie however wanted revenge for his friends death. Cornell was the ideal target as he had enraged Ronnie by bad mouthing The Kray's and calling him a 'Fat Poof'.
After killing Cornell dead in The Blind Beggar, he returned to the Lion and told Reggie and others about what he had just done. The customers began to leave on hearing the news as they didn't want to be involved.
The Lion it was frequented by the twins and their gang - one of several pubs in the area that was used by them - and was referred to as ‘Madge’s’ which was the landlady’s name and ‘The Widow’s’ as she was a widow.
The Lion is significant for another reason as well, in that on the 8th of March 1968, the gang were having a drink in there before heading to the Astor Club in the West End. At 6am they were all arrested meaning they had been in The Lion on their last night of freedom.
We retrace our steps back up Tapp Street and along Wilmott Street. At the end of the road we turn right and walk up to E. English & Son funeral directors on the corner of Pott Street.
W English & Son handled the funeral arrangements for all three Kray brothers. They laid in the parlour before being taken to St Matthews Church where the services took place.
Ronnie was the first of the brothers to die (in 1995) and was the largest funeral of the three costing £10,000. The funeral cortege left the Chapel of rest here. Flowers and people lined the streets in the area. Hundreds of wreaths were sent including those from Barbara Windsor and Roger Daltrey.
Following the Glass sided carriage pulled by horse was a car carrying Reggie who was still serving a life sentence for murder. He was last allowed out of prison for his mothers Violet funeral in 1983. He was again allowed to leave in April 2000 to attend his brothers Charlie funeral.
In October 2000 Reggie the last twin died.
We retrace our steps cross over Wilmott Street again as we walk down Bethnal Green Road.
At No 332 Bethnal Green Road is Pellicci Cafe.
Pelliccís has been in the same family since it was built in 1900.
This was a regular hangout for the Twins. One Saturday afternoon in 1950 the Twins were standing outside the cafe with friends. A young policeman PC Baynton decided the boys were obstructing the pavement and shoved Ronnie in the back to move him on. Ronnie retaliated and punched the PC in the mouth. The other boys ran off but 2 other policemen arrived and caught Ronnie. Ronnie claimed he was beaten up in the cells by police officers and arrived home badly bruised. He said" The bastards could only do me in numbers... there were about six of them hitting me, but I got a few punches in myself".
Reggie not being there to help, walked back down Bethnal Green Road looking for PC Baynton. On finding him he also punched him in the mouth.
The twins were charged for assault, Ronnie pleaded provocation and Reggie said he acted in Ronnie's defence. Father Hetherington spoke for the boys in court and they got probation.
Across the road that was St James The Great church that is now exclusive flats.
On 19th April 1965 Reggie married Frances Shea here in this church. Reggie asked Father Hetherington to perform the ceremony but he refused as he didn't think the marriage should take place. The current vicar of the church married them instead.
Frances who was 21 was dressed in white and Ronnie was Best Man and 200 guests were in attendance. Famous boxers such as Terry Allen, Terry Spinks and Ted 'Kid' Lewis attended as well as many celebrities. Telegrams were received from Judy Garland, Barbara Windsor, Lord Boothby and others. David Bailey was the photographer. They were driven to the wedding reception at Finsbury Park Hotel in a maroon Rolls Royce.
The marriage lasted eight weeks after running into problems. Frances suffered from depression and said before the marriage she didn't think she'd live long after her 21st birthday. Sadly this premonition came true after two suicide attempts she was found dead on the 7th June 1967 of a overdose of barbiturates.
Tragically two years after the wedding the church was to be used for her funeral.
An association between Conservative peer Robert Boothby and London gangster Ronnie Kray was the subject of an MI5 investigation, documents have revealed.
The men went to "homosexual parties" together and were "hunters" of young men, declassified MI5 files claim.
Allegations in 1964 about the pair's relationship caused such concern within Downing Street that the then head of MI5 was summoned to the Home Office.
The government feared a scandal greater than the so-called Profumo Affair.
Rumours that notorious gangster Kray and Lord Boothby - a popular TV presenter and former MP for East Aberdeenshire - were having an affair were published in 1964.
We walk on past the church cross Pollards Row until we arrive at Turin Street. We walk down Turin Street to the end and turn left. Here is Bethnal Green Centre for Sport and The Performing Arts, this was Daniel Street School in the 1940s and 1950s.
Daniel Street School - The Kray's attended from the age of 11 until they were 16, previously attending Wood Close School, on Cheshire Street. Beginning in 1944 and leaving in 1949, the twins spent five years of their life here.
When they started at this school, Reggie got a black eye after a fight with an older boy. Reggie realised that although he could fight he needed to learn to box. He asked his older brother Charlie to train him, as Charlie boxed in the Navy. A bedroom at his home in Vallance Road became a gym with a punchbag made from a Navy kitbag and stuffed full of old clothes , hung from the ceiling and pinned down with a meat hook.
One night their father came home drunk and impaled his foot on the meat hook to everyone's amusement. They used this as a gym until Violet let her son Charlie and his new wife move into the room.
The twins were happy at school and were encouraged to box and play football. It was here that the twins often tricked the teachers pretending to be one another and they used this later in life to escape trouble with the army and the law.
We walk back up Turin Street and cross Bethnal Green Road and into St Matthews Row Opposite.
We reach St Matthews Church, which performed the funeral services of the three Kray brothers.
Ronnie's funeral service ended with 'I Will Always Love You' by Whitney Houston.
Charlies funeral in April 2000 was much more low key than Ronnie's despite the church being packed to the rafters with hundreds more outside.
When Reggie died the last Kray brother in a hotel near Norwich on 1st October 2000, some old friends were at his bedside. They said that Reggie had asked them to be his pallbearers. But Reggie's second wife Roberta (whom he married in 1997 whilst in prison) said that Reggie didn't want any gangster friends as pallbearers. Roberta upset so many old friends of Reggie that many didn't go to the church and as such many seats remained empty.
Reggie's solicitor gave an address saying ' Reg was an icon of the 2th century'. The coffin left the church to 'My Way' by Frank Sinata.
We leave the church and turn left back down St Matthews Row to the end to The Carpenters Arms Public House.
The twins bought the pub in the Autumn of 1967.It was a hard time for the twins, George Cornell had just been murdered, Frank Mitchell (the Mad Axe-man who the twins help escape from Dartmoor Prison) had disappeared, there was trouble in the firm and Frances had recently died. They needed their own space, to drink ,issue orders to the firm. This fitted perfectly, One door in and no-one could get in unnoticed. The twins decorated the pub in red striped regency wallpaper and red velvet seats, turning it into a private club of their own.
Parties were held here for the firm, a party on the 28th October 1967 where Violet their mother was present was held here. Ronnie was in a strange mood and people avoided him.
The reason for the twin behaviour was that they decided that Jack 'The Hat' (named because he always wore a hat to cover up his bald patch) had to be taught a lesson. McVitie cheated the twins over some business and he ignored warnings. He took money from them to carry out a murder but didn't do the job! He refused to repay the twins and the night before he staggered into the Regency Club drunk waving a sawn off shotgun threatening to kill the Krays.
At closing time, Reggie was drunk and aggressive and hurried off. Reggie left The Carpenters Arms to go to the Regency (where he thought McVitie was) intending to shoot him in the head, just as Ronnie had shot Cornell. McVitie wasn't there, but Reggie didn't give up and McVitie was found and invited by the Lambrianou brothers (who needed to prove loyalty to the firm to join) to a party in a basement flat in Stoke Newington. He was bought to the flat drunk and high on drugs just after midnight.
The twins and some of the firm were waiting. According to accounts given to the police, Reggie tried to shoot McVitie in the head but his gun jammed. McVitie almost escaped out of the window, but only succeeded in losing his hat. McVitie begged for mercy but Reggie egged on by Ronnie "Kill him Reg. Do him" who was holding back McVities arms stabbed McVitie in the face with a carving knife. Then stabbed his body and chest and finally impaled him to the floor by stabbing him through his throat. The twins left the flat, while firm members cleaned up and got rid of the body. McVities body was never found.
We turn left onto Cheshire Street .
On Sundays there is a bric a brac market, more like an impronto boot sale.
When Reggie was eight he had a friend Alf who helped the local bakery deliveryman. Alf was paid by the man to start the engine and load the bread. One day Reggie and Alf were in the van when Alf turned on the ignition and put the van into gear as a joke. The van shot backwards crushing a 6 year old boy to death between the van and an air raid shelter. There was blood everywhere.The delivery driver told the boys told not to say they had started the van only that they had played with the gears. As a result a verdict of accidental death, the delivery driver kept his job, but the boys family couldn't claim compensation from the bakery. Reggie was truly upset by the incident and claimed it was a bad omen, made worse as the dead boy was also a twin.
In January 1965 'Ginger' Marks was shot dead by gunmen in a moving car as he walked along this street at night. His body was dragged off in the car. Some blood, a used cartridge and Mark's black horned-rimmed glasses were left on the pavement. There was a bullet hole in the wall. Mark's body was never found. Ronnie claimed that George Cornell had boasted to him that he had killed Mark's, so when Ronnie killed Cornell he was 'only killing a killer'.
We reach Wood Close School - This was the twins primary school. School began again after being closed due to the bombing in the war, when the twins were 8 years old. The boys small mongrel dog called 'Lassie' would come and met them from here.
|The locals must all be crossing their legs!|
Across the road is a second hand work clothing shop.
We cross Hereford Street and on our left is Repton Amateur Boxing Club.
During their early teens the twins started to train in boxing clubs such as this club and Webbe Club Gym. Reggie was the more promising who both won many amateur titles and later turned professional at 17.
Ronnie aged 15 was in the club one night when a film director was looking for extras for as film called 'The Magic Box' being made at Ealing studios. Ronnie was thrilled to take part.
Through their boxing connections and later through the American Mafia , the Krays met many world champion boxers including Rocky Graziano, Joe Louis, Sonny Liston and Freedie Mills.
Next door is the Cheshire Street Public Baths - The Kray's home as most homes in the area did not have a bathroom and people washed in the yard in a tin bath of water heated by wood and coal. So it was easier to go to public baths. Although most only went once a week.
After the twins arrest in 1968 the police questioned one of the attendants about the firm. They were particularly interested in the furnace used to heat the water.They thought that some of the bodies connected to the Kray case may have been disposed of in this way. No evidence was found.
Today the baths are private property, probably flats.
We continue to the end of the street and reach the junction with Vallance Road.
Opposite is 178 Vallance Road, The Krays family home, they moved here in 1939.It had two storeys , no bathroom and an outside toilet in the backyard, where the family kept chickens.
When the war started this area was constantly bombed, as the German bombers aimed for the railway lines. At this time this part of Vallance Road became known as 'Deserters Corner' because so many living in this area ignored their call up papers (including Charlie Snr).
Later when the twins became more notorious the family home became the HQ of the Kray empire. Ronnie 'The Colonel' was obsessed with firearms (He got his first gun at 16) his collection included revolvers,sawn off shotguns, most hidden under the floorboards. Ronnie had other weapons too including cavalry sabres,knives and bayonets. The house became known as 'Fort Vallance'.
The twins continued to use the house well into adult life for operations and a place of sanctuary even when they had moved out. Violet Kray left 178 Vallance Road in 1967 when she moved to a new council flat in Braithwaite House in Shoreditch.
We turn right and under the railway bridge and along Vallance Road.
At 71 Vallance Road I saw a plaque dedicated to;
Person Female Born 29/2/1860 Died 2/4/1941
Social worker. Born 80 Park Street, Mayfair, daughter to the Christian socialist Thomas Hughes who was author of "Tom Brown's Schooldays". Moved to join her sister who was married to the Reverend Henry Carter in Whitechapel. There she worked with the poor and the sick. Her sister and brother-in-law went down on the Titanic but Mary moved into the community settlement, Kingsley Hall, in Bow and carried on her work living in amongst the poor, in similar conditions. Joined the Quakers in 1918. Moved back to Whitechapel and then in 1928 into an ex-pub at 71 Vallance Road. She renamed this the 'Dew Drop Inn' and provided there a community centre for the homeless. She called herself a Communist and met Gandhi in 1931 when he visited Kingsley Hall. Died St Peter's Hospital, Whitechapel.
At the end of the road we turn left onto Whitechapel Road.
We pass The Royal London Hospital.
The "Elephant Man" Joseph Merrick (1862–1890) became well known in Whitechapel — he was exhibited in a shop on the Whitechapel Road before being helped by Dr Frederick Treves (1853–1923) at the Royal London Hospital, opposite the actual shop. There is a museum in the hospital about his life.
We reach 267 Whitechapel Road, site of The Grave Maurice Public house now a Betting shop and pawnbrokers.
This pub was Ronnie's local. He would sit at the far end of the pub, with his back to the wall so he could see the main entrance.Ronnie is said to have resolved a dispute between George Cornell and 'Ginger' Marks here. However after Mark's left the pub, Cornell told Ronnie that he hated Mark's and wanted to blow his head off.
When ' Nipper' first came to the East end in the early 1960s to work on the case against the Kray's, he went, unnoticed for a quiet drink in The Grave Maurice so he could observe the Twins at close hand.
We reach the Blind Beggar Public House, but it is far too early, its opens at 12pm on Sundays, so we continue along the road.
William Booth is best known as the founder of the Salvation Army. Although he wasn’t born in London, he did many good works in the East End, helping improve the living conditions of many people living in Whitechapel.
He also founded the Salvation Army on Whitechapel Road.
Booth was born in Nottingham in 1829. He had a relatively easy start to life, as his father was wealthy, however the family lost their money during his childhood and he had to stop his schooling at the age of 13 to become an apprentice pawnbroker.
During his apprenticeship, Booth became a Methodist, and, over time, a self-taught lay preacher. By the 1840s, he began preaching to the poor in the local area. Booth wasn’t kept on by his master pawnbroker when his apprenticeship ended and he was forced to move to London to look for work.
By 1865, Booth was back in the East End where he was noticed preaching outside the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel. He was asked to lead preaching meetings in the area on land known as Mile End Waste.
Later that year, he and his wife started The Christian Revival Society, which later became The Christian Mission and, ultimately, The Salvation Army. His aim was to preach that salvation was available to all people, including those living in abject poverty and need, as long as they accepted Jesus Christ.
The Trinity Green Almshouses were built in 1695 by the Corporation of Trinity House to provide housing for "28 decay’d Masters & Commanders of Ships or ye Widows of such"; the land was given to the Corporation by Captain Henry Mudd of Ratcliffe. The almshouses are believed to have been designed by Sir William Ogbourne, and the houses were organised into two rows, with a central green and chapel.The chapel is in the parish of St Dunstan's, Stepney.
In 1735, Trinity Green had 28 people, at a cost of 12 shillings per resident per month. In 1895–96, Trinity Green was threatened with closure, after Sir Frederic Leighton proposed that the almshouses be destroyed. The closure was prevented due to a public campaign led by Charles Robert Ashbee, who set up a Committee for the Survey of the Memorials of Greater London. The almshouses were the first buildings to be put on his preservation register, which eventually became the listed building system.
In 1927, a bronze bust memorial for William Booth was installed at Trinity Green; in the 19th century, Booth had preached in the Vine Tavern in front of the almshouses, which had led to the founding of The Salvation Army. In the Second World War, the Trinity Green almshouses were damaged, with those almshouses north of the chapel being destroyed. In 1950, Trinity Green became a Grade I listed building; the listing included the almshouses, chapel, gates, railings and walls. In 1954, London County Council bought and restored the non-destroyed houses, including the restoration of the chapel with 18th-century panelling from Bradmore House in Hammersmith.[1When Mile End Road was built, Trinity Green's location was altered from rural peace and quiet into traffic.
Trinity Green was included on a Mile End mural created in 2011. In 2016, local residents complained at proposals for Sainsbury's to build a 28-storey tower block less than 80 yards (73 m) from the Trinity Green almshouses; they argued that the tower block would cast a shadow over the almshouses.
The Blind Beggar is a pub on Whitechapel Road in Whitechapel. It is notable as the former brewery tap of 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, and takes its name from the legend of Henry de Montfort.
Moore’s interest in pubs extended to owning a few, including the legendary Blind Beggar, where the Krays committed one of their most notorious killings, and where Harry Redknapp recalls being told by a gangster that, “You can tell your mate Bobby Moore that I’ll cut him from ear to ear.”
|Air Ambulance taking off from The Royal London Hospital|
Finally its 12 pm and we go in The Blind Beggar and order a pint of Beggars Belief Ale each at £4.80 a pint.
On the 9th March 1966, Ronnie Kray entered the pub with Ian Barrie. The pub was quiet and the barmaid had just put a record on the jukebox 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore' by The Walker Brothers.
Ronnie and Barrie walked up to Cornell, who was in the saloon bar sitting on a stool at the end of the bar with a couple of friends. When he saw Ronnie he said "Well, look who's here". Ronnie said nothing, but took out his 9mm Mauser automatic pistol, which he carried into the pub in his shoulder holster, and shot Cornell in the head. Cornell fell of his stool, there was blood everywhere. Barrie also armed fired two shots into the ceiling. Everyone ran for cover, except an old man who remained sitting at a table in a state of shock. Ronnie and Barrie calmly walked out of the pub and got into as car waiting for them.
Inside the pub the song the barmaid put on played repeatedly as the needle had stuck on the record. The barmaid and landlord tried to help Cornell but he died on way to hospital.
Everyone in the pub was visited by the twins representatives before police interviews took place. No-one could help the Police. Ronnie was put into an ID parade, but wasn't picked out. Everyone knew he committed the murder but had no proof.
|Dan on the spot where Cornell was shot.|
We left the pub and walked back to the car and drove to Chingford Mount Cemetery where they are buried.
If you visit here, I'll make it easy for you. Dan and I walked about everywhere looking for the graves. Dan found them.
From The church on the road take the path opposite on top of the hill \and walk down to the end to find the graves.
About a 4 mile walk if you don't include wandering about waiting for the pub to open.
Now watch the film 'The Krays'