I know it might surprise many, but Peaky Blinders was inspired by a gang of Irish men who were known for terrorizing the streets of Birmingham with criminal activities and thievery. The actual Peaky Blinders were arrested several times for offences such as shoplifting, breaking into shops, stealing bikes and many more notorious activities.
When the Netflix show was released in 2013, it captured the viewers' attention and led to a question which was focused on whether this story is true or a fictional tale. Despite the creator Steven Knight admitting that this Shelby gang was fictional, the Peaky blinders were real.
It was an actual gang known for dominating and exercising control on the streets of Birmingham in the 1880s. Their gang lasted till the 1910's and their methods included robbery, smuggling, theft, murder, assault, extortion and fraud.
The Distinguished Peaky Blinders
The actual gang of Peaky Blinders used to distinguish themselves by their attire and clothing visually. This included them wearing tailored jackets, sporting overcoats and having peaked flat caps.
In the show, the gang claims to have stashed razor blades underneath their caps to blind their rivals; however, many scholars have different claims.
They believe that the Blinder part of their gang name described that they were well dressed, and the Peaky part was a denotation of their caps. The gang members would be overdressed and wear coats and caps to distinguish themselves from the rest.
The Story Behind The Real Gang
The story of the real Peaky Blinders differs from the portrayal in the Netflix show. In reality, there was no Shelby family, and the gang members were not related. The real gang members belonged to several other gangs in Birmingham, and they were impoverished, unrelated and younger than the Netflix show characters.
This gang consisted of members born in lower-class families facing major economic hardships in Britain. Due to poverty, they started pickpocketing and extorting business owners back in the early 1880s.
The Rise Of The Peaky Blinders
These Peaky Blinders came from a long line of backstreet gangs, and these gangs rose by 1851. After the Great Famine of 1845, there was a considerable increase in the population of Irish citizens in Birmingham.
The gangs started to increase in response to anti-Irish sentiments, which labelled them second-class citizens. Thus, they were relegated to inner city areas with terrible drainage, water and sanitation facilities.
Gangs Were Formed To Protect The Irish
The gangs started to increase in numbers after several Protestant preachers and leaders started calling the Irish cannibals, who were known for being pickpockets and thieves.
This worsened matters; further, almost 100,000 people started to destroy Irish homes in 1867. The police at that time were completely useless and continued to let this havoc unfold and sided with the Protestants.
This led to the formation of the Irish gangs known to defend themselves from these aggressors. By the 1890s, these gangs were replaced by younger members called the Peaky Blinders. The members were between 12–30 years of age and were a major distress to the police and the law enforcement in Birmingham.
This gang would target almost anybody that looked vulnerable because they could easily be overpowered, lured, manipulated or attacked. They would take almost anything and everything of value.
The Heinous Crimes Of The Gang
The show portrays the Peaky Blinders as very organized; however, the actual Irish gang was far from this. It is still uncertain who founded this gang, but it was either Thomas Mucklow or Thomas Gilbert.
Mucklow was known for leading a very disturbing assault back in 1890 at the Rainbow pub on Adderley street. The gang overheard a patron called George Eastwood order a non-alcoholic beer which led to this man being hospitalized. The gang would commonly bait police officers into fights.
Another incident includes Constable George Snipe, who encountered almost 6–7 members of the gang on bridge west street. Snipe tried to arrest a gang member for using foul language, resulting in him fracturing his skull because the Peaky blinders hit him repeatedly with a brick, leading to his death.
The prominent members of this group included Ernest Bayles, Stephen McHickie and Harry Fowler, who were always in local jails due to bike thefts. However, the group didn't shy or hesitate to murder people, and this killed another constable called Charles Philip Gunter.