Manuscripts and Special Collections

Activity 1: Sun Street in the early 20th century

Enquiry Question

What would it have been like to live in Sun Street in the early 20th century? 


  • Use of sources to gain an understanding of housing conditions in Nottingham during the early 20th century
  • Gain an understanding of how photographic evidence can be used to find out about living conditions in Nottingham during the early 20th century
  • Produce a written account of what Sun Street would be like from the granddaughter's perspective


  • Picture 1 - Houses on Sun Street (formerly Sherwin Street), Nottingham, 1912. (Picture The Past, NTGM002129)
  • Picture 2 - Woman collecting water from a communal water pump on Malt Mill Lane, Narrow Marsh area, 1931. (Picture The Past, NTGM000962)
  • Picture 3 - Woburn Court, off Colwick Street, 1930. (Picture The Past, NTGM002470)
  • Picture 4 - Lewis Square off Sussex Street, Narrow Marsh area, 1934. (Local Studies Library, Nottinghamshire County Libraries)
  • Picture 5 - Parr's Yard, Finkill Street clearance area, c.1931. (Local Studies Library, Nottinghamshire County Libraries)
  • Picture 6 - Family with chickens in a court off Red Lion Street, Narrow Marsh area, 1919. (Picture The Past, NTGM001893)
  • Picture 7 - Aerial view of dense working-class housing in the Narrow Marsh area of Nottingham in 1919. (Picture The Past, NTGM001896)


Outline Starter

  • Ask pupils to describe their home, all its rooms etc. Ask them where they would find the toilet in their house? How many people use their toilet? Do they share their toilet with their neighbours?
  • Show Picture 1 on an OHP, PowerPoint, or printed out and shared 1 between 2
  • Q and A to generate pupils' curiosity about the building:
    • What do you think this building is?
    • How many people do you think lived here?
    • Who would live here?
    • Where do you think the toilet is in this house?
  • Lead onto pupils inferring that the doors underneath the windows are the toilets.
    • When do they think this would have been taken?
    • Why would this picture have been taken?
  • Introduce the two characters which the series of lessons will be based around (grandmother and granddaughter)
    • We are going to find out what conditions are like at the time this picture was taken and 70 years earlier.
    • We will build up a picture of how Nottingham has changed. We are going to do this by looking at a range of evidence and we will begin with the early 20th century.


  • Place pupils into groups - investigation into pictures, answering inference questions on A3 worksheet.
  • Use the answers to the questions to begin to structure a written description from the bedroom of what Sun Street would typically have been like:
    • Empathetic piece of writing from the granddaughter's perspective, describing the sights, sounds and smells of a back to back courtyard (see writing frame).


Alternative options

  • The pictures could be placed on a PowerPoint to enable interaction between pupils - highlighting different aspects on the pictures, whole class feedback for the A3 sheet.


Next: Activity 2: Living conditions in Sun Street in the mid 19th century


Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

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