Lewes Prison.

In the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin as many as 120 IRA prisoners were held there.
Reggie and Ronnie Kray.
The 'well known sporting brothers' and their mother Violet, back in the day.
Charlie Kray
Jack "The Hat" McVitie
Charlie Kray, centre, with twins Reggie, left, and Ronnie in the East End in 1965
Reggie Kray
George Cornell in a police photo
Roberta Jones and Reggie Kray.
George Edalji
George Edalji in his youth
Edalji family, 1892. George is on the left and Maud is sitting next to him.
1934 Daily Express photo of George Edalji, when he was living in Welwyn Garden City

Local men’s prison

Lewes Prison is known as a ‘local men’s prison,’ and located in Lewes. The term ‘local’ means that the prison holds people on remand to the local courts, as well as sentenced prisoners. The prison is operated by her Majesty’s Prison Service.

Lewes is a Victorian Prison, built in 1853. One of the first uses was to hold 300 Finnish Grenadiers as part of the Crimean War. The guards had been captured while defending the Bomarsund Fortress on the Aland Islands in the Baltic Sea. The Grenadiers were later released and repatriated back to Finland. (Finland was a part of Russia in these days.)

Another early prisoner in Lewes Prison was George Witton, an Army officer during the Boer War.  He was found guilty for murder when he shot a number of Boer prisoners.

During the 1916 Easter Uprisings in Ireland, several prominent figures who were involved were held in Lewes Prison. These included Eamon de Valera (1882 – 1975), Thomas Ashe (1885 – 1917) Frank Lawless (1871 – 1922) and Harry Boland (1887 – 1922)

In Lewes Prison the accommodation consists mainly of shared cells although there are a few single cells. A new House Block was opened in 2008. At this time the prison population was given as 793 inmates. The Governor at this time was Mr. Nigel Foote.

The Prison has also a ‘First Night Centre’ for newly imprisoned inmates. They also have a ‘listener Scheme’ for those at risk of suicide and self harm. The prison also offers a full range of full and part time education courses including Technology and literacy.

Notable Inmates:-

Reginald Kray,

He was born on the 24th October 1933 in Hoxton, London to Charles and Violet Kray.

 Reginald Kray’s Parents:

His parents were Charles David Kray (senior) and Violet Kray nee Lee. Charles Kray was born in 1906 in Steine Street, Hoxton, London, the son of Jimmy Kray, a stallholder who worked in Petticoat Lane market. The name ‘Kray’ is Austrian and most of his Ancestry was Austrian Gypsies. Charles became a dealer in clothes and jewellery. Violet was born in 1910 in Bethnal Green.

On the 6th March 1927 he married Violet Lee at Kingsland Road Registry Office. In 1939 when the Second World War broke out he went on the run from the Army and was, technically, a deserter for the next 23 years.

Violet died on the 4th August 1982 and it was said that Charles pined so much for her that he died of a ‘broken heart.’ He died just 7 months later as they were devoted to each other. They had been married for over 50 years. Charles died on 8th March 1983 they were both buried in the same grave in Chingford Mount Cemetery; Section number B8; Grave number 70707. Meanwhile both the Kray twins were in prison. Reginald and his brother requested they be allowed to attend their mother’s funeral and this was granted. The bill for policing this event was estimated to have been £33,000. However, they didn’t request to be allowed out to attend their father’s funeral.

The couple produced 3 children, all boys and were:

Charles James Kray (1927 – 2000)

Ronald Kray (1933 – 1995)

Reginald Kray (1933 – 2000)

A short biog. of two of the sons.

Charles James Kray;

He was born on 9th July 1927 at No. 64 Steine Street, Hoxton, East London But just before the start of WWII the family moved to No. 178, Vallance Road in Bethnal Green. When he was old enough he joined the Royal Navy and took up boxing. He boxed as a welterweight and represented the Royal Navy against the Army in an inter-services contest and also against the Royal Air Force.

He married a lady called ‘dolly’ and they produced a son called Gary who was born in 1952 (1952-1996) He went into the furniture business after he finished his military service.

‘Dolly’ was Dorothy Moore and they were married on Christmas Day 1948. They moved into Vallance road after converting a gym back into a bedroom. The twins didn’t care for Dorothy very much and as a result pushed Charles away from his twin brothers. Dorothy was very possessive and highly strung with a very vivid imagination… the marriage produced two children, Gary and Nancy. Charles life was shattered when he found out that Dorothy was having an affair with George Ince, another gangland member. He looked elsewhere for affection and found it in the arms of Barbara Windsor, the ‘Carry-on’ star. However, this didn’t last very long because his two kids and their happiness came first. It was about this time that he found out that Nancy wasn’t his ‘flesh and blood,’ but he loved hr all the same.

However, he became drawn into the activities of his twin brothers and in March 1969, when he was 42 years of age. This culminated in his 10 years prison sentence for helping to dispose of the body of Jack ‘The Hat’ Mcvitie, although Charles always denied any involvement. He was released in 1975, after which, he tried various ventures, including property development and demonstrating cutlery at exhibitions. In 1997 he acted as a technical advisor on the film ‘The Krays.’

One year after his son, Gary died of AIDS, Charlie was arrested for attempting to smuggle £39million worth of cocaine into the country, of offering the drug to an undercover policeman, and of supplying 2 kilos at £63,500. He denied all these drug related offences, and his barrister, Jonathon Goldberg Q.C. described him as an ‘old fool, a pathetic old has-been, an utterly washed up figure made to appear something he is not at all.’ Nonetheless he was found guilty of the charges and sentenced to 12 years in Parkhurst prison on the Ile of Wight, which at that time made him the oldest prisoner in Great Britain in maximum security.

In March 2000, he collapsed and was taken to St. Mary’s hospital in Newport; where, one month later, in the presence of his girlfriend, Diane (He had divorced Dolly for her adultery with George Ince) He died.

He was buried in Chingford Mount Cemetery, Chingford, in plot number B8.

(Grave number – unknown)

Reginald Kray;

He was born at No. 64 Steine Street, Hoxton, East London, a few minutes before his twin brother Ronald on 24th October 1933.

Just before WWII started the family moved to number 178, Vallance road, Bethnal Green, sadly the building was demolished a long time ago. After a rather undistinguished education and an even less distinguished National Service career, most of which was spent in a military prison at Shepton Mallett in Somerset.

Reginald together with Ronald embarked upon a criminal career handling stolen goods and running protection rackets with betting shops (betting shops at that time were illegal.) shops, pubs, cafes and any other type of business where they could obtain money without having to work.

By 1960, they were heading the most feared gang north of the River Thames. Ronnie had already been imprisoned and released for shooting a dock worker. Reginald somehow managed to avoid arrest until February 1960, when he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for demanding money by menaces from a shopkeeper. Not long after his release, he fell in love with Frances Shea, whom he married on the 20th April 1965.The marriage was never consummated; and on the 6th June 1967 Frances killed herself by taking an overdose of tablets.

The previous year Ronnie had shot George Cornell and was constantly taunting Reggie that they would never be equal until Reggie had killed someone

Then in October 1967 they became equal after Reggie murdered Jack ‘the hat’ McVitie  on the 7th.

In May the following year, the twins were arrested for these two murders. On the 8th March 1969 after a trial lasting two months they were both given life sentences with a recommendation that they both serve not less than 30 years.

Ronnie was sent to Durham Prison, and later transferred to Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Reggie was sent to Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight.

Later he was moved to Maidstone Prison in Kent.

It was while he was here that he married Roberta Jones. At that time she was aged 36 years, but looked younger. She originated from Southport, Lancashire and was the daughter of a college lecturer and ran a company which made promotional videos. The couple had met in 1995 and were married in July 1997. At that time there was quite a large difference in their ages; Roberta was in her 30’s while Reg was in his 60’s. they first met when Reg had hired her to make the video of Ronnie’s funeral.

In August 2000 shortly after attending his elder brother, Charlie’s funeral, Reg was diagnosed as having terminal cancer, which by then had spread from his bowels to his bladder. As a result he was granted compassionate release from prison, although his thirty years had, by then, been served.

He died, just 24 days before his 67th birthday, at the Town House Hotel in Norwich. He was buried in Chingford cemetery with his parents, his first wife, his nephew and his two brothers.

 George Edalji.

He was born in the West Midlands in 1876 and was a solicitor by occupation. His parents were Shapurji Edalji and Charlotte Stoneham.  

He was the eldest of three children, his mother was the daughter of a Shropshire vicar and his father was the Reverend Shapurji, a convert from a Bombay Parsi family. He had served as a curate in several parishes before being given the ‘living’ as vicar of St. Marks- in Great Wyrley.  The right to make this appointment, however, laid with the Bishop. The previous incumbent was his wife’s uncle, who arranged it as a wedding present.     They moved into the vicarage, which was a large house standing in its own grounds and is where George was born, the first child.

In 1888, George was then twelve and a half years old when anonymous threatening letters were sent to the vicarage.

One of these letters was also sent to their maid, 17, Elizabeth Foster threatening to shoot her.

These threatening letters and other horrible insults went one for many months, terrible slogans were written on the walls of the vicarage.

In 1903 a number of horses were slashed which resulted in several of them being put down. The Police were called in the early stages but over the years no one was arrested for these offences.

The Staffordshire Chief Constable, Captain Anson, a superb investigator had ideas that Edalji was the author of the letters but didn’t have any involvement in the horse maiming.

Early n the morning of the 18th August 1903 a wounded pony was discovered close to the scene of other horse maiming. Inspector Campbell sent a constable to the railway station where Edalji was waiting to catch his train. The constable asked Edalji if he would help him with his enquiries but he declined and let for Birmingham on the train. Inspector Campbell together with a sergeant and a constable went to the vicarage and asked to see any weapons that were in the house. The only ‘weapon’ produced was a small trowel. Next Edalji’s clothing was asked for; this included a pair of muddy boots as well as a pair of serge trousers and a housecoat – both of which the Police claimed were ‘damp.’ The Inspector said there was hair on the housecoat, whereupon there was a dispute between the Inspector and the reverend over whether something visible on the housecoat was a hair or possibly a loose thread.

The following day, the Police searched the Vicarage and found a case of four razors in the bedroom that Edalji shared with his father. Reverend Edalji said the razors were old ones and not in use anymore. But, according to the Police, when it was pointed out that one razor was wet, the Reverend took it and wiped the blade with his thumb; he later said that this wasn’t true. Police said a heel on the boots was worn down in an unusual way and left a distinctive pattern on the ground that had matched the impression of an alleged trail of footprints between the vicarage and the scene of the crime. A local doctor who examined the housecoat for the police said the hairs were small and difficult to see. Later, Home Official officials later considered it highly unlikely that Police would have gone on to fabricate   evidence by planting the hairs after the Edalji’s had vehemently drawn attention to the absence of hairs on the housecoat while it was handed over.

Edalji was arrested and appeared in Court where he denied all the charges laid before him. He was found guilty and sentenced to a prison term. He was paroled after serving three years. (More details of the trial can be found on the Internet.)  

A 60 year campaign

As a result of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s campaign the Home Secretary ordered a Committee of Inquiry, and eventually gave George a free pardon.  He claimed however that as the Committee believed George had written the letters George had brought his troubles on himself and should receive no compensation for his years in prison.  There was outrage about this decision in parliament, and in the rest of the country and beyond, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could not get it overturned.

After George’s death Maud still kept a huge chest full of cuttings about her older brother’s case in her Welwyn house, and fired off letters to publishers of biographies of Conan Doyle to complain about the inaccuracies in accounts of Conan Doyle’s famous campaign.  Her efforts to have George declared innocent lasted nearly 60 years.

By Roger Oldfield


Welcome to the Finsbury Publishing

David Rowland has just launched his 15th and final book, “The Spirit of Winsome Winn II”, all about the B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed at Patcham after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany.


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