Gangster Life – And Death – in London's East End
October 30, 2014 11:47 AM   Subscribe

"Mid-afternoon on a weekday is a good time for a discreet liaison at The Carpenters Arms – the pub that used to belong to the Krays in Cheshire St – especially if you are meeting a jewel thief." From Spitalfields Life: So Long Lenny Hamilton, Jewel Thief, "a tribute to one of the East End [of London]’s most celebrated rogues." Hamilton co-authored an account of "the Firm," "a criminal organization based on racketeering, fraud and vicious bloodshed" and ruled over by the Kray twins.

Hamilton, in his own words, on a fateful meeting:
Leaving work, I was walking down Maidment St, and on the corner I saw this big fellow wrestling with these two little fellows. So I went to help them, they got away and I got arrested, because the guy I was wrestling with was a police officer. When I got taken down to Arber Sq police station, he said to me, ‘Do you know what you’ve done? Them two young fellows was the Kray twins and now they’ve got away. They’re on the run from the army.’ I apologised and they let me go.

Later, when the Krays got control of a snooker hall, The Regal, I was playing snooker there and they came in and this fellow put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You don’t know who I am do you? I am Reggie Kray – and this is my brother Ronnie.’ I thought I was seeing double, you couldn’t tell them apart. They took me across the road to a pub called The Wentworth to buy me a drink because I did them a favour. They liked me at first. That’s how I came to be going round their house for nearly three years.
Also from Spitalfields Life: Billy Frost, The Krays’ Driver (violence).

Billy Frost and Lenny Hamilton in conversation (autoplay, argh; details of murder and mayhem).

From The Independent: Lenny Hamilton: 'I'll never forget when Ronnie Kray burnt me with pokers.'

From the BBC: Scenes from Reggie Kray's funeral.

Please use your judgment in reading the links if details of gangster life are likely to bother you. A small part of this terrible history has passed on, but not without having left behind an interesting glimpse of another era.)
posted by MonkeyToes (13 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
There was a Monty Python sketch that parodied the Krays and the media coverage...The Piranha Brothers Part One and Part Two.
posted by jrochest at 12:39 PM on October 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've only read the So Long link and it was fascinating. Never heard of these guys. Looking forward to reading the rest.

I'd also like to note that the Wiki article on the Kray twins very helpfully points out that not one, but both of the twins were born in 1933.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:42 PM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

What do you suppose are the odds of that, mudpuppie? Suspicious, at the very least. I suspect this "coincidence" is, in fact, some sort of clue.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:09 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I remember the biopic as being rather good. With the Spandau Ballet guys as the Krays!
posted by Chrysostom at 1:52 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it definitely proves that they were part of some kind of conspiracy, IAmBroom.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:04 PM on October 30, 2014

Twins can be born on different days, you know.

not identical ones, of course.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:23 PM on October 30, 2014

There's a movie about the Krays coming out (probably) next year, starring Tom Hardy. Legend.
posted by immlass at 2:29 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

not identical ones, of course.

Given delays in labor, one could theoretically be born late night on the day before the other, yes?
posted by stenseng at 2:38 PM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, this is extremely well done, many thanks.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:08 PM on October 30, 2014

posted by acrasis at 6:10 PM on October 30, 2014

When a student I lived in the heart of Kray territory (but a few years after they had been imprisoned). It was a surprisingly safe place to live so long as you didn't do anything the local villains might take objection to.

A couple of the girls in our shared house did shift work which sometimes involved coming back late at night with a long walk home form the tube station. There would be the odd shady character lurking in a doorway who would recognise them as locals, nod gently and watch them pass by. Once a kerb crawler stopped, the shady character stepped out of the doorway and gently wagged his finger in rebuke. Exit kerb crawler at some speed, shady character nods gently and watched her pass by.

Place has gone to the dogs since then.
posted by epo at 4:47 AM on October 31, 2014

Hmm. Safe for who? I'm glad I didn't grow up here in the era when psycho Ronnie Kray was keeping a supply of intimidated young local boys to loan out for rape to his political and celebrity friends, for example.
posted by forgetful snow at 5:09 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Safe for us, obviously.
posted by epo at 5:47 AM on October 31, 2014

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