Home Census Newly released 1921 census shows what happened to the first ‘real’ Peaky Blinder

Newly released 1921 census shows what happened to the first ‘real’ Peaky Blinder


The Peaky Blinders once brought fear and chaos to the real streets of Birmingham.

But their heyday was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and by the end of World War I, all they had left were their names and the memories of their crimes.

As the names of the original gang disappeared from newspaper reports and court records, what happened to the first man described as a “sharp blinder”?

The 1921 census, published online at find my past, shows us details about every person living in England and Wales at a time when the nation was recovering from the First World War.

Combined with other recordings on find my past, such as court and death records, we can construct a picture of his life story.

It’s how a man went from a newspaper article about a savage beating in Bordesley to inspiring a hit TV show over a hundred years later.

Thomas Mucklow

The man considered the founding member and leader of his gang, it was the crimes of Thomas Mucklow that led to the very first printing of the phrase ‘peaky blinders’ in a newspaper, the Birmingham Mail.

Born in 1865 in Birmingham, he was married to an Elizabeth Mucklow, née Groom, and his day job was as a carter.

A carter was the hauler or van driver of his day, moving things by horse and cart or wagon, or later by car, van and truck.

Elizabeth was recorded as a typical housewife of the time, listing “household chores” as her occupation.

One of Thomas’ first crimes was a savage beating on Adderley Street, Bordesley, where he also lived, in 1890.

He bumped into a man named George Eastwood one Saturday night with his gang, mocking and then beating him over his choice of drink – a ginger beer.

It was titled ‘Murderous Outrage’, and George suffered a fractured skull – but Thomas only received 9 months for the crime.

The following year he moved in with his in-laws, George and Mary Groom, still on Adderley Street.

Later, in 1896, he was sentenced to a month in prison for having stolen 30 pounds – a little over 13 and a half kilos – of brass. When he was released, he and Elizabeth moved out of the Groom’s house and into another on Adderley Street.

The Birmingham Mail report on the Thomas Mucklow crime – and the first print of ‘peaky blinders’ in a newspaper.

In June 1902, he pleaded guilty to “maliciously injuring” another man – none other than his stepfather, George Groom. He was sentenced to 6 months of forced labor.

The recently released 1921 census shows Thomas and Elizabeth are 57 and 56 respectively, a far cry from the days of thrill-seeking on the streets of Birmingham, and too old to have taken part in the First World War devastating.

31 years after that beating which began to bring his gang to the public eye, he moved soon after to Court 2, House 1 on Coventry Road – still a carter and working in a business in Nechells.

This is the last census snapshot of Thomas Mucklow’s life – the 1931 census was destroyed in a fire.

Thomas may have died aged 71, in 1936.

Less than a hundred years later, the first episode of Peaky Blinders aired on BBC Two in 2013, bringing all the attitude, fashion and lifestyle of Mucklow and his Peaky Blinders into the 21st century – with a little license dramatic, of course.

Who can say what the first man described in the press as a Peaky Blinder would have thought?

What other famous or influential Birmingham natives from this era do you want to read? Comment below or talk to us on social media.

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