The Double R Club was a notorious night-club on Bow Road named after and owned by the former gangsters, the twin brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray, now an Enterprise car hire venue. Popular both with local people as well as celebrities, the club became know for its after-hours parties and being a base for criminal activities.
Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Kray and Reginald ‘Reggie’ Kray were identical twin brothers and well-known English criminals in the East End during 1950s and 1960s. Their gang, known as The Firm was involved in numerous murders, armed robberies, arson and assaults.
Widely known as the Kray Twins, the former gangsters became famous not only in the local area but also among prominent people. They owned many night clubs in East London, including The Double R Club. Although they were sentenced to life in prison at the age of 35, they will always be remembered by local people as celebrities and in the eyes of many, as local heroes.
The Kray Twins appeared in many books and there were documentaries and movies made about them. One of them is movie ‘The Krays’ which was released in 1990 and starrs two brothers Gary and Martin Kemp. The more recent one ‘Legend’ came out in 2015 and starrs the famous Tom Hardy as both of the twins. In the Littledean Jail museum in Gloucestershire, the Crime Through Time exhibition carries a range of Krays weaponry.
The Double R Club, Bow Road
The Double R Club was a nightclub located on 145 Bow Road in Bow, on the corner of KitKat Terrace just opposite The Black Swan.
The twins already owned a snooker hall called The Regal on Eric Street in Bethnal Green which has since been demolished – an old people’s home now stands rather more peacefully on the site.This was their first property venture when they acquired it in 1954. The twins turned it into a billiard hall and made the base for their new venture into the business of extortion, hiring out ‘muscle’ in exchange for protection.
The Double R Club was their second property enterprise. Business at the Regal was going well and so they decided to take over a derelict shop at 145 Bow Road and give it a glamorous makeover. There was a cabaret stage for live music, and on the first floor a gymnasium and full size boxing ring upstairs.
Both the Krays were keen boxers. In the summer of 1951, when the boys are just 17, they both won their fights at the legendary The Arena, an outdoor boxing venue that used to be located next to Mile End tube station. Reggie was on the verge of turning professional before his criminal life took off.
Reggie and Charlie took joint partnership over the business while Ronnie was in prison for running a protection racket and revamped the whole place.
The club officially opened on Wednesday 6th May 1957 and its aim was to bring the West End fun into the East End.
According to community forums, it was a popular place for local residents to dance and drink the night away, and was always crowded on the weekends. The club was a scene of constant fights and where their violent reputation was firmly established.
As the Kray’s began to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, the club was also popular among celebrities and people including George Sewell and Barbara Windsor. Keen to capitalise on their found place within London’s party set, and wanting to extend their criminal empire into the West End, the Krays went on to open Esmeralda’s Barn in Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London in 1960 until its closure in 1963.
The Ivy House bar on the picture was used to depict the famous Double R Club in Tom Hardy’s Legend.
The site has been demolished since and is now home to Enterprise cars hire.
Other local places associated with the Kray Twins
The brothers were well-known in the East End and they are associated with many local spots.
- 178 Vallance Road, The twins lived in a house at 178 Vallance Road for the most of their lives, just off the western end of Roman Road. The original family home no longer exists, but you can see the house used to depict the Kray’s childhood home in 1990 film The Krays, head to Canrobert Street, on the other side of the Bethnal Green Road, where filming took place.
- The Blind Beggar, This Whitechapel pub is best known for being the place where Ronnie killed George Cornell. It is still a thriving venue, now serving up posh hot dogs and boasting a smart beer garden in the back.
- Pelicci’s cafe, This greasy spoon on Bethnal Green Road was a favourite spot of the Krays. They first visited the place as children with their mother and continued coming here for breakfast and to discuss business ever since. The cafe also appears in the Tom Hardy movie.
- Repton Boxing Club, Both brothers trained at the Repton Boxing Club on Cheshire Street, just off Brick Lane. It was a well-known boxing club in the East End which has been running since 1884. The twins often made donations to the club and made sure that the local newspaper knew about it too.
- The Carpenter’s Arms, Just up the road from Repton Boxing Club, The twins bought a pub at 73 Cheshire Street in 1967 as a gift for their mother, Violet. Occasionally, old members of the Kray’s firm come to the pub to drink and tell stories. Next door is the school which the Krays attended.
If you enjoyed reading this piece, why not have a look at our interview with Brown Bread Fred, an ex-gangster and associate of the Kray Twins.