Suffolk’s Famous and Notorious Connections
What do all these well-known and famous people have in common – Sir Peter Hall CBE, Ralph Fiennes, Benjamin Britten, June Brown MBE and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey? They were all born in Suffolk.
How about these famous people – P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, John Peel, Twiggy, Bill Wyman, Griff Rhys Jones and, it is rumoured, soon to be joined by Hollywood star Keira Knightley? They all have, or had, homes in Suffolk.
But there is another set of siblings that has a long connection with Suffolk that is little mentioned – this is the notorious, or infamous, Kray twins – Ronnie and Reggie and their elder brother, Charlie.
In fact, it was a connection that was to include the whole Kray family.
How it Began…
During the Second World War the three boys and their mother, Violet, were evacuated to Hadleigh, Suffolk. Here they lived for two years with a Mrs Styles in the large Victorian mansion, East House Lodge.
For the boys who had previously known only London’s East End, it was a revelation. An idyllic period when they discovered the joys of apple-scrumping, playing Cowboys and Indians and sledging down Constitution Hill in the winter.
Charlie, being older: “quickly got a job in the local fish-and-chip shop and later worked full-time as a tea boy in a factory, making mattresses,”. While he wrote in his memoirs that he missed London, he said his younger twin brothers really took to Suffolk. They would spend hours “scouring the fields and woods for miles around, revelling in the fresh air and boundless freedom of country life”.
In an interview taped by a journalist in 1989, Ronnie reminisced: “It was the first time we ever went to the county and we got to like the country.” They especially enjoyed “the quietness, the peacefulness of it, the fresh air, nice scenery, nice countryside”, all things they could not have in the heart of London.
Continuing Connection With Suffolk
It was an experience never to be forgotten and as their ill-gotten gains grew, they started looking for a bolthole for themselves as well as a home for their ageing parents, Violet and Charlie (snr).
They finally found what they were looking for in nearby Bildeston and bought a pink country cottage near the post office for their Mum and Dad and a large house – The Brooks – for themselves for the weekends.
They lived a completely different life when away from “the Smoke”. There are local stories of them giving donkey rides to local children on a field near The Brooks and giving youngsters money to buy ice-cream.
In fact, the brothers were in Bildeston the weekend before they were arrested, when the regional crime squad turned up to search The Brooks, as well as digging up part of the garden. Once they had been sentenced to prison they sold the house.
However, even in prison they continued their connection with Suffolk, giving monies to charity and on one occasion donating a collection of gym equipment to Hadleigh’s Youth Club.
The twins had another Suffolk connection, discovered by Rolling Stone’s member Bill Wyman, when he was researching former owners of his house near Bury St Edmunds, Gedding Hall. Apparently, Ronnie and Reggie Kray fled to the hall after killing Jack “the Hat” McVitie in 1967. Bill also discovered, that they kept a caravan in Borley, near Sudbury, and used it as a hideout until they bought The Brooks.