I’ve just finished reading John Bennett’s excellent book, Krayology, which examines the rise and fall of the notorious 1960s London Gangsters Ron and Reggie Kray. Well worth a read if that’s your sort of thing.
So far I’ve limited my guided walking tours at A London Miscellany Tours to the confines of the City walls and the environs on the western side, but I’m starting to put together some background for an East End walking tour and thought reading this book might help. This new tour will definitely not contain “Jack the Ripper” as London needs another one of these tours like I need a hole in the head. A phrase that has its roots in the Yiddish“Ich darf es vi a loch in kop” (I need it like a hole in the head) and very pertinent to the area of the East End. Sorry, I digress, back to the book.
In the book, Bennett mentions The Grave Maurice, which was an East End pub in the Whitechapel Road and had been in existence from 1723 until its closure in 2010. It was apparently one of the Krays favourite hostelries during their heyday.
Quite a strange name and one that I was looking forward to seeing in the form of the usual pub sign hanging outside the premises. I envisioned a stern looking jowly old gentleman probably with bushy side whiskers and beard.
In fact what I got was a rather jaunty, man about town sort of character adorned in a ruff. There could be the hint of a sneer hiding beneath his moustaches, but grave? Definitely not.
So I did a little bit more digging to see if I could find out firstly who this Maurice was, and secondly what had happened to make him so grave.
Well it turns out that solemnity has nothing to do with it. Its that usual suspect, a corruption of a name that was probably too difficult for the locals to get their tongues round.
The pub is named after Graf Maurits van Nassau who was Prince of Orange in 16th century Netherlands. Now he does look grave.