Manuscripts and Special Collections

Last Orders

This exhibition ran from Thursday 16 June until Sunday 9 October 2022, at the Weston Gallery, Lakeside Arts.

Through vivid local stories, Last Orders: Stories of alcohol and abstinence in the East Midlands, examined the tensions that have marked Britain’s changing relationship with alcohol. It considered the two centuries before the First World War, and a series of economic and political transformations that prompted questions about the place of drink and the need to regulate alcohol consumption.

The materials on display demonstrated some of the ways in which drink was celebrated. Brewing beer was a source of local pride, and selling alcohol provided employment and tax revenues. Local pubs were places of storytelling, companionship and plenty of incident. 

Against these constructions, the exhibition traced the emergence of the temperance movement in the 19th century, which held drink responsible for urban disorder and domestic neglect, economic inactivity and poor health.  Last Orders made the case that temperance efforts to call time on drinking represented a new model of civic participation and even citizenship.   

Last Orders poster


In this online version of the exhibition you can read a selection of the exhibition boards and find out more about the exhibition content. 

A series of events took place in connection with the exhibition.

Last Orders: Stories of alcohol and abstinence in the East Midlands was jointly curated by Dr David Beckingham of the School of Geography and Manuscripts and Special Collections.


Exhibition themes  


 Accessing items from our collections

Items from our collections are available to consult in the Manuscripts and Special Collections reading room on King's Meadow Campus.

You can search our catalogues to find items in the manuscript and printed collections relating to pubs, alcohol and temperance. 



Films: Watch our series of films about items which featured in the exhibition


The curator, Dr David Beckingham, introduces William Parsons (solicitor and Mayor of Nottingham), whose diaries feature in the exhibition.

The curator presents a letter from Worksop's Independent Order of Good Templars to the 7th Viscount Galway, Conservative MP for North Nottinghamshire, 3 July 1880.



Dr David Beckingham presents a letter relating to the sale of the Portland Hotel in Creswell, Derbyshire, 15 June 1880.

 An introduction by the curator to the materials on display in the Weston Gallery at Lakeside Arts.


From the blog

Read a blog by the curator of Last Orders

Last Orders at the Weston GalleryIllustration of a 'Convivial meeting at Nottingham' from Woodward's 'Eccentric Excursions', 1817Curator Dr David Beckingham, talks about the challenges of selecting content for the exhibition 

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 Last Orders: Pubs and maps

11-11464p_Not-3.B8A blog by curator Dr David Beckingham introduces some of the maps encountered in his research for the exhibition

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Around with William Parsons

22-64870m_6001700466 FlyingDr David Beckingham discusses how he used the diaries of local solicitor William Parsons to explore the place of alcohol

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Recordings of some of the talks held in the Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside Arts are available here 

Beer Flavour – A matter of taste?

Beer remains the UK’s favourite drink, although consumer tastes in beer styles have evolved throughout the history of industrial brewing. Professor David Cook of the University’s International Centre for Brewing Science will examine how beer stimulates our senses and evaluate historical and modern trends in consumer preference and expectations for our national drink.  

Catch up with a recording of the talk which took place on 28 June 2022

Taking the pledge: The temperance movement in Britain

From its foundations in the 1830s, the temperance movement offered its members a vision of individual and collective improvement if they abstained from alcohol. Dr David Beckingham illustrates how temperance groups were organised and investigate how they impacted national debates about drink control for the rest of the 19th century.

Catch up with a recording of the talk which took place on 10 August 2022


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Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

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