Manuscripts and Special Collections

About the project

In 1969 the Department of Manuscripts at the University of Nottingham published an Archive Teaching Unit on the theme of Public Health and Housing, designed for use in secondary schools. The aim of the Teaching Unit was to explore some of the problems facing the authority and inhabitants of a town in the first half of the nineteenth century when growing population and the application of new industrial techniques threw the old way of life into chaos. Many of Nottingham's problems were common to other towns; some were peculiar to Nottingham itself, arising from its particular history, geography, geology, architecture, occupations, etc. It was hoped that the material would be used to stimulate interest in the story of Nottingham and its people as well as to provide useful illustrations in the general context of English town life. A second edition of the Unit was produced in 1975.

The past 30 years have seen many changes in the way schools and universities present archival materials, and the Archive Teaching Units in their printed form now appear quite out of date. However, the original documents used in the Unit are still of enormous importance and interest, and it was felt that it would be useful to offer them as a more flexible electronic resource. The new electronic version was published in January 2008.

Our aim was to create a resource designed to appeal to a wide variety of users, including:

  • undergraduate and postgraduate students
  • school users
  • lifelong learners
  • local historians

The original Teaching Unit presented extracts or transcripts from original documents. Where possible, we have provided images and transcriptions of the whole document, allowing users to see the entire context of the material. We have also amplified the Teaching Unit by the addition of further material from our collections, and from the Picture The Past website of local photographic images. The new resources are as follows:

Theme 1, Mid-19th Century housing in Nottingham: Documents 2-3; Document 5; Photograph 1; and Photographs 4-5

Theme 2, Water supplies and sewerage in Nottingham: Document 7; and Photographs 1-4

Theme 3, Disease and Death: Document 1; Documents 6-10; Documents 12-13; and Photographs 1-3

The original introductions and background material have been retained, but commentaries relating to the additional resources have been added for the purposes of this project. Two new pages of background information have also been created for this project: 'Sanitation' in Theme 2; and 'The cholera epidemics of 1832 and 1849' in Theme 3.

The list of suggested reading created in the 1960s and 1970s has been retained, but has been supplemented by lists of more recently published material and other relevant websites. A glossary has been newly created for the site.


Lesson plans for teachers

The only sections of the original Teaching Unit not transferred into electronic form in this website were the sections intended for teachers and students. These have been replaced by new lesson plans for teachers to download and use, compatible with the National Curriculum and based on the documents presented in 'Public Health and Housing'. The lesson plans were created by Gary Mills of the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, with the support of PGCE students, in 2007.


About the site

This site examines three themes which are illustrated by documents predominantly held in Manuscripts and Special Collections.

  • Theme 1 - Mid-19th Century housing in Nottingham
  • Theme 2 - Water supplies and sewerage in Nottingham
  • Theme 3 - Disease and Death

Each theme offers:

  • A selection of images and transcripts from original sources including letters and reports
  • Commentary designed to assist users in their understanding and interpretation of the original materials

A range of supporting resources is also available to enable users to place the original documents in context. These include:

  • Glossary
  • Timeline
  • Suggested reading


About the sources

Images and transcriptions are all drawn from the holdings of the Manuscripts and Special Collections Section at the University of Nottingham unless otherwise stated.


Terms of use

'Public Health and Housing' was published in January 2008. All content of 'Public Health and Housing' is copyright to the University of Nottingham. The materials on these pages (including all commentary, transcriptions, images, etc.) are made available free of charge for personal, non-commercial use only. Any individual or body intending to publish elements of the site in any form or through any medium should fully acknowledge the source.

Any commercial use or publication of the site’s content without authorisation or acknowledgement is strictly prohibited; applications for licence enabling such use should be made to Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham.



If you wish to cite the website in a publication please list it with the URL, and the month and year you accessed it, as in the following example:

Public Health and Housing. Ed. K. Summerwill, The University of Nottingham. date you accessed the site <>.

Citations of specific documents or images which feature on the site should additionally have their reference numbers; e.g.:

MS 484/81 - Prospect of Nottingham from the East, 1707


Transfer of the Teaching Units into electronic form

The principal Project Team members for transferring the Units into electronic form have been:

Kathryn Summerwill, Elizabeth Archer and Claire Emery (Manuscripts and Special Collections)

The lesson plans for teachers were created by Gary Mills of the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, with the support of PGCE students.


Roles and contributions 

Commentaries and transcriptions: K Summerwill

Editorial work: K Summerwill

Glossary: K Summerwill

Image processing, website design and delivery: C Emery

Image capture and metadata: M Bentley, A Bowler

Project management: E Archer

Development and academic oversight of the lesson plans for teachers: G Mills


Original Teaching Unit credits

Archive Teaching Unit No.3 was compiled in 1968-9 and first issued at the end of 1969. A second edition was published in 1975, which was substantially a reprint of the first edition with a few additional notes. The compilers of the original unit were M.M. Spedding and J.L. Stewart. They expressed their gratitude to the Staff of the Local Studies Library, Nottinghamshire County Libraries and to Mrs M.A. Welch, the Keeper of the Manuscripts at the University of Nottingham, and her assistant, Mr. A. Cameron.


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Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651