A Revival Of Hooliganism

The problem of gangs posed a real problem to the ordinary law-abiding citizens o Victorian England. Throughout the 1880’s and the 1890’s, the newspapers were full of accounts of various atrocities committed by gangs on the streets of the country’s big city’s; and many commentators were of the opinion that the police had lost control of the streets to the gangs.

However, in the mid-1990’s, renewed police activity aimed at curbing the activities of the gangs, coupled with tougher sentences – such s flogging and longer prison sentences – saw a decline in the more outrageous activities by the gangs.


But then, in 1900, a new wave of gang outrages swept the country, and people, once more, began to fear that the police had lost control of the streets

The Leominster News, on  Friday, 26th October, 1900, published the following article which not only gave details of the gangs that had prevailed in the previous wave of gang-related violence, but which also put forward a “startling theory” as to what lay behind the latest outbreak.

The article read:-


“Hooliganism has broken out in London again; a mild form of it is also reported in Manchester under the name of “scuttling,” and other great towns are threatened with the same epidemic of violence under some local and peculiar name of which “Hooliganism” is a synonym.


For instance, in Liverpool, the Hooligans used to be called the “High Rip Gang.” They infested the Irish quarter of the city particularly, and were called “High Rippers” because of their frequent use of the knife.

Mr Justice Day smashed the gang up by giving them penal servitude, varied with frequent doses of the “cat,” and it is safe to say that if other judges today follow his example Hooliganism will soon be extirpated, for its ruffianly professors will all be “doing time.”

The use of the knife is now rare in Liverpool compared with the days of the “High Rip Gang”; it is, however, extraordinary enough to a stranger unused in the city’s ways, and Mr. Justice Kennedy, at a recent Assize, remarked, in horrified tones, as he surveyed the list of stabbing affrays, that everybody seemed to be stabbing everybody else in Liverpool.


Another once flourishing gang in Liverpool went by the name of the “Forty Thieves.” Their violence was directed not so much to persons as to property. They would playfully fire a cotton warehouse in order to buy the salvage cheap and sell it again at a big profit.

The “Forty Thieves” are no more, but degenerate survivors of them are the scoundrels who drop hot ashes from the upper windows of warehouses and dwellings on to the lorries passing below, laden with cotton, and so cause a blaze.


Birmingham is, or rather used to be, infested with “Peaky Blinders,” a gang who cropped their hair in a peculiar fashion – a sort of “Newgate fringe” – and wore peak caps, with the edge of which they would blind a victim by shoving it into his eyes, if he attempted resistance when being robbed.


Sunderland had its “101 Gang,” so called from its number of adherents, and indeed these English types of Australian Hooligans used to be common enough everywhere.

Now, after a long pause, they are active once more.


What is the cause of this renewed outbreak of ruffianism throughout the country, and how does it spread?

Sir Joshua Fitch, a well-known sociologist, speaking in London, broaches a startling theory.

He states that the violence in English streets at the present time is due to the war in South Africa.

The war in South Africa has had many effects, but that it can cause Hooliganism at home seems a far-fetched theory.

Sir Joshua, however, explains.

It is the war spirit which, failing to find an outlet in South Africa against the Boers, takes it out of peaceful English citizens.


He sounds a note of warning against encouraging the deeds of the British soldiers in South Africa.

The record of their exploits, he says, has infected the nation with combativeness; that combativeness is fed in the public elementary schools of the country by the readings on the might and majesty of the British Empire; we are training up a nation of Hooligans by glorifying war; and he states that violence abroad is producing violence at home.

Sir Joshua accordingly looks forward with positive dread to the return home of the British troops from South Africa.”