This item has grown out of a desire to know the meaning or reason behind a pub name, to be precise the Two Puddings in Stratford east London.
It was a pub I visited on occasions for the music scene in the room above more than the pub below, being one of the early pubs that provided entertainment in this part of London in the sixties, the landlord Eddie and his brother took the pub over in 1957 and opened – they claim – the world’s first disco. It cost half a crown 2/6 in old money to get in and had live bands and a dance floor.
The name came from the fact that one of the licensees in 1910 used to put out Christmas pudding over the festival and any pensioners that came along would get a slice hence the Two Puddings, a name not replicated any where else in the UK.
The pub and its unique name have sadly gone as have so many others here and elsewhere, so having found the truth on that, the old grey cells became stimulated – and they need stimulating at this time of life I can assure you – I started to track down the old haunts not just for the names but to verify what I remember of their history of that period and their place in the history of the time. All of this being given the necessary impetus by my recent visit to the area I was raised and grew up in.
The other two pubs with unusual names will always be associated with the Krays, reams of stories and anecdotes have been written about the “twins” as they were affectionately known. I’m being ironic, and every old eastender either knew them or one of their henchmen, the same can be said for the number of pubs that were Kray pubs.
Nearly all were urban myths. Anyone with a brain would not want to know nor have anything to do with the Krays – they had very little resemblance to the rose tinted Barbara Windsor view of them as a modern day pair of Robin Hoods who only dealt harm to their own, but of course Barbara, when speaking retrospectively, was by marriage attached to the “family”, so could hardly be expected to be impartial.
The last thing you would want was them to be owed a favor or to have a lever by which they could use you, best to stay away full stop.
I will get the one story I have of them out of the way once the two pubs involved are dealt with. The two both in Whitechapel Road opposite the London Hospital and the “ripper” pub are the Blind Beggar a pub that offered little but was packed with groups of young men and women on a Saturday night who would spill out at closing time onto the wide pavement.
For reasons I never discovered the origins of it became known as the pulling pub. If you were short of girls for a party you simply went down to the Beggars at closing time and recruited what you needed to make the numbers up, it really did work like that.
The name is interesting, it commemorates a wealthy City of London merchant who met a poor girl in the woods that this area was at the time, the area was a place for pleasure for the merchants during this period. He fell in love with her and they married, not knowing that during all this courting process and wedding he was under observation from the girl’s father, a wealthy nobleman disguised as a ‘blind beggar’ – this was revealed to him after the wedding but the story goes they lived happily ever after.
The second of the two was the Grave Maurice. This was a Kray pub in the sense they drank there as they did in several others in the district, seeing as their home in Valance Road is round the corner. The strange name is from a derivation of the german for Prince or Graf, count or earl and the prince (sic) Maurice was a cousin or brother of William of Orange. Another pub that no longer survives and is now in the words of a local “a poncy salsa bar”.
The Blind Beggar killing is of course well recorded. George Cornell was shot by Ronnie Kray on the 9th March 1966 whilst sitting drinking in the Beggars. Ronnie and an associate calmly walked in, having located him there, pulled out a 9mm Mauser and shot him in the head and walked out again, there were no witnesses! And the juke box kept playing, stuck on the Walker Bros track ‘the sun aint gonna shine anymore’, it is also said and seemingly confirmed that Ronnie walked into the Beggars a few days later and ordered a “luger and lime” . The Beggar’s is a successful pub today, probably living of its notoriety?
The only Kray story I have is apart from ending up on my stag night in the Regency club, owned by the Krays it was one of the few places – if you could get in – that you could get a drink after twelve in those days and of course somebody knew somebody and it came to pass, not an enlightening experience. It was a dark sub basement with a bar juke box, one armed bandits and small groups of people talking at wide spread tables who were difficult to make out in the gloom. I imagine it was intended to be that way.
No it was the ending of the Krays, the final chapter if you like, on the 29th October 1967. There was to be a party in Evering Road Stoke Newington. The party was in a flat opposite to the one where another party was being held to which Jack ‘the hat’ McVitie had been invited. Several of us decided not go to the first party as it was held in the flat rented by two girls we didn’t really know who were professional shoplifters and several others going were not to our liking , so we went elsewhere, the story again is well told with Reggie Kray, egged on by Ronnie, stabbing Jack McVitie to death after failing to shoot him after his gun jammed.
It was the following Sunday lunchtime at our local that the story came out.
At the first party, some people from across the road came over as the Krays cleared the crowd out so as to deal with McVitie. It soon became apparent that something was going on and when later, at the behest the Krays, one of his accomplices arrived ostensibly looking for alibis, all was revealed.
The body was never found, various theories as to its final resting place have been put forward, everything from overboard from a boat at Newhaven, the most likely, to an Essex pigfarm and the foundations – the one the press like – of the then being built Bow flyover.
What came out of all this as the apprehension of the Krays didn’t happen for nearly a year later despite the fact the majority the eastend knew of the killing within 24hrs, was the corruption the Krays had managed to inflict upon the Police and even the judiciary and it was this that kept them out of reach of the law for so long.
Back to the pubs. The sixties will forever be a golden decade for all who were around at the time. No, we didn’t realize as we do now that what was happening was a profound change in the way we lived, having lived through the real austerity that existed after the war.
It was an explosion of good times bought about by the combination of full employment, sexual liberation, a music scene never since equalled and fashion, with all its facets, suddenly everywhere.
Never have all these things come together as they did then, Harold Macmillan’s “you’ve never had it so good” may have come for many with provisos but for many others of us, especially the young, it largely rang true.
Money may not have been pound for pound as plentiful as today but expectations and material wants were a lot lower so a larger percentage was spent on having a good time.
The eastend pub scene exploded in the sixties, with live music and comedy acts bringing in big crowds to the best of them.
The biggest and the one with the biggest stars was the Rising Sun in Hackney Road. The problem was it became so popular that when the big acts performed there, you quite simply could not gain entrance, so I personally kept away unless the act was something I really wanted to see, like Georgie Fame for instance.
The other was that not a million miles away, the Green Gate in Bethnal Green Rd was the place that Lennie Peters launched his career from. Soon to become Peters and Lee, Lennie had several hits before joining up with Diane Lee and went on in the seventies to have more as a duo. Lennie lost his sight as a child through two separate accidents and was the uncle of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts.
Many other pubs followed and put on entertainment with varying success but those two led the way, with the exception of one other that deserves more than a passing mention – The Pegasus in Green Lanes, Stoke Newington, run by Ray Donn, still today acting and promoting.
This pub was always busy up to the early seventies when it was sold, Matt Munro was said to have performed there though I was never aware of that event. It still carried on as a music venue to the end, being owned by Chas and Dave in the 80s and famously the venue where Johnny Rotten was stabbed after an altercation outside. It’ now a Turkish social club!
The one venue that stood out from the others for different reasons was the Deuragon Arms in Homerton High St [see photo at the top]. This had been a pub with entertainment from the mid fifties.
At about this time a certain Gay Travers became the compere there. Gay or Gaye as it was spelt on some flyers (not his real name) had been entertaining in pubs and clubs since the thirties. A female impersonator, he shared the stage with the likes of Mrs Shufflewick and Jean Fredericks, as well as then unknown acts Lily Savage and Michael Barrymore. He appeared at many eastend pubs as his presence would always ensure large audiences and grateful publicans.
He also appeared in variety shows at the Theatre Royal Stratford, but Gay will be remembered for his twelve years running the Deuragon in the sixties. It became a gay pub but that didn’t stop its fame spreading and enormous crowds descending on this place when one Ray Martine was on the bill.
When Ray was on, to get extra people in the pub, they removed most of the furniture. It wasn’t the the most endearing place to go to anyhow. This just reduced it to a standing room only barn where it became so crowded you couldn’t lift your drink to your mouth let alone get to the bar to buy another.
The only solution was to buy crates of beer and as they were emptied, to stand on the crates for a better view. His risque act, put out with an obviously gay slant and his distinctive Cockney Jewish accent and manner, was in contrast to the gentle campery of his contemporaries, Ray’s put downs aimed at fellow acts and hecklers became his trademark.
I saw him several times and people obviously went to see him in the hope of getting one over on him. I never saw it happen, as he ruthlessly put down the best of efforts with speed of mind that had to be seen.
Dan Farson, the television presenter who took over the Watermans Arms in the eastend in an attempt to revive the old music hall (it failed and he lost a lot of money) said of Martine when he spotted his act “the waspish Ray Martine made mincemeat of his hecklers”.
He booked him to appear alongside Mrs Shufflewick, an equally camp drag act and singer actor Queenie Watts. This led to the television series Stars and Garters, the first pilot of which was recorded in the Watermans Arms but was subsequently recorded on a tv studio set.
This was not an altogether great move for Martine as his risque act, by the standards of the day, had to be toned down for television and the second series went out without him and Ray by that time was in demand at the northern clubs. His tv appearances declined as his act became corny and out of step with the times, he died in relative obscurity in 2002.
Gay, on the other hand, carried on and whilst this openly gay pub became famous in its era, there was one other worth a mention for the same reason – the Frampton Arms, in Well St Hackney.
It was associated with gangland troubles in its early days but became the first openly gay pub at a time when most of this activity was still kept underground, it even had gay bar staff, something unheard of at the time.
Time moves on, tastes change and peoples recreation needs change too. It’s not likely the combination of factors that made all this possible in the sixties will happen again.
Just a mention for one other venue – the Manor House at the crossroads between three boroughs at the tube station of the same name, not in the east end but it had good live Sunday music, a rarity in those days.
It gets a mention because it was the place I first saw the one and only Tubby Hayes. Jazz was acceptable in a venue like that in those days and the reception he got was in line with anyone else who appeared there.
Only one of those eastend pubs remains, the rest going the way of so many others, great while it lasted.