Francis Bacon’s letter to Ronnie Kray – £7400 at Chiswick Auctions.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The photos, clothing, paintings, poems and letters, consigned by 'a close friend' of the twins, were offered without reserve or estimates. All bar one sold to bring a total of almost £111,000, nearly half of which, said auctioneer William Rouse, came from a single private buyer.

"The interest was phenomenal from the beginning," he said. "It was extraordinary and there's been an extraordinary group of people in the saleroom, not our conventional bidders."

Some extraordinary names, too, among the signed photographs sent to the Krays in jail - Barbra Streisand, Mark Knopfler, TV presenter Fern Britton and actress Patsy Kensit among them - which totalled £1310.

The biggest single bid was for a pair of Ronnie's gold cufflinks - forming the initials RK - which made £10,000.

At the West London sale there was interest from across Britain and from as far away as the USA and Singapore and more than 40 per cent of the sale sold over ATG Media's live online auction service, the-saleroom.com.

Ronnie and Reggie rose to fame in the 1950s and '60s. Based in London's East End (where they were accorded some reverence for keeping law and order and only murdering and torturing "their own"), they ran protection rackets in the West End and enjoyed considerable glamour which barely faded after both were jailed for murder in 1969. Ronnie died in Broadmoor in 1995. Reggie was released from Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight in 2000 on health grounds and died shortly afterwards. But the fascination they engendered never faded.

Of interest to ATG readers was the letter, on Marlborough Gallery headed notepaper, which Francis Bacon wrote to Ronnie thanking him for a picture. Ronnie's own paintings do have a market value. Last July eight of them sold for a total of nearly £16,000 at Suffolk auctioneers Mander of Clare. Here at Chiswick, his oil Crucifixion, which he had given to a prison warder, took £4800.

As neither was a stranger to London's loucher clubs in the '60s, Ronnie and Bacon could well have met. Like Bacon, Ronnie made no secret among friends of his sexual leanings, but he did not consider them a matter for public debate and cracked down hard on homophobia as contemporary East End hard man George Cornell was to find out.

After hearing that Cornell had referred to him as "a fat poof", Ronnie shot him dead in the notorious Whitechapel murder in the Blind Beggar pub in 1966.

The relationship with Bacon was plainly much more civilised. He wrote to him on September 27, 1989 on the notepaper of his agents, the Marlborough Gallery:

Dear Ronnie
Thank you for your letter and for your drawing. I am glad to hear you are well. I wish I could say the same for myself as I have been ill for some time.
About your friend Paul Lake [the artist whose portrait of the Krays sold as a limited-edition print] I will write to him in reply to his letter. Yours very sincerely, Francis Bacon.

A cursory enough note, but fascinating because of both the sender and the receiver. Which took precedence at Chiswick Auctions is moot, but it sold at £7400 via the-saleroom.com.

The buyer's premium was 17.02 per cent plus VAT.