The Family History of The Kray Twins Part 2: Georgian Goldsmith, Jeweller, Dealer, and Chapman


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The first Kray we come across in the direct line is Frederick Kray born around 1773 in the City of London or nearby. Frederick is the Kray twins’ Great Great Great Grandfather. He worked as a Goldsmith, Jeweller , Dealer and Chapman, the first two occupations indicate an upmarket trade, but Dealer and Chapman indicate a trader of a lower level, working in the markets and Dealers Shops. A Chapman, indicates someone who barters and strikes deals (Ceap in old English being the root of “cheap” meanng a bargain or a deal). It seems likely that Frederick served his apprenticeship as a Goldsmith, then went into business on his own selling the goods rather than making them for sale. He is never described as a Journeyman or Master of his craft, so he may never have finished his apprenticeship.

In any case he makes some risky decisions in his life, getting young Mary, pregnant at fourteen in 1795 when he was twenty-two; not a crime at the time, but showing a lack of judgement. The pair stay together and have three sons between 1796 and 1800; Frederick Joseph, John (the Kray twins’ Great Great Great Grandfather), and Richard.

For a while Frederick gets by, managing to bring in enough money to take out a lease on a house, in Stanhope Street, Clare Market. This was an area wedged in between theatres and divided into “Ladyships” owing to the Madams who ran the brothels and lorded over the area. The rest of the streets and lanes were mainly inhabited by Butchers who ran herds of animals through the narrow lanes for slaughter in the shambles, cheap grocery shops, and stalls selling other goods.

Frederick most likely bought and sold jewelry, a precarious living and by 1806 Frederick finds that he can’t sustain his business, and is taken into Bankruptcy by his creditors. His debts are eventually discharged by the sale of all his worldly goods at a public auction from his home, strangers, and neighbours, picking through the Kray’s belongings, and buying them amidst cat-calls and jeers from the people rooting through their belongings, whilst Frederick, Mary and the children can just look on in despair.

Frederick never recovers from the blow, and the family struggles to survive, until in 1815 at the age of forty-two he dies. What caused his financial ruin and early death is not certain, but relations had not been all they could be between Frederick and Mary for some years as no children are born after 1800, despite them both being in their prime. Perhaps the proximity of the whore houses and drinking dens of the Clare Market had proved to be too much of a temptation for Frederick, a man with ready cash in his pocket.

Fortunately for the family the boys had managed to get trades, the eldest Frederick and youngest Richard following their father’s trade as Goldsmiths, the middle son John becoming a less  glamouros Brass Founder. This indicates that Frederick may still have had friends amongst the Goldsmiths, getting two of his boys into apprenticeships with them, perhaps John the middle son was less well disposed and therefore went into an allied metal working trade as a Brass founder, requiring less skill but more brawn. Mary and her eldest son Frederick crossed the Thames back to the Surrey side where she was born, and no doubt where her family still lived.

The two elder sons married at the end of their apprenticeships both in 1818, Frederick staying on the Surrey side of the river, and John staying in the City and Whitechapel. The youngest son Richard stayed north of the river and married in 1822.

See Part 3 of the Kray Twins’ Story here.

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Carol McGiffin and Mr Bumble the Workhouse Master


Having worked on various lines of Carol McGiffin’s Family Tree (Carol is probably best known for ITV’s award winning “Loose Women” programme) I recently was lucky enough to turn up a new twist to her ancestry when I found her Great Great Grandfather McGiffin’s wedding certificate, naming (and shaming) his father as “The Master of a Workhouse” or Mr Bumble as Carol likes to call him.

Normally this fact on its own would be interesting but not mysterious, the difference here is that the McGiffins when we first find them living in the slums of Lambeth are on the breadline, not where you would expect to find the family of a well to do Workhouse Master.

The Masters of Irish Workhouses were often ex-Army or ex-Constabulary NCOs. It was a very good solid middle class position to hold in an area, providing a good wage, lodgings, food, employment for members of their family, a place on the Parish Council, local power and respect, and ample opportunity to make money on the side from embezzlement of the pauper’s allowances (by cutting the quality/quantity of their rations), the hiring out of paupers as “free” (effectively slave) labour to your friends on the Parish Committee, and of course the opportunity to take advantage of any young women unfortunate enough to be an inmate.

Not all Masters of Workhouses were this vile, but you only have to read Oliver Twist to see how they were viewed by the public at the time. So it seems that he was a Master of a Workhouse before the Great Famine in Ireland (as the three McGiffin boys were born between 1834 and 1840) Margaret was probably not legally his wife, for if she was it is very unlikely that she would have ended up in a slum in Lambeth with three children in the 1850s.

It is much more likely that she was an inmate of the Workhouse in the 1830s who became pregnant by the Master of the Workhouse bearing him three sons at a time when the workhouses were not overloaded, and a girl would be prepared to be quiet about the situation in return for better treatment for her and her children. However, at the end of the 1840s the Potato Famine hit Ireland, and the workhouses were flooded with several times the number of starving inmates that they were built to hold, the system broke down, and it seems that it was in this period that Margaret came to London with her three boys. Perhaps the Workhouse Master was worried that his indiscretions would be exposed, perhaps Margaret forced his hand?

London as a destination is odd for people from Northern Ireland during the famine, as by far the majority of refugees from the famine who fled to the mainland UK from Northern Ireland went either to Liverpool, Glasgow, or Bristol (in that order), London was just about the farthest part of England that someone from NI could travel to (for example, the McGiffin name is not uncommon in NI, but during the whole of the 19th century there were only one or two families with the name in London who weren’t direct relatives). This implies that Carol’s ancestors were sent as far away as was possible, reinforcing the idea that the Workhouse Master may have paid for a passage to London, rather than one of the nearer UK ports. London was far enough away to ensure that an inconvenient woman and three children would not be coming back in a hurry, but was far cheaper than the fare to Canada or the USA.

So a small family mystery from the early 19th century was revealed by a diligent piece of research. Carol seemed thrilled by the revelation as it brings yet another piece of the jigsaw of her family history past into place. Thanks to http://www.timedetectives.co.uk.

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