The Krays: Crime Doesn’t Pay Dividends… But History Does.

7 mins. to read
The Krays: Crime Doesn’t Pay Dividends… But History Does.

London is a city fuelled by its own history. With campaigners across the metropolis crusading to save yet another historic landmark or iconic building from the unrelenting ruthlessness of developers, a passion for our city’s history is ingrained in us all. It is news to no one that property in London is on the up, with foreign investors grabbing huge chunks of the capital’s more desirable areas.

But for a true Londoner, the East End will always be the beating heart. The blackened, arrhythmic, beating heart. Some of the city’s most intriguing legends took place on streets we still walk and inside buildings we still frequent, keeping much of the East End’s history well and truly alive.

Crime and murder are the juicy fundamentals of any story worth hearing about London’s past. The East End was the stage for much of it – Jack the Ripper of Whitechapel being the most famous.

But every EastEnder old enough has a story to tell when it comes to the Kray twins.

With the newest incarnation of the notorious brothers in the cinemas, we look to their former gangland haunts and see what’s still standing, and more importantly, how much these landmarks of crime are going for today.

178 Vallance Road

Reggie and Ronnie Kray were born ten minutes apart on 24th October 1933 to Violet and Charles Kray in Hoxton. When the twins were five, the family moved to 178 Vallance Road, Bethnal Green. Described by contemporary sources as a “ghetto of gambling dens, hardened drinkers and boxing enthusiasts”. Their Bethnal Green childhood home was at the heart of the real and raw, gritty East End of old. It was on these streets that the young Krays began to acquire their dastardly reputation for violence. Much of Vallance Road has since been redeveloped, converting many of the old terraces to single bedroom flats.

In 2013, a three bed terrace two doors down sold for £388,500.

Repton Boxing Club

Non viscera, non gloria. No guts, no glory. The motto of the Repton Boxing Club in Bethnal Green and one the brothers lived by. The renowned boxing club was founded in 1884 by Repton Public School to support the young men in one of London’s most deprived areas, even today the club serves to keep kids off the streets and nurture new talent. Not only Britain’s oldest, but arguably one of Europe’s best, with a rich history aside from the Krays. The interior has changed little since they graced its rings. The club’s retro style only accentuates the electric atmosphere as a hive of promising new sporting talent. In 2014 the club was granted a charitable status, but has mostly relied on sponsorship and donations from local businesses. It is here the Krays honed their fighting skills, reportedly never losing a fight until turning professional aged 19.

The Carpenter’s Arms, Cheshire Street

Located just around the corner from Vallance Road, the brothers purchased this old East End boozer in 1967 for their beloved mother, Violet to run. With their boxing gloves hung above the bar (allegedly built out of coffin lids), it soon became one of the most notorious pubs in London. With a portrait of the brothers hanging on the back wall, the popular local retains much of its original charm and stays true to its heritage. A similar Grade II listed pub on Leman Street over in Whitechapel is currently on the market for £3.5m (20 year FRI lease) with a passing rent of just under £77k per annum.

Pellici’s, Bethnal Green Road

“The best food outside your own mother’s kitchen”, mused Reggie Kray from behind bars. This greasy spoon is an East End landmark. Food is prepared by the same Mama Maria who cooked for the Krays back in the ’60s and pretty much everything else in this vintage Art Deco caff remains the same. Small commercial units on Bethnal Green Road are on the market for around £475k (freehold), with rental anywhere between £20k and £45k. But hell will freeze over before the Pellici family sell up.

Esmeralda’s Barn, Knightsbridge

Acquired by Reggie Kray in 1960, Esmeralda’s Barn acted as the base of operations as the twin’s criminal empire expanded west, snapping up nightclubs and snooker halls along the way. The gambling club became a lucrative endeavour for the Krays allowing them to mingle with high society and maintain a respectable front. The Barn turned into the centre of Ronnie’s “private vice ring” involving the prostitution of young boys to entrap blackmail targets. But by the end of 1963, the Krays’ West End Empire was becoming difficult to control and the club was closed.

The five star luxury Berkeley Hotel now stands in the former site of Esmeralda’s Barn, managed by the Maybourne Hotel Group. Quinlan purchased the then Savoy Group, comprised of Claridge’s, Connaught, the Berkeley and the Savoy for £230m back in 2005 followed by a £70m redevelopment.

The Blind Beggar, Whitechapel

On 9th March 1966, Ronnie Kray strode into the Blind Beggar Pub on Whitechapel Road. The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore by the Walker Brothers was playing on the jukebox as George Cornell sat at the bar with a light ale. “Look what the dog brought in” sniped Cornell. Ronnie Kray walked over and calmly shot Cornell in the forehead -just above his right eye- and left without saying a word. Well that’s what you get for calling one half of the most influential and dangerous gangland double act a “big fat poof”.

The freehold for the Blind Beggar was sold by then owners Enterprise Inns back in 2010. It was sold at Allsop auction for £1.26m, with a guide price of £1.2m-£1.3m, resulting in a yield of 7.54%. The buyers were an Indian family who had owned a casino in Whitechapel back in the ’60s.

The interior looks very little like the Krays’ once-favoured haunt, but nevertheless, the pub remains loyal to its history and is frequently the starting point of any East End gangland tour.

Evering Road, Stoke Newington

On the evening of 29th October 1967, Jack “The Hat” McVitie made his way to a small party at a basement flat on Evering Road. The Krays had arrived in secret an hour earlier and turfed out any guests. As McVitie entered, Reggie pulled a gun to his head, but it didn’t discharge. Ronnie grabbed McVitie in a bear hug and goaded his brother to stab him with a carving knife. Jack McVitie was stabbed multiple times in the face, neck, chest and stomach by Reggie. Witnesses reported the attack was so brutal that McVitie’s liver fell out and had to be disposed of in a nearby toilet. His body was never recovered. Following the murder, Scotland Yard police managed to gather enough evidence to arrest the twins, having tracked their exploits for years.

Your very own basement of gore could set you back an estimated £435,190. Average property values on Evering Road tend to be around the £510k mark, with 3 bedroom terraces in the area going for just over £1m.

Bow Street Magistrates’ Court

The 266 year old Magistrates’ Court, situated just opposite the Royal Opera House, has held many famous defendants over its long history as they await trial at the nearby Old Bailey. The accused include Casanova, the Pankhurst sisters, Pinochet, Oscar Wilde, Jeffrey Archer, Pete Doherty, Abu Hamza and, of course, the Kray Twins. From here they were tried at the Old Bailey and both found guilty of murder, sentenced to a minimum of 30 years.

It officially closed in 2006 and, after a drawn out procurement process, was sold to Austrian developers Christian and Rudolf Ploberger for an estimated £75m. Westminster City Council granted planning permission for a £20m redevelopment of the Grade II listed building. Developers plan to turn it into a 100 guestroom boutique hotel, restaurant and police museum, due to open later this year.

The Legend lives on…

“The East End is now a very different place where enterprise and design meet and the Krays have slipped into the alchemy of legend,” remarks Legend director Brian Helgeland. The East End is mindful of its history like the rest of London, but progress is not halted for the sake of sentimentality. Commercial properties not making the grade and a lack of housing are forcing much of the East End and beyond to glaze over its dark past, quite literally. Gentrification is indeed a threat to many of our beloved and historic areas of London; the city hasn’t seen such a major reshaping of its architectural landscape since the Blitz. But it seems much of these properties (some listed buildings) are only standing and thriving because of that rich history, a history we are not about to forget any time soon. Certainly not if the Krays have anything to do with it.

Joshua Allsopp

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