We’ve settled in our new studio in Beehive Mill, in the heart of the vibrant Ancoats area of Manchester. It’s hard not to get caught up in the palpable buzz of regeneration in the area. However, long before the independent coffee shops, brewery taps and health-conscious eateries, Ancoats was the ‘Pioneer industrial suburb’ of the industrial revolution.
For just over 50 years from the late 1700’s this eastern area of Manchester was transformed into one of the most densely developed industrial areas in the world. Multi-storied steam-driven cotton mills like Beehive Mill were hailed as a marvel of the late Georgian era, becoming a magnet for masses of immigrant workers. This growth continued well into the 19th century. But was set against a background of mass social deprivation, depopulation and slum clearance. Living conditions, lack of discipline in schools – and the monotony of Manchester life at the time, were attributed to the creation of what was to become Britains first documented “Youth Culture” movement The ‘Scuttlers’.
The Scuttlers were similar to the Birmingham gangs immortalised in the TV smash ‘Peaky Blinders’. They were fighting gangs with a ferocious appetite for violence. Gangs were formed based on territory and were reflected in their names. The infamous ‘Bengal Tigers’ were named after the cluster of streets located around nearby Bengal Street.
Conflicts with rival gangs erupted in in the early 1870s, and went on sporadically for thirty years. The gangs then fought with weapons including knives and wore heavy buckled belts. The thick leather belts were their most prized possessions and were wrapped tightly around the wrist at the onset of a “scuttle”.
The Scuttlers were distinguished from other young men in the neighbourhood by their distinctive clothes, language and code of conduct. Their uniform consisted of brass-tipped pointed clogs, bell-bottomed trousers (cut like a sailor’s) and silk scarves. The hair was cut short at the back and sides with long “donkey fringes.” Peaked caps were worn tilted to the left to accentuate the fringe. The scuttlers’ girlfriends also had a distinctive style consisting of clogs, shawl, and a vertically striped skirts.
Andrew Davies documented the many tales of Scuttler life in his book ‘The Gangs of Manchester: The Story of The Scuttlers.’ Speaking to the Manchester Evening News he says of the movement:
“The Scuttling conflicts were all about local pride. These conflicts were organised as neighbourhood-based fighting gangs. They weren’t criminal gangs, in the conventional sense. I think that Scuttling was about carving out an identity in very densely populated districts. So it was about a sense of locality. With young people trying to prove that their neighbourhood was the toughest one in town. So a lot of status or kudos rested on that.”
By the turn of the 19th century, the gangs had all but died out. This was due to some of the worst slums having been cleared and the creation of Working Lads’ Clubs. These clubs engaged the local youths in more peaceful activities, including the increasingly popular sport of football, intact St Marks in West Gorton later became Manchester City Football Club.
With this in mind to celebrate moving to our new home. We created a series of 4 prints based around the scuttlers theme. Each highlighting White Rabbit Creative as the ‘new gang in town’ (albeit a much less violent bunch!). Each print depicts a legendary local gang’s ident inspired by tattoo art – encapsulating impactful typography and iconic imagery. The prints will be made available as tees and limited edition prints. We’ll post details on this in the near future, so look out for more details.