Upbringing and Family Life
The Nichol was reckoned by Arthur and others since then, to be the poorest area in London
at that time. However, it was very child-friendly and one of the roads, Boundary
Street, was an area the kids could call their own. Everybody knew the children
of the Nichol, and everybody was kind to them. Find out more
Arthur’s sister, known as ‘Mighty’, was the main bread winner of the house since his mum was crippled, and his
dad was fast approaching blindness and somewhat lazy. ‘Mighty’ used to buy and
sell lemons, and still had time to run errands for their mother whenever required,
which included the delivery of her finished matchboxes. However, Arthur’s mum
was always the ‘top johnnie’ (as was the tradition at the time) and any wages
earned by the kids or his father went straight to her and were distributed by
her in whichever way she saw fit.
When the Nichol was knocked down in 1895, the family was relocated to another
one bedroom house only a few hundred yards away in Drysdale Street. They got kicked
out for having children in the family (children not being allowed at that property)
and settled for one cold winter night under Brick Lane railway arch with many
other homeless families, complete with a wheel barrow full of all their possessions.
Arthur and his family then settled in Bacon Street (another one bedroom house), where the youngest of his siblings, baby George
was born. Owing to there now being six people in one tiny little room, Arthur
took upon himself to free up space and went out to live and survive alone on the
cold winter streets. His mother never noticed how dirty he was when he returned
for the evening meal.
After about three weeks of sleeping rough, Arthur eventually got rescued by a
policeman who took him in, and after visiting Arthur's house and discovering the
impoverished conditions, committed him to Barnardos Orphanage on the 26 January
1896. He lived there for the next three years, which were 'the happiest of his
young life' and provided all Arthur's daily food and education.
On leaving Barnardos Arthur started to earn a bit of money and had a string of
low paid jobs, the most notable of which was working with a cabinet maker. He
tried to join the army numerous times and saw it as a way of escaping the hardships
which left him either sleeping on the floor or sleeping rough. Find out more
Continue to 'Criminal Apprenticeship'>>
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