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Legendary East End Pubs

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Published April 1st 2011

Alright, so the UK has a huge pub culture with one on every corner but there aren't many with a lively history as East London's the Blind Beggar and the Ten Bells.

Although the pubs are in and around the same area of Whitechapel, their histories are over a century apart with one visited by the wealthy and the other reeking of 19th century sleaze, but both witnessing gruesome murders.

Ten bells is known as the possible hangout of the notorious murderer, Jack the Ripper and his prostitute victims. It was rumoured that Annie Chapman, the third victim, was seen at 5am at the Ten Bells on the morning of her death.

Also the night before the last victim, Mary Kelly, was killed, she was seen drinking at the Ten Bells. Mary was very attractive and known throughout the area as a kind of patron of the Ten Bells, as she would regularly stand outside the pub to bring in customers.

As the only pub left with links to the Ripper, it has played to the popularity of stories. The Ten Bells has been standing since 1752 and walking into it feels like a trip back in time with its noisy wooden floorboards and many of its original mosaics still in tact.

Although rough on the outside, it is a cosy space that still attracts the great and the good due to it being close to the trendy area of Shoreditch. Alex Sousa, a bartender, says that the pub's great location has helped it to be as popular as ever. He said: "The pub still has most of the original features and that makes it different. I get asked about Jack the Ripper every day, people love it."

Hop on the bus for a bit and on Whitechapel road the Blind Beggar has the strongest connection with notorious gangsters the Kray twins as it became a sort of headquarters.

In 1950s and 60s, Reggie and Ronnie Kray were West End nightclub owners and mixing with people like Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland as well as politicians made them celebrities in their own right.

While on the other side of town they were the foremost organised crime leaders, dominating London's East End in their so-called "reign of terror". Ronnie in particular was known for his violent outbreaks and suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

The low-lit, discreet atmosphere of the Blind Beggar was the perfect backdrop for their dirty work. The Krays were involved in armed robberies, arson, protection rackets, violent assaults including torture.

On 9 March 1966, Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Cornell, an associate of rival gang the Richardsons, while he sat having a drink at the bar, was shot in the head three times as revenge for the killing of a friend the day before. They were eventually arrested in 1968 and imprisoned for life.

The stories of the Kray twins, will always be a major selling point for the pub. However the manager, Essayas Jeremiah, believes its success is down to the location. He describes the Blind Beggar as the "centre of the universe" and said, "It is cosmopolitan and is a drawing point for different cultures. We've also got the best beer garden. We get asked about the Kray twins all the time but it doesn't get annoying because it's part of the pub." Whether at the Blind Beggar or the Ten Bells, you can get an brilliant history lesson with your pint.
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Why? Whether at the Blind Beggar or the Ten Bells, you can get an brilliant history lesson with your pint.
Where: The Blind Beggar is located on the corner of Whitechapel Rd, Mile End Rd & Cambridge Heath Rd (The Old Mile End Gate), in East London. The Ten Bells is located at 84 Commercial Street, London E1 6LY.
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