Arthur Robert Cripps was born on 13 August 1859 in Bermondsey, the second child of John William Cripps and Mary Jane Woodward. He married his French-Belgian wife, Octavie Marie Mabille, in what was known as “the French Church” in Soho.
Arthur was a tobacconist by trade, owning and operating a string of shops in London which had varying degrees of success. His first known foray into shopkeeping was as a tobacconist at 145 Westminster Bridge Road in Lambeth, where he was known to have been from around 1888 to about 1892. Arthur was living here with his wife, children and his younger sister, Emma Jane Cripps, who was listed on the 1891 census as the tobacconist manageress – four years later she was married to Thomas Charles Kipps. Arthur’s second, third and fourth children (Rosalie, Louise and Violet) were all born here.
He then moved his family out of the inner city, to the affluent suburb of Brockley. It was during these years (1892 to about 1899) when Arthur ran a tobacconist shop across the road from the Royal Courts at number 68 Fleet Street. Here, he managed to grow his business and make a name for himself over a number of years, until he was eventually forced out by competition in the area who saw the potential in taking over the shop.
Presumably because of the closure of his business on Fleet Street, he had to leave the family home in Brockley. With the help of a friend who was established in the publican trade, Arthur then took over a pub on Charing Cross Road named The Palace Tavern. Looking inside the 1900 Kelly’s Directory of London, A. R. Cripps is listed as the proprietor of The Palace Tavern, 103 Charing Cross Road. Business here was not as good as it had been for Arthur in the past and his bad luck was to continue.
The pub was right on the edge of the Westminster district of Soho, which by many accounts was not a very pleasant place. Smells pervaded the building and new drainage had to be installed. This all suggested the family were living in unsanitary conditions, which hit home when one of Arthur’s daughters caught an eye infection which nearly caused blindness. Soho was known for being the red light district of the West End of London and the pub was apparently frequented by prostitutes and their clients. If the environment they were living in hadn’t made them ill already, they would have had a great deal of stress upon them and their business. It was soon after that Arthur declared himself bankrupt – a decision which Arthur surely did not want to make.
Left picking up the pieces with his failed pub business, Arthur was helped out by his father, who was living in retirement on the island of Jersey. The family moved to 106 Upper Grange Road just off the Old Kent Road in Bermondsey. Here Arthur took over a business he was familiar with, but a little further out of the city, which probably allowed him to run at a more comfortable pace than Fleet Street. It was at 106 Upper Grange Road where ‘A. R. Cripps, tobacconist and newsagent’ stood until Arthur’s sudden death in 1911. The shop stayed in the family’s hands for several decades until it was sold and has been run as a newsagent (selling tobacco) ever since, with the most notable change being Upper Grange Road losing its name in the 1930s in favour of ‘Dunton Road’. In 2012, the store enlarged, as it swallowed up the shop next door to become a Londis convenience store.
Arthur Robert Cripps died 12 April, 1911 in Bermondsey of pneumonia. He was laid to rest at Nunhead Cemetery (read more).