Drama Lifts the Lid on 'High Ripper' City Gangs; Lecturer's Historical Research Inspires Play

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Byline: LAURA SHARPE

A UNIVERSITY professor's study of gangs in Victorian Liverpool has inspired a new stage show premiering in the city next month.

Andrew Davies, a lecturer in history at the University of Liverpool, uncovered 30 years of youth violence across cities in the North West.

His work studying Manchester's "scuttles" gangs and Liverpool's "High Rippers" has inspired a new stage play called Angels with Manky Faces.

Mr Davies, 47, said: "I studied archive records between 1870 and 1900 and found all the major cities of England had gangs. In Manchester, there were around 30 gangs with as many as 300 members, and the same could be assumed for Liverpool.

"The gangs were particularly violent, fighting with knives and the buckle ends of their belts.

The injuries were so severe that many people were killed and suffered skull fractures.

"Archives of newspaper reports and hospital records show the injuries were so numerous that hospital staff claimed they were overwhelmed." Mr Davies, who lives in Mossley Hill, said the gangs wore distinct clothing to identify themselves, they often had fringed hair, titled caps, patterned scarves and bellbottomed trousers.

A rare mug-shot of a Liverpool prisoner shows John Kennedy, 28, who was admitted to Stafford prison in 1903 for stealing a watch.

Although there's no proof he belonged to a gang, the visible scars on his head are the same inflicted through gang fights. …