2.30am, August 31, 1888: Polly Nichols last seen alive in Osborn-st

Osborn-street, corner of Whitechapel-rd, last place Polly Nichols is seen alive at 2.30am August 31,

Osborn-street, corner of Whitechapel-rd, last place Polly Nichols is seen alive at 2.30am August 31, 1888 - Credit: Bishopsgate Inst

Polly Nichols is seen alive for the last time at 2.30am in Osborn-street on August 31, 1888, disappearing round the corner eastward along the Whitechapel-road.

18 Thrawl-st, Spitalfields, common lodging house where Polly Nichols was living

18 Thrawl-st, Spitalfields, common lodging house where Polly Nichols was living - Credit: Archant

Two hours earlier, she leaves a pub in Brick Lane at 12.30am and heads down Thrawl-street to spend the night at a common lodging house at No 18—but is turned away because she doesn’t have the 4d for a bed (fourpence=2p).

Her last known words are that she will “soon earn the money on the street with the help of my new bonnet.” Nichols had made enough money that night to pay for her bed three times over, suggesting at the fourpence ‘going rate’ for an East End street prostitute that she had three clients—but had drunk it all away. It is to cost her life.

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August 26, 1845: Mary Ann Nichols, her real name, was born to locksmith Edward Walker and his wife Caroline on, at a tenement in Dean-street, off Fetter-lane, Holborn.


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January 16, 1864: She married a printer’s machinist, William Nichols. The couple have five children between 1866 and 1879.

1880: Their marriage breaks up. William pays her a weekly allowance of five shillings (25p) until 1882, when he hears that she is working as a prostitute—he is not legally required to support her if she is earning money through illicit or immoral means.

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Nichols spend most of her remaining years in workhouses and common lodging houses, living off charitable handouts and her meagre earnings as a prostitute.

She lives with her father for a year, but leaves after a quarrel and moves in with a blacksmith named Drew.

1888: Nichols is back on the streets again. She is put in the Lambeth workhouse after being discovered sleeping rough in Trafalgar Square, but quits when she gets a job as a servant in Wandworth.

By then, she is an alcoholic. Her employers are teetotal. She leaves two months later, stealing clothing worth 70 shillings (£3.50).

Nichols, known around the East End as Polly, lives in the lodging house Thrawl-street, sharing a room with Emily ‘Nelly’ Holland, at the time of her murder aged 43.

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