Home Library Library Displays The Life of Arthur Harding Upbringing and Family Life

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.

Arthur Harding as a Barnardo Boy

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


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