Friday, 12 February 2010


GANGS OF ROUGHS By Lee Jackson        

I've commented before on hooliganism, a topic which will feature in my next novel, but it's fascinating to note how vicious behaviour and teen gangs are not a modern phenomenon, whatever the media would have you believe (whether we have more incidents of such things, I genuinely don't know). Here's some examples ... I challenge you to read the articles below and not feel just a little bit less paranoid about modern London life.

28mm wargames figures for refighting the Islington of Lee Jackson

Islington - always been a bit rough, innit?

At CLERKENWELL, JOHN GARVEY, 19, a rough-looking youth, was charged with feloniously cutting and wounding his father by stabbing him in the head and shoulder with a pocket knife. The father, William Garvey, living in Adelaide-square, New North-road, said that his son lived with him, but was very unruly. On Sunday night he was with a number of other lads outside the house, and witness, who was in bed, was disturbed by their whistling and singing. he called from the window of his bedroom to his son, telling him to be quiet or go away. Within a few minutes afterwards the prisoner rushed into his bedroom with an open knife in his hand and began abusing him for calling out of the window, and called him many bad names. Witness tried to put him out of the room. The prisoner then struck him, and witness felt the knife enter his left shoulder. A second blow was given, and the knife entered his head on the left side. They struggling for the knife, and witness got his hand cut, and lost so much blood that he became insensible. A constable was fetched, and the prisoner charged; witness afterwards finding him at the station, where his own wounds were dressed. Mr. F.J.Bucknell, M.D., of Upper-street, Islington, divisional surgeon, deposed to attending the prosecutor, who had received a stab in the left shoulder and a severe cut on the head, partially dividing the left ear. The prisoner, who when charged made no statement in defence, now said that he had nothing to say, and was fully committed for trial at the Middlesex Sessions.

The Times, 7th June, 1881.
 Below Lee Jackson sets out to have a look at the Victorian flats up Brick Lane he's the one on the left and the right

THE ISLINGTON ROUGHS. - Joseph Bonner, 19, labourer of Beaconsfield-buildings, York-road; and William Richards, 19, labourer, were charged with assaulting Constable Ross, 147 Y, while in the execution of his duty. It was stated by the police that the two prisoners belonged to a gang of roughs who were in the habit of parading the streets armed with sticks, stones, and knotted ropes, creating a disturbance by fighting among themselves, and molesting every person they met. On Sunday afternoon Police-constable Ross met a gang of about forty youths, behaving in this manner described in Charlotte-street, Islington, the two prisoners being among them. He took Richards, who was armed with a thick stick, into custody, and Bonner then struck him on the head with a knotted rope, damaging his helmet. He took the stick from Richards, but Bonner wrested it from him and struck him several violent blows on the back with it. Richards also struck him and kicked him in endeavouring to escape from custody. He let Richards go and took Bonner into custody, and Richards was apprehended on the following morning. Mr. Hosack sentenced Bonner to two months' and Richard to one month's hard labour.

You could tell them by their bell-bottomed trousers, fringes and jauntily-tilted caps - and if you saw them, you were advised to cut and run.

The Gangs of Manchester : The Story of the Scuttlers, Britain's First Youth Cult by Andrew Davies 336pp, Milo Books, £11.99 Click here to buy from the Guardian bookshop They ran the grimy streets of Manchester and filled the city's courts and police cells, while the media described their codes and gang names in lurid detail - the Bengal Tigers, the Meadow Lads and the She Battery Mob.

But this wasn't another outbreak of modern gun crime, teenage stabbings or hoodie trouble-making. The 'scuttlers', as the whole of Britain learned to know and detest them, were a serious social problem in the 1870s and 80s.

jews and eastern europeans
blue moon ltd
Influenced by an empire almost permanently at war, from the Sudan to Afghanistan, they took over music halls, openly paraded with home-made weapons and staged fights where more than 500 young people took part.
sudan by dixon

Their history has now been chronicled by a Liverpool university academic, Dr Andrew Davies, after years in their company in the peaceful reading rooms of archives from Manchester to London. His research uncovers all the features of 21st-century concern about youth crime, but on a larger scale, and 140 years ago.
old islington

"There are so many records that it has taken me 15 years to pull all the material together," says Davies, whose book, The Gangs of Manchester: The Story of the Scuttlers, is published this month with public readings in the city and plans for a future play.

"Matching press reports with police, court and prison records gives a picture of relentless urban violence by young men going through the new, compulsory school system and out into the mills and factories of Manchester."

The staged fights also involved "scuttlerettes", girls as young as 14 who were accused of raising the level of violence by flirting with rival youths and egging them on. In Liverpool, according to Davies' researches, gangs were often motivated by robbery, carried out by way of a more vicious version of Fagin's pickpockets in Oliver Twist. But in Manchester, the motive was testosterone-fuelled excitement and a hunt for status.

Eureka miniatures
eureka miniatures
"Each gang wanted to be recognised as the toughest in the city, and scuttlers would walk as far as five miles to take on rivals," says Davies. "Groups took possession of their favourite music halls and attacked any members of other gangs who came in, using sharpened belt buckles or knives as weapons."

irish by foundry
Some example police mugshots of Manchester gangsters, including identifying features such as "left leg much thinner than right" Then as now, individuals were singled out by both police and media. One reprobate was John-Joseph Hillier, the Irish-born leader of the Deansgate Mob, who joined the gang when he was 14. He was repeatedly jailed for slashing members of the rival Casino gang with a butcher's knife and was nicknamed "King of the Scuttlers" by reporters.


Delighted with the notoriety, he had the name sewn on to the front of the trademark jersey he wore with his bell-bottoms and cap. The word 'scuttle' was coined by the boys as a term for street-fighting.

the bill by eureka
Davies says that one major difference from today's youth violence was that deaths were very rare. But the level of serious woundings - and the sheer number of young teenagers filling the newly-built Strangeways prison and other jails - led Manchester city council to petition the then home secretary for the return of flogging to punish violent crime.
more bill

In the end, with the authorities acknowledging the effect of the 19th century's catalogue of international violence - gangs in battles such as the Rochdale Road War called themselves either 'Russians' or 'Turks' - the answer was more thoughtful. A philanthropic movement to set up Lads Clubs took root in the worst-affected areas, including the core of Salford, which Friedrich Engels had described several decades earlier as the world's classic urban slum.
the great Engels

Church leaders and others, including the Manchester Guardian, recognised the role of status and competition in scuttler society and diverted it into boxing and sporting competitions, especially football. Davies says: "They were very successful in working with younger boys who might have been expected to form the next cohort of the gangs."

victorian civilians blue moon
The book dwells on the parallels with today, and Davies says that he was fascinated by the unchanging role of dress and personal appearance as a sign of belonging to a gang. He details scuttler hairstyle, known in the 1870s as a "donkey fringe", which required close cropping at the back but an angled fringe at the front, with the hair longer on the right.
jacks' people blue moon

Differently-coloured scarves completed the uniform. Most scuttlers added brass tips to their clogs to add an intimidating rattle to the normal clatter of the footwear on the city's cobbles. Davies says: "You could well imagine a scuttler finding himself at a concert a hundred years later and blending right in."

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