Our local pubs tend to be quite old. Which got us thinking - how many misdeeds have taken place on their premises? So we set out to chronicle those with the darkest histories of all. Here's what we found.
337 Whitechapel High Street, Whitechapel, London
George Cornell was not the first person to meet his end in the Blind Beggar. At the beginning of the 20th century the pub was home to a gang of pickpockets, one of whom, Wallis, killed a man by pushing the ferrule of an umbrella through his eye. Wallis was acquitted (no one saw anything, least of all the victim) and driven back to the pub accompanied by triumphant supporters.
When Ronnie Kray killed Cornell at the Blind Beggar on the 8 March 1966 there were again problems with who had seen what, and for the first few months afterwards none of those present – the barmaid, other drinkers, Cornell’s pal – admitted seeing anything. Then, after persistence by Nipper Read’s officers, it all came back: how Cornell had been sitting on a stool by the small U-shaped bar drinking a light ale (pictured above left) when Kray and an accomplice had entered the pub; how Cornell had turned round, seen Kray, and exclaimed: “Well, look who’s here then”, before being blasted to Kingdom Come; and how in the commotion the needle of the juke-box got stuck in the middle of the record it was playing, the Walker Brothers’ The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore, repeatedly playing the word “anymore”.
Kray was convicted of the murder at the Old Bailey three years later and never saw freedom again.
94 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London
The pub most associated with Jack the Ripper, now up for sale for offers of around £1.2 million, was where Annie Chapman- the Ripper’s second victim- drank when she wasn’t working as a prostitute in the surrounding streets. Chapman visited the pub the night she was murdered, as did the Ripper’s final victim, Mary Kelly. One hundred years later the Ten Bells was briefly renamed “The Jack the Ripper” to mark the 100th anniversary of the killings, and sold a Ripper Tipple cocktail and Ripper T-shirts.
269 Whitechapel High Street, Whitechapel, London
A gloomy and uninviting dive, the Grave Maurice was the Krays’ favourite watering hole in the early 1960s.
When the Met’s Inspector Leonard “Nipper” Read learned that Ronnie Kray was to be interviewed here for TV he visited the pub incognito, sat by the window and saw a flash American car draw up outside, a smartly dressed man get out, feel in his pocket for his gun, and enter the pub. The man looked carefully around, went back outside, looked up and down the road to make sure that the pavement was clear and then opened the back door of the car in a grand manner. From the vehicle stepped Ronnie Kray, dressed like Al Capone, his cashmere coat nattily tied at the waist reaching down to his ankles. Flanked by minders, Kray made a suitably grand entrance while his entourage frisked the interviewer, even though the latter was in a neck brace. When the interview finished Kray left as ostentatiously as he had arrived, with the minder visually sweeping the street before allowing his charge outside.
72 High Holborn, Bloomsbury, London
When Charles II took the English throne in 1660, 11 years after his father Charles I had been beheaded by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians, the pub celebrated by displaying the freshly exhumed bodies of Cromwell, his son-in-law Henry Ireton, and John Bradshaw- the squire who issued the order to behead Charles I- overnight in the pub, before they were taken to Tyburn (now Marble Arch) to be hanged and decapitated.
Unfortunately Bradshaw’s body had not been satisfactorily embalmed, and so pub patrons had to put up with a nasty whiff during the one-night exhibition (some say this odour can still be smelled today if one mistakenly stumbles upon the men’s toilets).
202-204 Bishopsgate, City of London
Dirty Dick was the nickname of local 19th century ironmonger Nathaniel Bentley, who preserved the unused wedding breakfast left over when his fiance died on the eve of their marriage and spent the rest of his life in squalor. When Bentley died the landlord of the pub bought the contents of his shop and house – including what remained of the wedding breakfast – as well as the bodies of Bentley’s dead cats, and displayed them here (pictured above right).
This gave Charles Dickens the idea for the post-nuptial fate of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. The bizarre collection was removed in the 1980s.
Llanvihangel Crucorney, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
Fancy bedding down for the night at the Skirrid Mountain Inn? This historic watering hole in Monmouthshire is reputed to have once been used as both a courthouse and a place of execution ñ supposedly, nearly 200 criminals were hanged from an oak beam over the staircase. Unsurprisingly, ghost sightings are common.
High Street Colnbrook, Slough, Buckinghamshire
Around 60 grisly murders are rumoured to have taken place at the Ostrich Inn in Colnbrook, Buckinghamshire, a Grade-II listed building where the former owners liked nothing more than to invite affluent travellers to sleep on a specially-made bed which would then drop them through a trapdoor into a vat of boiling water. We imagine that taught them for criticising the food.
57 Wapping Wall, Wapping, London
On the bank of the Thames in Wapping stands the Prospect of Whitby, a 16th century pub once known as “the Devil’s Tavern”. The favourite hang-out of highwaymen and smugglers, it later earned the custom of the ruthless Judge Jeffreys, who sentenced hundreds of people to death.
A noose still hangs outside to commemorate his patronage, as well as to warn hipsters of the dangers of ordering a Flirtini.
How many of these creepy historical figures do you know?