‘Give Peace a chance before you start making up stuff about me’ - Charlie Peace
Special power: Finger lickin’ thief
Comic Release Date: May 2014
Charles Frederick Peace (1832 – 1879), known as Charlie, was born in Sheffield, the son of a sometime collier, lion-tamer and shoemaker. His life before 1846 seems to have been unremarkable, but the double blow that year of an accident on the rolling mills at his workplace, when hot steel pierced his leg, and the death of his father, seems to have led him into crime as a way to earn a living. His first arrest was in 1851, for burglary, and in 1854 he was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment at Doncaster.
In the years that followed, he moved between Sheffield, Manchester and prison with some regularity, and occasionally seems to have tried ‘going straight’ with little success. He moved from petty criminal to the ‘most wanted’ list in 1876, with the murder of an associate named Arthur Dyson, which led to a long period on the run.
He found a safe berth in Nottingham’s notorious Narrow Marsh slums, where he remained for several months during 1877, cracking safes and embarking on an affair with a music hall singer, all the while evading his pursuers. Despite many ingenious escapes and bold ruses, the law eventually caught up with him and he was tried, sentenced to death by hanging and executed at Armley Gaol in Leeds at the age of 47.
Charlie Peace Facts
1: Even while he was still on the run, Peace’s adventures were the stuff of penny dreadfuls, ballads and songs. William Haggar’s The Life of Charlie Peace (1905) is among the earliest films made in England.
2: Peace evaded arrest for so long by using great skill in adopting disguises. He dyed his hair, grew and shaved beards, wore a false arm to conceal a giveaway missing finger, and could apparently change the shape of his facial features almost at will.
3: Charlie Peace is mentioned in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Illustrious Client (1924).
4: Peace was the subject of a long-running strip in Buster comic. In one episode, he accidentally travels from the Victorian era to the 1960s in a Tardis style safe while trying to break into it.
5: Although not wanted for the crime at the time of his trial and arrest, after his conviction for Dyson’s murder, Peace confessed to a second killing, that of PC Nicholas Cock in Manchester during 1876, for which another man had already been sentenced.