Gangs in 19th century

Cobalt Fairy

While researching for my newest novel, I started wondering how gangs worked back then. And I mean EXACTLY how they worked. 

The questions are so many and so hard to answer!

But while I was at it, I found something quite interesting: the list of gangs back then is endless, which gives us plenty of room for research. 

So here, I will list the 3 most notorious gangs of 19th century England and just why they were as bad as they say!

The Criminal Gangs of 19th Century Britain | Blog |

The Scuttlers

The Scuttlers are a unique case!

They were a collection of youth gangs, mostly found in the working class of Manchester during the late 19th century. 

At first, they weren’t well known, but their popularity skyrocketed after the violent turf wars. 

Like many gangs today, they had “signature clothing”. If you ever saw men wearing bell-bottomed pants, with silk scarfs and flat caps, you knew they were probably Scuttlers (in Manchester that is. Birmingham is a whole other case!)

But apart from dressing fancy, and being little brats, what else did they do?

Well, turns out…more than they should!

All Scuttlers would carry a knife (which was and still is illegal, by the way!) and would get involved in pitched battles. 

But they had a secret up their belt (literally). They wore heavy buckled belts, which could be easily used as weapons and were to blame for horrible wounds. 

And they created quite the ruckus! Since there were so many groups of them, some were bound to clash. So, rivaling groups would fight with each other. And sometimes up to 500 (!), people would get into one of those fights. 

Needless to say, you do not want to be around when that happens.

The High Rip Gang

Photos show the original gangs of New York in the 19th century ...

Liverpool did not have the best reputation regarding gangs. But then again, most of England didn’t. 

The High Rippers rose to “fame” after a brutal attack they committed. They stabbed a Spanish man after trying to rob him, and things didn’t go as they planned. 

Unlike the Scuttlers, the High Rippers were a bit more vicious. Their main crimes consisted of street robberies, revenge attacks and acts of extreme violence, sometimes for no reason. 

They would attack vulnerable people who were walking home from work. But of course, they weren’t that strong at first. 

Once they gathered enough manpower, they became characterized as untouchable and unstoppable. So much so, that people would fear for their lives on the daily. 

But everything came to an end once some of the members were executed after a series of unforgivable killings.

The Peaky Blinders

As a famous and relevant show right now, the Peaky Blinders are an impressive bunch. 

At first, they were what we could call social outcasts since all they would do is commit petty thefts. They also lived in the slums; areas which didn’t get a good reputation to begin with. So, of course, no one cared much about them. 

But everything changed over the years. And their reputation became unmatched!

Forget all other gangs, they were the real deal. 

Illegal betting? Check! Protection rackets? Check! Black market? Double check!

If you ask me, protection rackets were perhaps the worst out of all. A lot of times innocent victims would fall prey to it and things quickly turned ugly. But exploration is always part of crime. 

And just like the Scuttlers, they had their signature dress code. 

Donkey jackets, silk scars, steel-capped boots and most importantly: their flat caps!

And just like the Scuttlers, they used their heavy belts to inflict serious injuries.

The 19th century Garotting Panic - Historic UK

So what do you think? Have you ever heard of them? 

Is there one you know about and I failed to mention? 

I’d love to hear it!

-Scarlett Osborne

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