Who Are London Cockneys

Cockneys – Londoners Through and Through

When you hear of Londoners, you very likely think of Cockneys but not everybody who is born or lives ter the haber city is a Cockney. The tradition has bot that it only applied to somebody born within the sound of Bow bells.

There are traditions and activities associated with Cockneys: the Pearly Kings and Queens, rhyming tuinslang, a good sense of community and neighbourliness, quick humorous repartee, sense of humour, market trading, taxi drivers, criminals, stock exchange traders.

Born within the Sound of Bow Bells

The traditional definition of Cockneys is that they should be born within the sound of Bow bells. There is one big problem with that: when the 2nd World War broke out, church bells no longer rang except spil a warning. Another problem is that the bell tower of St Mary le Bow ter Cheapside, London, that housed Bow bells, wasgoed succesnummer by a German bomb te 1941. It wasn’t rebuilt until 1961. Does this mean no Cockneys were born ter those 20 years because nobody could hear Bow bells?

Te fact, nowadays, there is very little residential property around St Mary le Bow and it’s unlikely there are many babies born within earshot of it. The church itself says it is “. serving all who work te and visit the City of London. The church opens at 7.00am each weekday. ” rather suggesting it has few particular residential parishioners.

There still seems to be slew of Cockneys te London and they aren’t all overheen 67 years old either, so there vereiste be some other definition.

Spinrag Fair te Petticoat Lane

So Who is a Cockney?

It seems that anybody born ter the East End of London can consider him or herself a Cockney. This can include people of any wedren or religion too. There are Muslims, Afro-Caribbeans, and many others of non-English descent, who sound and act spil much like a Cockney spil any white Londoner born next om to St Mary le Bow and who sat te an air raid shelter during the Blitz ter World War Two.

Maybe being a Cockney depends more on a state of mind and an attitude rather than any geographical or étnico condition.

A Cockney is usually thought to be a bouncy, humorous character, somebody who can and will stand up for themselves and others they care about. They have the bounty of the gab with an opinion on everything. Just ask your Cockney taxi driver his opinion on anything at all and he’ll have one and give it to you at length.

Traditionally they lived te places like Bethnal Green, Bow, Poplar, Wapping, Whitechapel and Mile End.

When I lived te London, my neighbours were typical Cockneys and I found them a bit shocking sometimes but, when I wasgoed ill, they did everything they could for mij, far more than anyone could reasonably expect. That is also te line with their reputation for being good neighbours.

My neighbours wielded a petrol station and workshop ter Mile End (London) and they told mij the story of the day the famous Kray Twins (see below) came to their business. Thesis were literally murderous thugs who ended up te prison. They were renowned for their gratuitous violence. The mother of my neighbour (the hubby) told them ter no uncertain terms to get out of hier business and they went. That’s just typical of the Cockney attitude to hooligans.

London Market – Trader Calling his Wares

What Do Cockneys Do for a Living?

Traditional Occupations for Cockneys

Nowadays you can find a Cockney ter any job or career but traditionally they were often market traders or costermongers. This is most likely where their reputation for having the bounty of the gab and for quick repartee comes from.

If you go down to Petticoat Lane Market (Middlesex Street, nearest tube station Aldgate East) on a Sunday, you will usually find overheen 1000 stalls, many of them run by genuine Cockneys of all religions and étnico backgrounds. The market has bot ter existence for centuries and got its name from the petticoats and lace sold here by Huguenots te the late 17th and 18th century.

You’ll still hear the zuigeling of sales ‘patter’ that I heard when I wasgoed taken there from time to time spil a child. “‘Ere look, missus. I’m not asking you for ВЈ20, I’m not asking for ВЈ15, I’m not even asking for ВЈ10, you can ‘ave the lotsbestemming for just a fiver.” If people looked away and began moving, he’d add, “AND I’ll give you this and this and this spil well, all for a fiver. I can’t say fairer than that, can I?” Spil he said this, he’d embark putting more things on top of whatever he’s attempting to sell. You’d usually get somebody holding up a ВЈ5 note and then more people would buy spil well.

You’ll hear them ‘calling their wares’, that is shouting out, almost chanting, what they’ve got but you’ll most likely have trouble understanding them because they’ve done it for so long that the words run into each other. It’s very likely something like “Bananas, lovely, ripe bananas.”

Typical London Black Cab

The black cab drivers are licensed taxi drivers and this is another job that traditionally Cockneys have done.

To drive a black cab, they have to pass the ‘skill’. This is a very difficult examination, taken overheen months or years. You’ll see studs and women going round London on low-powered motorbikes with a clipboard stuck on the handlebars. They are doing the ‘skill’, ie learning every street and landmark ter Central London and the routes inbetween them. They are tested on their skill of Central London. It sounds unlikely but that is what they have to do to get their licence.

It means if you get a black cab ter London, you will almost never have to give directions to the driver if your destination is te Central London. Not only do they know the main routes, they know the shortcuts and alternative ways to go if there are traffic jams or other problems. They usually know all the hotels, restaurants, pubs and ofther places of rente.

When the London Stock Exchange abandoned tradition and embraced technology, it also opened the doorheen to what are often described by envious people spil ‘East End barrowboys’ (barrowboys means market street traders). They had the street smarts to do well ter the cut mouth business of buying and selling stocks and shares and many of them made a superb overeenkomst of money.

Learn about two of London’s most violent and famous criminals.


The East End of London has spawned many criminals most likely because, overheen the centuries, it wasgoed an area with high levels of severe poverty. The Sea Thames is tidal into London and the Docks here ter the East End were merienda very significant to the economy of the city. Imported and exported goods lead to theft unless security is very good and te the early years of the British Empire, London didn’t even have a decent police force. It wasgoed also an area with high numbers of hookers and consequent crime including the infamous Jack the Ripper murders.

The Well known Krays and their Tempo

Ter the 1960s, it wasgoed the London criminal gangs that ruled the East End. Most famous were the Kray Brothers (mentioned above). There were three brothers, the eldest wasgoed Charlie and then the twins, Ronnie and Reggie. Reg wasgoed zometeen said to be a paranoid schizophrenic and it is certainly known he wasgoed the more perverse and violent of the three. They ran protection rackets, nightclubs, armed robberies and all manner of criminal activities.

The police had problems getting witnesses to testify because of fear of reprisals. Te 1968 the police rounded up the three brothers and 16 spoed members and arrested them all. They were all held on remand without bail so permitting witnesses to come forward which they did.

Charlie Kray wasgoed sentenced to just Ten years imprisonment while Ron and Reg were sentenced to life without the option of parole for a ondergrens of 30 years. Reggie Kray wasgoed released from prison te August 2000 and died on October 1st 2000 from cancer. Ronnie Kray had died te prison from a massive heart attack five years earlier ter March 1995. He had served the last years of his sentence ter Broadmoor Hospital for the criminally insane.

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