The Krays, 1990


Peter Medak


visit the film locations

London: Flights: Heathrow Airport; Gatwick Airport

Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond (tel: 020.8939.9277) (tube: Richmond, District Line)

Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Grace’s Alley, Wellclose Square, off Cable Street, E1 (tel: 020.7702.9555) (tube: Tower Hill, Aldgate East; District Line)


For more East End gangsters, see Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which not only shares a location with The Krays (The Royal Oak, Columbia Road), but filmed the three-card-brag game in Repton Boys' Club, Bethnal Green, where the twins used to work out.

The Krays' story provided the inspiration for 1971's Villain.

Richmond Theatre is a popular filming venue, since the 1957 Peter Sellers comedy The Naked Truth. Since then it's been seen in bittersweet romcom Jack and Sarah, with Richard E Grant, Crimetime, Bugsy Malone, Wilde, Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy (as the Savoy theatre) and Finding Neverland. More surprisingly, it became a ‘Buenos Aires’ theatre in Alan Parker's Evita, and even ‘Washington DC's Ford Theatre’ in both the US remake of Bedazzled, with Brendan Fraser, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets

The Krays location: Caradoc Street, Greenwich, London

The Krays location: "Fortress Vallance", the twins' home in Bethnal Green': Caradoc Street, Greenwich, London

In the 1960s, the Kray twins, Ron and Reggie, ruled London’s East End. A pair of ruthless gangsters, they hobnobbed with the stars, were snapped alongside Judy Garland, photographed by Lord Snowdon and seemed above the law. They were parodied by the Monty Python team as Doug and Dinsdale Piranha ("Dinsdale blew up Luton Airport. Even the police began to sit up and take notice.")

According to taste, the Krays were working-class heroes (“they only killed their own kind, and they was nice to their Mum, Gawd bless 'em”) or psychopathic nutters who ruled through terror. Oh, and they were gay.

With material like that, the movie was only a matter of time, though 1971's Villain borrowed heavily from their story, with the twins combined into mum-obsessed Vic Dakin (Richard Burton).

Philip Ridley’s script for The Krays, arch poetics aside, depicts a very different East End from that usually seen on screen – a fiercely matriarchal society where women shoulder the burdens while overgrown boys play gangsters.

The real Blind Beggar pub, where Ronnie Kray had grown cocky enough to pop George Cornell in a pub full of witnesses, still serves up pints, though much changed and spruced up, at 337 Whitechapel Road. Cornell had referred to Ronnie as “a fat poof”. Maybe not a good way to refer to a psychotic gay gangster in public.

The Krays’ home territory was Bethnal Green, E2, where they lived at 178 Vallance Road. The area has been substantially redeveloped and the house is long vanished. For the film, a suitably unchanged terraced street was found south of the Thames in SE10. 32 Caradoc Street, a sidestreet off Trafalgar Road, Greenwich, became the house dubbed "Fortress Vallance". The street has been used for numerous productions, including Fred Schepisi’s Plenty, with Meryl Streep.

The Krays film location: Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond

The Krays location: the exterior of the twins’ nightclub: Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, Surrey

The brothers moved into the entertainment business, and the imposing exterior of their nightclub is Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, seen in many previous films, including Evita, biopic Wilde, with Stephen Fry, and more recently as the ‘Duke of York’s’ theatre, where Peter Pan premieres in Finding Neverland, with Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet and Dustin Hoffman.

The Krays film location: Wilton's Music Hall, 1 Grace's Alley, Wellclose Square, off Cable Street, London E1

The Krays location: the interior of the twins’ nightclub: theatre: Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Grace’s Alley, Wellclose Square, off Cable Street, London E1

The interior, though, is Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Grace’s Alley, Wellclose Square, off Cable Street, E1, seen in two biopics – Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin, with Robert Downey Jr, and Karel Reisz’s Isadora, with Vanessa Redgrave as the flamboyant dancer. It’s also the venue for the all-female production of Macbeth in John Landis’s Burke And Hare.

The hall, built in 1858, was the first and one of the most successful of London’s music halls. It was taken over by scandalised Methodists in the 1880s, and run as a mission until 1956, when it became a rag warehouse. For many years it lay dilapidated, used only for film shoots, as well as music videos (Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax must have had the Methodists whizzing round in their graves, though Mumford & SonsLittle Lion Man might calm them down a little).

The Krays location: The Royal Oak, Columbia Road, London E2

The Krays location: the Maltese boys smash up the pub: The Royal Oak, Columbia Road, London E2

The pub that gets trashed by rival gang the Maltese boys is the Royal Oak, Columbia Road, Hackney, in the middle of the famous flower market. The Oak was also seen (but not by many) in David A Stewart’s Honest, as well as becoming ‘Samoan Jo’s’ in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and the time-warping local boozer in UK TV’s Goodnight Sweetheart.

The Krays location: Bacchus, Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London N1

The Krays location: Standing in for ‘Whitechapel’s ‘The Blind Beggar’: Bacchus, Hoxton Street, Hoxton, London N1

George Cornell (Steven Berkoff) was the rival reckless enough to refer to Ronnie as "a fat poof" in public. It may have been the 'fat' more than the 'poof' that stung ex-boxer Ronnie's pride. The Blind Beggar has been not only been thoroughly modernised but also stands on a busy main road. The pub used for the shooting in the film is Bacchus, 177 Hoxton Street at Bacchus Walk, in the middle of Hoxton Market. The local little boozer – at the time of filming – is now itself revamped as a high-style restaurant.

Woolwich Cemetery is the site of the funeral of Violet Kray (Billie Whitelaw), the twins’ much-loved Mum at the end of the film.

Off Kennington Road is Walcot Square, at Sullivan Road, where Reggie Kray’s violent reaction to two guys admiring his car sends his wife Frances into hysterics.

Closed and up for sale at the time of writing, The Fleece, 160 Abbey Street at Neckinger, is the pub where the pathetic Jack the Hat (Tom Bell) gets steaming drunk, before being dragged off by Ronnie’s boyfriend Steve (Gary Love), past the Marquis of Wellington, Druid Street, under the railway bridge at Gedling Place, to the party to end all parties.

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