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In the early 1870s, the boom town of Birmingham, the ‘workshop of the world’, erupted in a series of vicious gang wars. Mobs of youths, armed with stones, heavy-buckled belts and knives, fought pitched battles on the streets in a desperate struggle for territorial supremacy. The ‘sloggers’ were the hooligans of their day, and for thirty years they held the streets in a grip of fear.
They drew their numbers from the tens of thousands lured to the Midlands city to make guns, nails and jewellery and to live in overcrowded slums. Between 1800 and 1891, the population grew six-fold, and the sloggers emerged from a tradition of tough masculine pursuits such as bareknuckle prize-fighting and from political and sectarian violence.
The Gangs of Birmingham traces the first appearance of the sloggers in the Cheapside area around 1870, through the Bordesely Riot of 1874, to the brutal antics of such infamous fighters as the Simpson brothers of Aston, the Harper brothers of Sparkbrook and the police killer George ‘Cloggy’ Williams. It chronicles the later rise of the Peaky Blinders, named for their peaked caps and long fringes, and the eventual demise of the gangs at the turn of the century, bringing to vivid life a forgotten chapter in the history of Britain’s gangland.
What they said:
‘Fascinating’ SUNDAY MERCURY
‘Lifts the lid on a lost chapter of youth crime in Victorian Birmingham’ BIRMINGHAM MAIL
Philip Gooderson, M.A., Ph.D., is a retired schoolmaster with a special interest in the history of Victorian street gangs. He is the author of two previous books.