The Old Nichol
Posted by Boundary Community Launderette on 18/10/2011
The Boundary Estate stands on the site of ‘The Old Nichol’, one of London’s most notorious slums or, in the language of the time, ‘rookeries’. In the mid to late 1800s the Old Nichol was home to around 5,000 people and was known as one of the poorest and most overcrowded slum areas in London. It was a particular embarrassment to the authorities, standing as it did so close to the City of London and next to the terminus of the Great Eastern Railway. At a time when there was no NHS or Social Security and the workhouse was the place of last resort the Old Nichol was a harsh place. Petty crime wasn’t unknown, but the vision of the Nichol as a den of thieves and murderers as portrayed in Arthur Morrison’s book ‘A Child of the Jago’, based on the Old Nichol, was somewhat over-exaggerated.
Arthur Morrison’s book did draw attention to the problems of the area, and the work of Reverend Osborn Jay. In the late 1880s work started on clearing the Old Nichol, and in the mid-1890s it was razed to the ground. By 1897 the first blocks of the Boundary Street Estate were opened, and the estate was officially opened in 1901 by the Prince of Wales. (These subjects are covered in our pages ‘A Brief History’ and ‘A Vicar, An Author…’
These photographs, from the Bishopsgate institute archives, show some of the buildings that existed before the estate was built.
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