Elliott Family History, Ancestral Trees, Biographies, Photographs and Records.
Arthur James Elliott (1891-1978)
July 1891 in Limehouse
William George Elliott
Catherine W Beetham
Dorothy Caroline Dore in 1918
Catherine Wilhelmina b. 1876
William George b. 1877
Amy Maud Mary b. 1880
Georgina Louisa b. 1882
Charles Henry b. 1884
Robina Oslar b. 1886
Jane Bruce b. 1888
Frederick Victor b. 1894
Arthur Edward b. 1921
John James b. 1927
June 1978 in Poplar

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Arthur James Elliott

Arthur James Elliott was born in the parish of Limehouse (Poplar), East London on 17 July1891 [1], the son of William George Elliott, a ship's caulker from Poplar, East London and Catherine Beetham from Mile End. The 1891 census [2], taken three months before Arthur was born, shows his parents and seven siblings living in two rooms at 20 Hanbury Buildings.

Hanbury Buildings was situated in Hanbury Place, a small courtyard located in the Parish of Limehouse at the west end of Poplar High Street between King Street (later renamed Ming Street in recognition of the local Chinese population) and Pennyfields (since demolished) [3]. The area was a mix of industrial premises interspersed with housing for the local dock labour force. Hanbury buildings was a five-storey block of artisan's dwellings which backed onto The Poplar Iron Works, and provided basic housing for those people at the lower end of the housing ladder.

Arthur attended the local Mission School attached to the Church of St Peter's Limehouse, in Garford Street. He once said that although discipline was harsh, he was grateful for the opportunity given to him to learn to read and write. Swimming lessons were conducted outside of school hours, and comprised being thrown into the Limehouse Cut (a stretch of shallow water leading off the West India Docks) by his father [4].

The 1901 census [5] for Poplar shows six members of the Elliott household in employment. Of his sisters, Catherine 'Kate' was employed making artificial flowers, Georgina 'Dot' was working in a sweet factory, Robina 'Rob' was employed as a general servant and Jane 'Ginny' was a scholar. Amy (not shown on the census) was in service as a general servant with her aunt Georgiana in St Leonard's Road. Of his brothers, William was employed as a general labourer, Charles 'Wag' worked at the local Wire Rope Works and younger brother Frederick 'Tim' was at school. Not long afterwards in 1905 the family were able to move out of Hanbury Buildings and into a house at no 43 Augusta Street, Poplar.

(Click on image below to see a larger version)

Arthur James Elliott (1891 - 1978)

Arthur James Elliott's Immediate Family

In 1905, at the age of 14, Arthur finished school and started work as an apprentice rivet-carrier. Prior to the introduction of welding, steel frame buildings were constructed by riveting the joints between the steel beams and columns. As the riveting was conducted by hand, the rivets had to be heated to red-hot before hammering them in. A fire would be built on the site and the heated rivets were then carried on a steel pan from the fire to point were they were required. As the building construction proceeded floor-by-floor the fire used to heat the rivets was usually moved up to the next floor. However, it was not always possible for the fire to keep up with the construction, and in such cases they would throw the rivets from the floor on which the fire was positioned, to the riveter who would lean-out to catch a red-hot rivet in a rivet pan. One day, Arthur James threw a rivet red-hot rivet to the floor above which the riveter failed to catch, and which subsequently landed on the road below. The road surface, being made of tar-impregnated wooden blocks (commonly used at road junctions to deaden the noise of the horse drawn traffic) then started to smoulder. A police officer was called over and, not knowing what it was, placed his foot onto the hot rivet, which promptly burnt through the sole of his boot [4].

On 30 September 1910, aged 19, Arthur joined the Royal Navy by signing on as a stoker second class for twelve years[6]. He was stationed at the Royal Navy at Chatham, Kent, which was known as HMS Pembroke (see 1911 census [7]). However, his career in the Navy was cut short when he was invalided out on 15 March 1911. On 11 January 1915, aged 24 Arthur like so many of his contemporaries answered Kitchener's call to arms and enlisted in the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery and spent the best part of the next four years serving in Northern France [8]. As a driver for the artillery he was charged with a team of up to six horses which pulled field artillery, munitions and other equipment to the front line. He was awarded the 1915 Star, British War medal 1914 - 20 and the Victory medal and was discharged in April 1919 [9].

During a spell on leave in Feb 1918 he married Dorothy Caroline Dore at All Saints Church, Poplar [10]. The wedding photograph shows on Arthur's side his mother, Catherine Beetham, sister Dot (Georgina) with baby on her lap and brother Wag (Charles), who presumably was the best man.

After the war in 1918, Arthur and Dorothy set-up home at number 27 Bloomsbury Street, Poplar (on the northern side of East India Dock Road) 11 and Arthur returned to work as a riveter, working both in the construction industry and in the docks. The 1920s saw the beginning of the economic downturn which would eventually lead to the great depression and work in the docks became more difficult to come by. There was no concept of permanent employment in the docks: all work was temporary, given out on a daily 'first-come first-served' basis. During this time Arthur worked as a labourer on construction sites, which would have paid significantly less than working in the docks.

In the winter of 1924 the family moved to a two-roomed flat in Quebec Buildings, Preston's Road, Poplar [11], a five storey tenement building constructed around the turn of the century. The building was one of six council blocks named after Canadian towns and provinces, the others being Baffin, Hudson, Ontario, Ottawa and Winnipeg.

It was whilst working on a building site in Westminster that his younger brother Frederick Victor (known as Tim) was killed in an accident (see Pimlico News 17 June 1927 and Pimlico News 24 June 1927 for details). Arthur felt that Tim was not cut-out for working on a construction site and was not happy with his elder brother William who had talked Tim into taking the job. The coroner decided that Tim's death was an accident, and that no blame should be attached to any person[12].

In 1934 the Elliott family moved the short distance from Quebec Buildings to 3 Harrap Street, Poplar where they lived until they were bombed out during the blitz in 1940. The docks in East London were targeted by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War and numbers one to three Harrap Street where destroyed by enemy bombs. Fortunately, none of the Elliott family were home at the time, but Arthur's wife Dorothy and the children were evacuated to Taunton in Somerset. The family then spent a relatively short spell living in Hornchurch in Essex, followed by a return to Poplar to number ten Scouler Street [4].

Like many east Londoners, holidays for the Elliott family consisted of hop-picking in the Kent countryside. At the end of every summer, the family would travel to Woodfalls Farm in Laddingford where they would spend the next four weeks working in the hop fields. Accommodation was very basic, consisting of corrugated iron huts arranged around communal washing and cooking facilities. Arthur would go down to spend the weekend with the family in Laddingford, and return home ready for work first thing on Monday morning [13]. The family would return home at the end of September, with the children having missed the first three weeks of the new school year.

For the next twenty years, Arthur worked in the Docks until he retired in 1965, aged 74, which was brought on by an accident which occurred whilst cycling to work in the docks early one morning. After his wife Dorothy died in 196814, Arthur moved to Maidstone House, near Chrisp Street,Poplar where he lived until he died in 1978 [15]. Arthur James is buried in East London Cemetery, Plaistow [16].

My lasting memory of my grandfather, Arthur, is that he always displayed a positive attitude and made the best of any situation. Whenever he found himself in any sort of predicament, he would always say that something would turn. Maybe this was a result of his upbringing in a working class area during the latter part of the nineteenth century or maybe it was having to live though the atrocities of the first World War, but for whatever reason these are qualities that I greatly admire.

The Elliott family, as with most families, has it share of myths or legends associated with it. These stories are handed-down through the generations, and although they tend to get embellished with every telling, they invariably contain some grain of truth. One such story, told to me in the early 1960's by Arthur, was that his brother Charles 'Wag' inherited a fish shop / restaurant which I always believed to be located somewhere in Poplar. The story goes that Wag was working at this fish shop together with the owners' three sons. For some unknown reason, the sons fell out-of-favour with their father (the owner), who left the shop to Wag in his will. So far I have been unable to find any corroborating evidence.


[1] Arthur J Elliott, Birth Certificate, 1891
[2] National Archives, 1891 Census for England and Wales, Ref. RG12/333 f65r
[3] 'Survey of London - Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs: the Parish of All Saints' (1994) vol. 43 and 44, pub. Athlone, London, ed. Porter, S.
[4] Conversations I had with Arthur during visits to Scouler Street, Poplar in early 1960's
[5] National Archives, 1901 Census for England and Wales, Ref. RG13/355 f42v
[6] Arthur J Elliott, Certificate of Service in Royal Navy, September 1910
[7] National Archives, 1911 Census for England and Wales, Chatham (HMS Pembroke)
[8] Arthur J Elliot, RH and RFA Certificate of Transfer
[9] British Army medal index cards 1914-1920, National Archives, Ref. WO 329
[10] Marriage Certificate, All Saints Church, Poplar 1918
[11] Baptism Registers, All Saints Church, 1921
[12] Pimlico News, 24 June 1927
[13] Personal recollections of Hopping
[14] Dorothy C Dore, Death Certificate 1968
[15] Arthur J Elliott, Death Certificate, 1978
[16] Arthur J Elliott, Grave Certificate, East London Cemetery