A few feet from Brick Lane, it is notable as the pub that was bought by the Kray twins, for their mother Violet Kray in 1967. Many family parties and business meetings were held here by the twins, and it was the place where Reggie Kray had a drink on the 29th October 1967, to settle his nerves before going to murder Jack McVitie.
First listed in 1871 as 73 Hare Street, (now Cheshire Street), The Carpenters Arms stands on the corner of Cheshire Street and St Matthew's Row. The pub was at one time the most notorious pub in London – owned by the gangster twins, Reggie and Ronnie Kray who bought it in 1967 for their mother Violet. Their family home was just a hundred yard away at 178 Vallance Road, and the twins went to Wood Close School, located immediately behind the pub, and as youngsters frequented the Repton Boxing Club (London’s oldest boxing gym, established in 1884 and still in existence) midway between the pub and their home. The Kray's former school, Wood Close School (now William Davis Primary school) is situated next door to the pub, technically on St Matthew's Row.
During the late 1960s, the pub was their meeting place in which business meetings were held about various errands that The Firm would need to discuss. In addition, Kray family parties were held here at Christmas and New Year, with Reggie stating many a happy night, was spent in the pub. The Krays allegedly decorated the place in a faux Regency style with striped wallpaper to match their West End nightclub, and there is a chip in the paint on one of the cast iron roof pillars revealing the burgundy colour scheme of that period. The twins hung their childhood boxing gloves over the Carpenters’ crest behind the bar and according to the last proprietors of the pub, the Krays installed a bespoke bar surface during the time they owned the pub - allegedly the surface employed was allegedly a coffin lid, although this is something of an urban myth.
The current manager stated that "the Krays liked it because the bar was long and narrow and had just one entrance, which meant they could see anyone coming in." It is also claimed that Reggie took a carving knife from the pub kitchen to stab Jack “The Hat” McVitie at a house party in Stoke Newington on the 29th October 1967. Reggie Kray's funeral procession went along Cheshire Street and past the pub on the 11th October 2000.
Closed in 2006 due to financial reasons and poor custom, the pub narrowly survived being converted into residential use, but fortunately reopened in 2009. Nowadays the Carpenters’ is a welcoming place with a fashionable clientele and a wide range of over fifty different ales from all over the world.
Current landlords Eric and Nigel have renovated the interior and there is always a large display of fresh flowers on the bar, and a large painted portrait of the Krays on the wall. Various weapons such as hammers, plyers, bats and knives are displayed in a glass display cabinet in the back room.