A JAILHOUSE that once held members of the real Peaky Blinders gang is being opened to the public for guided tours.
Fans of the hit BBC drama about the Birmingham crime crew can take a peek inside Steelhouse Lane Lock-up, which began operating in 1891.
You’ll find no trace of Tommy Shelby, the fictional gang leader played by Cillian Murphy. But mugshots of gangsters Harry Fowler, Ernest Bayles, Stephen McHickie and Thomas Gilbert — all wearing their trademark flat caps — have been put up on the walls.
Gilbert is also snapped without his headgear, displaying a balding scalp as he stares calmly at the camera.
Insp Steve Rice, who works on the West Midlands Police Heritage Project, said: ‘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 Peaky Blinders earned their nickname by sewing razor blades into the peaks of their caps, so they could blind rival gangsters by headbutting them. Court records referred to them as ‘foul-mouthed young men who stalk the streets in drunken groups, insulting and mugging passers-by’.
The late Victorian jail, which remained in use until 2016, held many notorious criminals over the years and visitors can walk down the tunnels through which they were led to court. ‘It’s quite chilling to think what would be going through their heads as they made this walk, sometimes to face the death sentence,’ Insp Rice said.
And while the building is generally spartan, features to be admired include stained glass windows and art deco door handles. West Midlands Police has Britain’s biggest collection of mugshots, including one said to be the world’s oldest custody photo. The force hopes to shift its museum in Sparkhill to the lock-up in the city centre. The 90-minute tours start on January 3.