Pa Noble used to work as a liftman on the London Underground. It wasn't his first choice of career; he came to London to study law but was never able to succeed in his studies. He tried finding work in offices but was unsuccessful. He ended up working at a tube station, where as well as shouting “Mind the doors!” all day, he would also collect tickets and pennies from fare-dodgers.
Noble's workmates like him, but that's mainly because he's content to play the clown for their benefit. On one occasion, for the sake of a pint of beer and to prove how strong he is, he foolishly agrees to shoulder the burden of the lift or elevator, which is normally operated by electricity.
Noble traps his right shoulder and is seriously injured. At the hospital, he's told that his shoulder will be useless for the rest of his life. The railway authorities pension him off, giving him a generous sum of money by way of compensation.
Realizing that his hopes of becoming a lawyer are fast disappearing, Pa Noble invests some of the compensation money he received in buying an old terraced house in Willes Road, not far from Kentish Town station.
Noble can only afford to buy the very cheapest property available as he doesn't wish to be saddled with a mortgage. In any case, it's unlikely that he would be able to get a mortgage anyway, as they tend only to be available for the fully-employed, the young, and white people.