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Was your ancestor a Manchester scuttler?
The scuttlers of Ancoats, Collyhurst, Miles Platting, Beswick and Bradford were among the most feared street fighters in the Victorian city. Can you help find them?
Hello fellow Mancs,
This week’s newsletter starts with an appeal for your help and ends with a big thank you.
I’ve begun working on a new project about scuttlers in Ancoats, and also Collyhurst, Miles Platting, Beswick and Bradford, and wondered if you could help me tell it?
A lot has been written about scuttlers including an excellent book by Andrew Davies, and I also picked up the thread in Angel Meadow.
The scuttlers — both lads and girls — were gangs who prowled the streets of Manchester in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and waged war on the city’s police force.
They fought over territories marked out by streets with exotic names — Bengal, Prussia and Holland.
Wearing pointed clogs, their weapons included knives, iron pokers and the heavy buckles of belts they wrapped around their fists.
A reporter from the Manchester Evening News wrote about an encounter with one scuttler in an Angel Meadow lodging house:
“He was a good specimen of his kind — clear, sharp face, with marks of manhood before youth had passed away, close cropped hair, almost hidden by a tight-fitting cap that showed his ears with uncommon effectiveness, and a wisp of dirty white handkerchief tied loosely round his throat. He rose once to light his pipe and I could see the gleam of his brass-tipped clogs as he shuffled to the fire.”
Over the last few months, I’ve compiled a list of scuttlers’ names and a record of incidents, after having previously mapped some of them.
But there are still pieces of the puzzle that can’t be found in old newspaper reports.
One thing I really want to do is make contact with people who had scuttler ancestors.
Have stories about them have been passed down through your family? If they have, I’d be really interested to hear them.
What do you know about their lives? What did they do in their later years? Do you have (perhaps unlikely) any photographs of them?
Drop me a line in the comments below if you do, or you can also send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org?
It would help me to tell their stories before they pass beyond living memory.
I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has joined my subscriber chat, the Hive, or has sent me emails from around the world saying they’re enjoying the newsletter.
In particular I’d like to thank to Anne, Richard, Alan and Stephen — and also to Emma, who made me realise our ancestors would have been neighbours in Nicholas Street in Angel Meadow many years ago.
The chat is free to join on the Substack website and app and is a place where I’m also trying to help readers try to solve family history questions and where you can help me shape future editions of the newsletter.
It’d be great to meet you there and say hello.
Please subscribe to my free newsletter, or alternatively please consider buying me a coffee to help me continue telling these stories from Manchester’s hidden past.