Children of the Nichol

Children in the East End. Artillery LaneSince The Nichol had no cars to worry about, children walked around freely and safely, getting up to a lot of different things. Sometimes, if they could find two barrows, they would tie the shafts of the wheels together and play tramcars. One person would sit on the barrows as the driver and the rest of the children would push him along and try to keep it from tipping up.


Children of the East End. Taken in Artillery lane, Bishopsgate (above)

The children of The Nichol used to go down to a canal in Kingsland Road and dive and swim around. The police didn’t mind, perhaps thinking that the children were getting a good wash.  It was quite dangerous since there was no one to protect a drowning child. Once, a bigger boy threw Arthur into the deep end, who swallowed a lot of water. Someone pulled him out and turned him upside down in the local pub just opposite. Arthur was in hospital for a week and the boy who threw him in ended up drowning in the very same canal some years later.

If a child could get hold of a barrow, even one made from an orange box and pram wheels, then they could go to the market and collect waste potatoes or tomatoes and give them to their mother for the evening meal. They’d also collect broken up orange boxes and sell them round the houses as firewood, perhaps making a penny a bundle. The children might also provide the coal for some of the houses, collected from ‘Haggerston Gasworks’ and then sold to people who were perhaps too elderly to bring the coal themselves.

Thieving was commonplace since it earned what seemed like a large amount of money for a child. Slow moving carts could easily have their tailboards lifted down and contents removed.  All items, even single tubs of margarine, were easily salable to corner shops. Sometimes they would steal fruit from the stalls and they were always ready with a quick excuse to cover over any mishaps that might arise.

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