These photos are taken from Sky Edge, a small grassy area which overlooks Sheffield.
In the 1920s, Sky Edge was very popular among gamblers. It was infamous as a Pitch and Toss ring. Pitch and Toss is a simple game where gamblers bet on the toss of a coin. Often large amounts of men would gather on Sky Edge and could stand to win some large sums of money. The venue was ideal. Gambling like this was illegal, and the view granted the group that controlled the ring a great vantage point across the city, allowing them to see police if they were approaching. The simplicity of the game meant that there was no gambling paraphernalia to be hidden away or get caught with. At it’s peak the gang running the ring stood to earn massive amounts. But, as unemployment rose, and the extra pay packets for workers assisting the war effort became a distant memory; it became harder for the gang leaders to pay their large team, and cuts needed to be made.
Cuts in gang members led to bitterness , with a rival gang being formed to usurp the Sky Ring. A long gang war followed with violent retaliations, running battles on the streets. The police were powerless to deal with the problems. There were too few police, the police that existed were quite often tied up with other tasks and the penalties issued by the courts were far too lenient, and didn’t act as a deterrent. Gang members who were arrested were back on the streets immediately committing the same crime the next day. (Stop me if any of this sounds familiar!)
Eventually the police had to toughen up, and a flying squad was formed to crack the gangs.
I visited Sky Edge to get a feel for the area. I am currently researching for a film script I am writing, which will use Sheffield’s gang society and Sky Edge as a backdrop. So often we read news about ‘Broken Britain’, how society is crumbling and how the legal system does nothing to prevent this. I always thought society was getting worse. But has society maybe always been this way? Has is always possibly teetered on the edge?