Leeds academic looks for the real Peaky Blinders

MUGSHOTS: Racecourse pickpockets from the 1920s.
MUGSHOTS: Racecourse pickpockets from the 1920s.
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Meet the real Peaky Blinders.

These felons of yesteryear ranged from racecourse pickpockets to a suspected Leeds housebreaker.

The 1920s mugshots are not from the hit BBC drama but are part of an archive project.

The images were found as part of ongoing research by Leeds Beckett historian, Dr Tosh Warwick. The history lecturer and Middlesbrough heritage development officer had been researching the crime and policing records in the North East as part of the Middlesbrough Town Hall Refurbishment and Restoration Project. It is supported by a £3.7m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Alongside mugshots of a number of Leeds pickpockets from the 1920s, other photographs include British and Australian wartime criminals operating in France during the First World War, murderers, deviants, racecourse pickpockets and two figures ‘believed to be the first men to attempt to steal an aeroplane’.

And two of the mugshots belong to Randal Hargrave and Walter Gudgeon, who were reported in the Yorkshire Post for theft on in February 1923. An article in the Leeds Mercury in December 1923 also described Hargrave as having a substantial career of housebreaking in Leeds, Headingley, Ilkley, Ben Rhydding and Horsforth areas.

The photographs were recently displayed to the public at a workshop held at Teesside Archives by leading crime historian and Leeds Beckett Reader in History, Dr Heather Shore, which provided guidance on carrying out local and family history research.

A call is now being made for any information on the criminals pictured in the mugshots which will help researchers put together the pieces of their story. It is hoped the material will be made available digitally to help develop stories and learning opportunities as part of the project. Anyone with information should email history@middlesbrough.gov.uk.

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