William 'Billy' Kimber

William 'Billy' Kimber

"Bookmaker" Billy Kimber was a major criminal, for several years probably the biggest organised crime boss in the UK.

Born 7 February 1883, he and his brothers were members of the Birmingham Boys (aka the Brummagem Boys), a violent street gang of pickpockets and petty thieves. Billy served at least two terms of imprisonment, being imprisoned for wounding in 1901, and shortly after release being sentenced to two months hard labour for assaulting two police officers.

His brother Joseph Kimber served several terms of imprisonment:-

By 1913, Billy Kimber and the Brummagen Boys (of whom Billy was now leader) had been introduced to the racecourse protection rackets, possibly by George 'Brummy' Sage, whom Billy may have met while serving time in 1901.

With gangs in Uttoxeter and Leeds, Kimber and the Brummagem Boys controlled racecourses in the Midlands and the North. He set up a secondary base in Islington, to concentrate on the racetracks in the South of England, teaming up with London gang boss Charles 'Wag' McDonald. Kimber formed alliances with smaller organisations such as the Hoxton Gang and the Elephant and Castle Mob.

The closure of racecourses during WW1 put a temporary pause on Kimber's activities. He joined up, but was either discharged or deserted by 1915. When racing resumed after the War, Kimber and the Brummagem Boys recommenced their protection rackets; and Kimber became for a while probably the biggest organised crime boss in the UK.

Now at racecourses in the South East, the Brummies began to prey on the Jewish bookies from London's East End, who turned to local underworld boss Edward Emmanuel, who in turn recruited the Italian Sabini Gang as protection.

In March 1921, the Brummagems ambushed Sabini at Greenford Trotting Park. A few days later, Kimber was found shot and beaten in Kings Cross, London, having gone to visit Sabini. Alfred Solomom was tried for unlawful wounding, but the case was stopped as there was no evidence against him. The violence escalated, but Sabini gained the upper hand when 23 Birmingham boys were locked up following the "Epsom Road Battle".

This took place on 2 June 21 on the London Road in Ewell. After the Epsom races that day, the Brummagen boys ambushed a charabanc containing bookmakers from Leeds, most of whom were Jewish. Previously they had been regarded as supporters of Kimber but they were attacked because it was believed that they were switching sides to the Sabinis. Stopping the charabanc by ramming it with a taxi, the Brummagen boys attached the occupants with hammers, hatchets, bottles, bricks and hedge sticks. Six of the victims were taken to hospital with scalp wounds, and 28 of the Brummagen boys were arrested.

Violent clashes between the gangs continued until the late 1920s, but Billy Kimber's influence diminished, and in 1927 he left for America. He went first to Phoeniz AZ, where it is believed he killed a man who owed him money (his eldest daughter Maudie used to say: "you owed our dad money, you paid with your life"), then Los Angeles, and finally Chicago. In Chicago he was hidden by his friend Murray Humphreys, a member of Al Capone's gang.

Billy Kimber had married Elizabeth Garnham in 1926, although he had a daughter, May Kimber, by her in 1923. On May Kimber's birth certificate, William Kimber is given as a China and Glass Dealer, living at 18 Warren Street, Finsbury. The mother is given as Eliza Kimber late Giles formerley Garnham, so she is presumably the Eliza Mary Ann Garnham who married John F Giles 4th qtr 1915 Islington RD.

Billy returned to England in 1929, and apparently set up as a legitimate bookmaker: several advertisments in the Western Morning News in 1937 had an advertisment "Bet with a reliable man Billy Kimber".

Billy Kimber died in Torquay in 1945.


1939 Register entry

29 September 193910 Princes Park Hill Road, Torquay DEV (RG101/6845A/025/22 WGFD)
NameDate of BirthOccupationSexMarital Status
William KIMBER7 February 1883Commision AgentMaleMarried
Elizabeth KIMBER27 October 1896Unpaid Domestic DutiesFemaleMarried
May KIMBER HARDINGES15 May 1923Unpaid Domestic DutiesFemaleSingle
Eliza GARNHAM2 May 1872Unpaid Domestic DutiesFemaleWidowed
1 closed entry

Possible marriage between Billy and Anna Kimber

As the result of a fracas in Dunstable in April 1914,

It seems likely that William Kimber was Billy Kimber: his age is consistent; and the Garnhams are presumably the parents of the Elizabeth Garnham whom Billy married in 1926:-

If Anna Kimber were really William's wife, then Billy was guilty of bigamy, as his first wife Maud was still alive. However, there seems to be no record of any marriage between a William Kimber and an Anna in the period 1902 to 1914 (althought there are several to an Ann or Annie)

Electoral Registers show Anna and William Kimber living at 17 New Cut, London in 1917. William seems to have left by 1921, though Anna was still living there in 1939. She died 1st qtr 1941 Lambeth RD.


Carl Chinn: The Real Peaky Blinders: Billy Kimber, the Birmingham Gang and the Racecourse Wars of the 1920s, Brewin Books 2014

Brian McDonald: Gangs of London: 100 Years of Mob Warfare, Milo Books 2010

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