Sheffield Gang Wars and their link to a real war

Author Mark Foster has written a new book on Sheffield’s notorious Gang Wars, called Up at the Sky Edge – 1917.

Friday, 22nd February 2019, 09:05 am
Updated Friday, 22nd February 2019, 09:07 am
Mark Foster's book on the Sheffield Gang Wars, Up at the Sky Edge - 1917

Here, Mark, who also wrote a book about his dad Jack called An Arbourthorne Lad, describes what he’s written.

“Samuel Garvin and George Mooney were both revered individuals, and much characterised by local folklore, with regard to the history of the city of Sheffield, during the earlier part of the 20th century.

Sam Garvin, Leader of the Park Brigade

Both were leaders of the opposing Mooney and Park Brigade gangs that would escalate into the brutal episode of the Sheffield Gang Wars during the aftermath of World War One. 

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Their prize being control of the lucrative Sky Edge gambling ring, situated at a secluded site high above the city, and providing the ideal vantage point, to which the many willing punters could participate in all forms of illegal gambling.

Sheffield had grown rapidly during the early years of the Industrial Revolution. But many of the city’s poorer inhabitants endured the hardship, poverty, overcrowding and squalor of the time.

Gambling, just like alcohol, was often an outlet of escapism for the many working people of the city, with the added possibility of supplementing meagre earnings. This activity was much frowned upon by the authorities and illegal gambling was soon driven underground and into the control of unscrupulous individuals.

Police chief Sir Percy Sillitoe

Illegal gambling at Sky Edge had grown during the early years of the 20th century, although activity increased significantly after 1914, by the emergence of readily available money during the boom years of manufacture for the First World War effort.

The book highlights the fortunes of two men, heavily involved in the earlier years of the gang struggle in Sheffield.

Both were determined to escape from the horrors of the Western Front, and of their return to Sheffield, with the view of controlling the lucrative Sky Edge operation.

Samuel Garvin was a petty criminal long before his army service, and was soon to take a leading role in the emergence of the Park Brigade, along with William Francis, who would be instrumental as a ‘trusted and valued’ aide to Garvin, in his struggle to oust the Mooney Gang from Sky Edge.

It would not be until the mid-1920s that the gangs were brought under control by the questionable policing tactics of Chief Inspector Percy Sillitoe of the Sheffield City Police and his notorious Flying Squad.”

The book, published by Amazon, is £6.99 paperback or £3.99 Kindle from