The Forty Elephants: London’s first girl gang?

The holidays may well be almost over, but if you’re looking for something to read over the next couple of days… I heartily recommend this Guardian article on the Forty Elephants, a vicious all girl gang who terrorised the streets of London way back in the 18th century. WOWSER.

Led by the formidable Diamond Annie (whose punch was famous because it was studded with DIAMOND RINGS!), the forty-strong gang stole jewels and clothes, and were responsible for the biggest shoplifting operation ever seen in Britain.

I mean, just listen to this;

Dressed in specially tailored coats, cummerbunds, muffs, skirts, bloomers and hats sewn with hidden pockets, they mounted raids on London’s West End shops, where they plundered goods worth thousands of pounds.

… On the plus side, they threw the liveliest of parties and spent lavishly at pubs, clubs and restaurants. Their lifestyles were in pursuit of those of glamorous movie stars, combined with the decadent living of 1920s aristocratic flapper society. They read of the outrageous behaviour of rich, bright young things and wanted to emulate them.

Utterly fascinating, and made even more intriguing by the fact that there’s barely anything about them to be found anywhere online. The Guardian feature is actually a mini review of a new book by Brian McDonald, called Gangs of London. After two years covering the true crime desk at Waterstones, I swore I’d never read any more – but if this book promises any more on the Forty Elephants, I might have to change my mind…

The interesting picture at the top is the work of Bert Hardy, whose 1948 photo project, The Elephant and the The Castle is well worth a look.

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