You Can Now Tour The Prison Where The Real-Life Peaky Blinders Were Kept
As we've discussed before, the story of the real-life Peaky fooken' Bloinders, as most people tend to call them after about one season watching Sam Knight's show on the Birmingham gang, is a whole lot more complicated than Tommy Shelby's story would make it out to be. It is, however, a real thing.
The Peaky Blinders were a real thing, existing first as a genuine, stand-alone, flat-cap-wearing street gang (well before the time depicted in the show, mind you), then as a catch-all term for the kind of criminal organisations that operated in Birmingham post World War I.
Prisons (and in turn, the concept of personal liberty and the way it's affected by being born into a certain class of people) form a recurring motif throughout the show.
It's within the cells, execution chambers and hallways of Her Majesty's jail cells that some of the show's most poignant moments occur. And while Winson Green — now HM Prison Birmingham — is still very much a venue dedicated to locking up crims, you can now tour one of the Birmingham prisons that played host to the real-life Peaky Blinders during their heyday.
The prison lies within the walls of Birmingham's Steelhouse Lane police station — a Victorian Era building that actually operated as an operating Police facility until 2017, when it was closed down. Now known as the Lock-Up (its long-held informal name), it was taken over by a private company who have turned it into an open museum telling the rich story of the area's affiliation with crime and gang activity.
During the video tour of the property that was recorded by British news agency SWNS, Inspector Steve Rice, who works on the West Midlands Police Heritage Project, lays the facts about the real-life Peaky Blinders bare: "People often ask me if the Peaky Blinders are a real gang - they were and they caused misery to a lot of people in the city so we are careful not to glorify their actions.
"We like to give people the facts about them. They are criminals at the end of the day.
"Our records have them down for offences like stealing but we know they moved into illegal practices involving horse racing and betting."
It's thought that instead of being transported to the major prison seen in the show, many low-level criminals of the Peaky Blinders' mould would have been held at the Lock-Up instead while they waited to go to court.
The prison holds many mugshots of those thought to be the real-life Peaky Blinders, who operated until the 1920's before the main villain of Season 1, Billy Kimber, took over much of their criminal enterprise. The name 'Peaky Blinders' went on to become a catch-all moniker for Birmingham's street gangs for decades after.
"The building also has a tunnel where thousands of criminals would have made the walk from the cells to court to learn their fate," continued Inspector Rice.
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"It's quite chilling to think what would be going through their heads as they made this walk, sometimes to face the death sentence.
"We aim to educate visitors mainly about all aspects of policing and the history of the force. There are old helmets, uniforms, body armour and handcuffs people can try on.
"Going forward our plans are to move the police museum in Sparkhill to this location and we currently have a bid in place with the National Lottery Heritage Fund."