Milo Books

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The Gangs of Manchester

Out of the slums of industrial Manchester emerged a strange and bloody cult that would terrorise the city’s streets for three decades. Gangs of youths, violent and tough, launched a series of turf wars in a brutal fight for supremacy. Calling themselves ‘scuttlers’, they fought pitched battles that left scores injured or maimed. Soon the scuttler and his moll were as notorious as any modern gangster.

The Gangs of Manchester is a journey into this long-forgotten Victorian underworld. It traces the rise of the first youth tribes in the smoke-blackened courts and alleys of nineteenth-century Manchester and Salford and tells how they adopted a distinctive fashion and code of conduct. They wore peaked caps tilted to display their long fringes, flashy silk scarves, bell-bottomed trousers and brass-tipped clogs. But the scuttlers most prized possession was his thick leather belt, adorned with gang insignia and wrapped tight around his fist. The heavy brass buckle could shatter a man’s skull.

As the Grey Mare Boys battled with Holland Street from Miles Platting, the Bengal Tigers and Prussia Street fought it out in Ancoats and Ordsall Lane and Hope Street waged guerrilla war in Salford, they terrified respectable citizens and defied the police and the law courts. Mob leaders became local legends. George Worthington led a huge army from Bradford and Beswick. The infamous Bellis brothers held sway over Greengate. And in the 1890s, the entire city held its breath as a handful of leading ‘captains’ fought for the coveted title of King of the Scuttlers.

The Gangs of Manchester brings to vivid life the first chapter in the history of the city’s enduring gang wars.

Praise for The Gangs of Manchester:

‘Instantly absorbing.’ BBC WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? magazine


‘Evokes the energy and excitement of gang life and their brutal excesses.’ HISTORY TODAY

‘An important addition to the growing library on pre-fifties youth culture.’

‘The first hoodies … gangs even more savage than today’s.’ THE DAILY MAIL

‘With the skill of a novelist, Davies weaves together the fruits of meticulous research to recreate the Manchester of the late 19th century in all its appalling fascination. An absorbing read and a must for anyone who wants to understand life in the classic slum.’ FAMILY HISTORY MONTHLY

‘A vivid account of the scuttlers, local gangs of fighting youths who defended their honour and territory with fierce aggression. They terrorised Manchester and Salford for thirty years, up until the late 1890s, and Andrew Davies brings extraordinary detail to bear in his study. This is an absolutely fantastic achievement.’

‘Exposes the ugly history of the city’s unique brand of adolescent warfare…Fascinating.’SALFORD ADVERTISER


Why not take ‘The Gangs of Manchester Guided Walk’ with Manchester Tourist Guide, Emma Fox?

Walk the streets of Manchester’s Dark Continent, Ancoats, where the Bengal Tigers fought Prussia Street, discover where the Meadow Lads defended their patch, explore where the infamous Bellis brothers ruled in Greengate, see the New Cross battleground of the ‘Rochdale Road War’ and listen as the shocking stories told in Andrew Davies’ The Gangs of Manchester’ are brought to life.

And after the walk, why not enjoy a pint of award-winning micro-brewery in the Marble Arch pub where signed copies of ‘The Gangs of Manchester’ will be available for purchase?


Thursday May 6th at 11am, Sunday May 30th at 1pm, Sunday June 27th at 1pm, Sunday July 25th at 1pm, Sunday August 29th at 1pm and Sunday September 26th at 1pm.


The walk starts at outside Edwards Shoes, inside Barton Arcade, between St Ann’s Square and Deansgate, and lasts around two hours

How Much?

£6 or £5 with concessions (beer and book not included!)

To book tickets go to or call 0843 208 0500. For more details call Emma on 07500 774 200 or email


The Gangs of Manchester is now the inspiration for a unique stage production called ‘Angels With Manky Faces’ by the acclaimed MaD Theatre Company. The play enjoyed a sold out run at The Library Theatre in Manchester in August 2009 and due to overwhelming public demand more dates are planned for 2010.

An accompanying film, starring many of Manchester’s leading actors and musicians, including John Henshaw (Early Doors, Looking For Eric), Graeme Hawley (Coronation Street, Shameless), Mike Joyce (The Smiths) Clint Boon (Inspiral Carpets, XFM Manchester) and Twisted Wheel, was shown at performances of the play. For an exclusive preview follow this link:

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