THE historic Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch has been at the centre of some intriguing dramas played out in London’s East End over the years and is now a stunning place to stay in an area famed for its vibrant nightlife and eccentric charm, as Iwan Davies found out...

IN its former guise as Old Street magistrates' court and police station, the Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch ( once accommodated some of the most notorious criminals in British history.

Infamous Sixties celebrity gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray were held here on remand and appeared in the magistrates’ court in 1965, charged in connection with running a protection racket (the pair were both subsequently acquitted before they were both being jailed for life four years later).

And the romanticised 18th Century highwayman Dick Turpin was also a ‘guest’ before he was later sent to the gallows in 1739.

You can visit where this terrible trio were once held in custody, complete with the original prison cell doors.

Shoreditch itself has experienced a remarkable transformation over the past decade.

The gentrification of the area has seen the villains disappear, to be replaced by a buzzing hub better known for its top bars and restaurant than hoodlums from London’s seedy underworld.

But the grandeur of the Grade II listed Baroque-styled Old Street magistrates' court and police station remain, converted into the wonderful Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch which only opened for business last May.

Today it is the embodiment of style, with 86 guest rooms and 42 suites.

As well as providing an idiosyncratic venue to stay, it’s also a great a place to enjoy a cocktail and you even sip your drinks in the original cells where Ronnie, Reggie and Dick were ‘banged up’.

There’s also a 196-seat cinema, a two-lane lane bowling alley with private bar and a luxury spa where you’ll find a heated indoor swimming pool, fitness centre, treatment rooms, steam room and sauna to keep you entertained.

Add to that their fantastic breakfasts and among the loveliest and warmest staff I’ve ever come across in almost 20 years of reviewing, the Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch just about has it all.

I stayed there the weekend before Christmas with my wife and daughter.

We were lucky enough to travel first class to the capital from Newport to London Paddington with Great Western Railway (, a smooth and comfortable journey which took under two hours and got us off to a great start to our break.

Staying on a Friday and Saturday, we managed to cram in plenty of the local sights as well as visit a couple of bars and restaurants to recommend.

The charming Columbia Road is the place to be on Sundays when it overflows with the beautiful flowers from its market.

Just a short walk away is Brick Lane, a lively and eclectic mile or so of East End history, home to the bagel shops from its Jewish heritage, a seemingly ubiquitous number of curry restaurants at one stretch from the Bangladeshi community who call it home, market stalls, street food and live music.

Going back to the Krays (you can’t really escape their mark in this part of the world), just off Brick Lane, there is a great pub, the Carpenters Arms ( at 73 Cheshire Street which used to belong to the diabolical siblings who bought it for their dear, old mum at the height of their power.

Another fantastic boozer with a violent past is also nearby, the Ten Bells (, a celebrated watering hole on 84 Commercial Street in Spitalfields where legend has it, serial killer Jack the Ripper picked up two of his victims during his reign of terror in the Whitechapel area in 1888.

And any visit wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Spitalfields Market ( with its huge choice of retailers and restaurants.

Two great places to eat nearby are, the top fish restaurant the Wright Brothers ( in the heart of the market at 8a Lamb Street, and funky Peruvian Andina ( just off Shoreditch High Street at 1 Redchurch Street.


HOTEL INFORMATION: Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch, 335-337 Old Street, London EC1V 9LL, telephone: 0203 310 5555, email, website:, Twitter: @HotelCourthouse, Instagram/Facebook: @courthousehotelshoreditch

GETTING THERE: Great Western Railway ( provides regular services between Newport and London Paddington, many with the journey taking under two hours.

Travel from just £15, after GWR launched its January sale with 100,000 low cost tickets between South Wales and London available.