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Mary Ann "Polly" Walker married William Nichols on January 16, 1864. She would have been about 22 years old. The marriage was performed by Charles Marshall, Vicar of Saint Bride’s Parish Church in Fleet Street and witnessed by Seth George Havelly and Sarah Good.
Polly and William lived for a time in Bouverie St and then moved to 131 Trafalgar St, Walworth (Central London, within the London Borough of Southwark) with her father.
The couple’s first child, son William Edward, was born on 17th December 1864 but died in infancy in 1866. Their second son, Edward John, was born on 4th of July 1866; and their third one, Percy George, on 18th July 1868. They all were christened on the 9th August 1868 at St Peter, Walworth. The Nicholses first daughter, Alice Esther, was born on December 1870.
Around 1874 the family moved at 6D Peabody Buildings, Stamford St, Blackfriars Rd, Lambeth (South London). There they were paying a rent of 5 shillings, 6 pence per week. On December 1876 they had their second daughter, Eliza Sarah, and their marital problems began. On December 4th 1878 their son Henry Alfred was born.
Around 1880/81 William and Polly separated and he retained custody of the children except for the oldest, Edward John, who left home on his own accord, aged around 14. It was the last of many separations during 24 years of marriage.
After the separation, Polly began a sad litany of moving from workhouse to workhouse (a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment). From 6thSeptember 1880 to 31st May 1881 Polly entered Lambeth Workhouse. Legally required to support his estranged wife, William Nichols paid her an allowance of five shillings a week until 1882, when he heard that she was working as a prostitute; he was not required to support her if she was earning money through illicit means. Polly went to Lambeth Parish who summonsed William for restoration of maintenance. Parish authorities tried to collect maintenance money from him. He countered that she had deserted him leaving him with the children. He won his case after establishing that she was living as a common prostitute, and the charges were dropped. William no longer had to pay the allowance.
Polly’s father spread the story that the separation had come about due to William having an affair with the nurse who took care of Polly during her last confinement. William did not deny that he had had an affair but states that it was not the cause of her leaving. “The woman left me four or five times, if not six.” He claimed that the affair took place after Polly left. By 1883 William Nichols had a child by his next door neighbour at Peabody building, widow Rosetta Walls nee Vidler. Both families are on the 1881 census at this address, William is alone and has his and Polly’s children living with him. His son with Polly Henry Alfred was baptised as the son of William and Rosetta in 1883 and also his son with Rosetta Arthur Walls Nichols was baptised on the same day.