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The Cruel Streets Revisited

Former Cardiff Police Detective, John Wake, reveals stories from the city’s past that highlights the struggles of the lower classes. Justice was harsh, and lawlessness was rife. Seen from a police viewpoint, but with a social perspective rather than authoritarian.

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In this book we look at a side of Cardiff’s history that wasn’t wholesome, yet it reflects the times – the struggles and poverty. Many people today have a romantic or nostalgic view of their city’s past. They imagine the old back streets populated by
rough-and- ready ‘Jack The Lads’ and Robin Hood-style characters, They imagine that, while times were hard, people were poor but generally happy. Think again.

The historical voices of law and order give a different perspective to history. But this book isn’t written from the viewpoint of the governing classes or in the wider terms of national economics or social commentary. Instead,it portrays the realities of pounding the beat, often alone, in streets that were populated by those without financial advantages, education, or opportunities for upward mobility. Fuelled by alcohol, desperation, and poverty, the people who came into contact with the law had day-to-day struggles that most of us can barely imagine. The social deprivation, the inequalities of class, gender, race,
and age, these were the factors that led many to crime as a means of daily survival.

This book tells the story of some of the real characters, sometimes merely nameless records in police files or newspapers. Others that we follow were better documented. This is a collection of reports that bring to life the meaner aspects of Cardiff’s back streets.

Temperancetown, Tiger Bay, Butetown – all names that, for some, conjure up pictures of complete lawlessness. How did that happen? How did these small areas of a large city attract such a reputation?

This book is compiled from extensive research in public archives, from conversations with local people, and from the personal experience of a police officer who worked in Cardiff for over 25 years. John Wake offers us snippets of news, and fuller stories, that paint a picture of Cardiff’s history as lived by its poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

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Wordcatcher Publishing


HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / Wales




Wordcatcher History


9781912056712, 9781912056729, 9781912056460, 9781912056484


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