You can now visit the prison where the real Peaky Blinders gang were locked up

Monday, 25th November 2019, 12:29 pm
Updated Monday, 25th November 2019, 12:30 pm
Mug shots of the Peaky Blinders displayed in the prison (Photo: SWNS)

A Victorian jailhouse where the the real-life Peaky Blinders gang were once locked up is being opened to the public.

Fans of the the BAFTA award-winning BBC series can now get a look inside Birmingham's eerie Steelhouse Lane Lock-up, which operated from 1891 to 2016.

The Grade-II listed 19th century jail housed the original members of the Peaky Blinders,who inspired the gritty gangster drama written by Steven Knight.

The mug shots of Harry Fowler, Ernest Bayles, Stephen McHickie and Thomas Gilbert ,wearing their trademark flat caps, even adorn the walls of the 128 year old prison.

Guests can walk in the footsteps of the infamous crooks and look inside the cells of the former custody suite, which was transformed into a museum in 2017.

What does the prison look like?

The building also features stained glass windows, a tunnel through which criminals made the walk to court, art deco door handles and old fashioned interview rooms. Other West Midlands Police memorabilia includes the UK's biggest mugshot collection and what is believed to be the oldest police custody photograph in the world.

Inspector Steve Rice, who works on the West Midlands Police Heritage Project, said, "It's a late Victorian building which over the years has had many notorious criminals.

Guests can walk in the footsteps of the infamous crooks and look inside the cells of the former custody suite, which was transformed into a museum in 2017 (Photo: SWNS)

"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.

"The building also has a tunnel where thousands of criminals would have made the walk from the cells to court to learn their fate.

"Its quite chilling to think what would be going through their heads at 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."

Who were the Peaky Blinders?

The Peaky Blinders earned their chilling nickname after sewing razor blades into the peaks of their flat caps, so they could blind rival gangsters by headbutting them.

They ruled the industrialised areas of Bordesley Green and Small Heath in the early 1900s, when the city was one of the world's most important manufacturing hubs.

Police records reveal they were jailed for relatively minor offences from breaking into shops, bike theft and "false pretences" in October 1904. Court records referred to the gang members as "foul-mouthed young men who stalk the streets in drunken groups, insulting and mugging passers-by".

The fictionalised BBC programme has run for five series so far and is centered on the gang and their fierce boss, Tommy Shelby.

Cillian Murphy heads the star cast which has also included roles for Tom Hardy, Helen McCrory, Sam Claflin and Paul Anderson.

The jail will open its doors to the public on 3 January 2020, offering 90 minute guided tours. Details can be found at wmpeelers.com