The Elephant and Castle Gang and Criminal Careers of Dartmoor Prison Inmates

  • Alyson Brown


The narrative of the Dartmoor riot was written in media reports and in investigatory and legal documents emerging in the period following the disturbance. However, it was reinforced in the public consciousness through personal accounts of the ‘mutiny’ published as late as 1961. These are important because they not only offer the experiences of some of those in the prison at that time but also tend to embed more fully a perspective on the riot as being caused by a defined range of factors. Perhaps most prominent among these factors was the supposed influence of a small group of ‘motor bandits’ and ‘gangsters’ before and during the disturbance. This chapter examines the evidence relating to these prisoners and their role in the riot. These men had been convicted of serious offences, some of them had been known to one another prior to their imprisonment at Dartmoor and indeed had committed crimes together. Their activities immediately before the riot may well have contributed to the destabilisation of the prison regime, but it is questionable whether they were responsible for the outbreak in the sense that they planned and directed the disturbance from the outset. Nevertheless, the assigning of culpability for the riot to them operated to shift scrutiny from the prison regime and contemporary penal policy to the dangerousness of the inmates. This constructed a relatively simple narrative which was also accessible and attractive to the media.


Criminal Record Criminal Career Preventive Detention Prison Staff Escape Attempt 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Rev B.P.H. Ball (1956) Prison Was My Parish ( London: William Heinemann Ltd).Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    S.K. Ruck (1932) ‘The Increase of Crime in England: An Analysis and Criticism’, Political Quarterly 3: 206–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Also see C. Humphries and R.E. Dummett (1933) The Menace in our Midst ( London: Chapman & Hall Ltd).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    S.K. Ruck (1940) ‘Developments in Crime and Punishment’, in L. Radzinowicz, J.W. Cecil Turner and P.H. Winfield (eds), Penal Reform in England: Introductory Essays on Some Aspects of English Criminal Policy (London: P.S. King & Son Ltd), pp. 19, 24.Google Scholar
  5. Also see, E.H. Sutherland (1934) ‘The Decreasing Prison Population of England’, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 24: 898.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Major B.D. Grew O.B.E (1958), Prison Governor ( London: Herbert Jenkins ), pp. 74–5.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    R. Sparks (1961) Burglar to the Nobility ( London: Arthur Barker Limited ), pp. 79–85.Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    G.F. Clayton (1958) The Wall is Strong: The Life of a Prison Governor ( London: John Long ), pp. 168–9.Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    See, S. Duncombe and A. Mattson (2006) The Bobbed Haired Bandit: A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York ( New York: New York University Press).Google Scholar
  10. 33.
    A.J. Rhodes (1933) Dartmoor Prison: A Record of 126 Years of Prisoner of War and Convict Life, 1806–1932 ( London: John Lane The Bodley Head Limited ), pp. 282–3.Google Scholar
  11. 51.
    M. Cavadino and J. Dignan (2002) The Penal System: An Introduction, 3rd ed. ( London: Sage ), pp. 11, 17–18.Google Scholar
  12. 54.
    B. McDonald (2000) Elephant Boys: Tales of London and Los Angeles Underworlds ( London: Mainstream Publishing ), p. 142.Google Scholar
  13. Also see B. McDonald (2010) Gangs of London: 100 Years of Mob Warfare (Wrea Green, Lancashire: Milo Books )Google Scholar
  14. R. Samuel (1981) East End Underworld: Chapters in the Life of Arthur Harding ( London: Routledge & Kegan Paul).Google Scholar
  15. 61.
    S.K. Ruck (ed.) (1951) Paterson on Prisons: Being the Collected Papers of Sir Alexander Paterson ( London: Frederick Muller Ltd ), p. 11.Google Scholar
  16. 62.
    G. Dendrickson and F. Thomas (1954) The Truth About Dartmoor ( London: Victor Gollanz ), pp. 72–5.Google Scholar
  17. 71.
    S. Hobhouse and A. Fenner Brockway (1922) English Prisons Today (London: Longman, Green & Co).Google Scholar
  18. 72.
    E. Carrabine (2005) ‘Prison riots, social order and the problem of legitimacy’, British Journal of Criminology 45: 904–905.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 76.
    W. Macartney (1936) Walls have Mouths: A Record of Ten Years’ Penal Servitude ( London: Gollancz ), p. 241.Google Scholar
  20. 77.
    C. Emsley (2011) Crime and Society in Twentieth-Century England ( Harlow: Pearson Education ), p. 99.Google Scholar
  21. 79.
    S. Horler (1934) London’s Underworld: The Record of a Month’s Sojourn in the Crime Centres of the Metropolis ( London: Hutchinson ), p. 29.Google Scholar
  22. 81.
    Also see, A. Brown (January 2011) ‘The Smash-and-Grab Gangster’, BBC History 12 (1).Google Scholar
  23. 87.
    M. Benney (1948) Gaol Delivery: For the Howard League for Penal Reform ( London: Longmans, Green and Co ), pp. 18–20.Google Scholar
  24. 89.
    P. Burke (2010) ‘Interrogating the Eyewitness’, Cultural & Social History 7 (4): 437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 144.
    R. Samuel, East End Underworld cited in Gatrell, ‘Crime, Authority and the Policeman-state’, p. 301.Google Scholar
  26. 145.
    For example, see J. Sim (1994) ‘Tougher than the Rest? Men in Prison’, in T. Newburn and E.A. Stanko (eds), Just Boys Doing Business? Men, Masculinities and Crime ( London: Taylor & Francis ), pp. 100–17.Google Scholar
  27. Also see P. Scraton, J. Sim and P. Skidmore (1991) Prisons under Protest ( Milton Keynes: Open University Press).Google Scholar
  28. 150.
    P. Scraton, J. Sim and P. Skidmore (1991) Prisons under Protest ( Milton Keynes: Open University Press ), pp. 77, 115Google Scholar
  29. 154.
    B.S. Godfrey, D.J. Cox and S.D. Farrall (2007) Criminal Lives: Family Life, Employment, and Offending ( Oxford: Oxford University Press ), pp. 40–1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 155.
    E.R. Calvert and T. Calvert (1933) The Lawbreaker: A Critical Study of the Modern Treatment of Crime ( London: George Routledge & & Sons Ltd), p. ix.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Alyson Brown 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alyson Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.Edge Hill UniversityUK

Personalised recommendations