Manuscripts and Special Collections

Activity 3: Life and death in Sun Street in the mid 19th century

Enquiry Question

How much do we know about life and death on Sun Street during the mid 19th century?


  • Pupils to use original documents to infer how Sun Street might have been affected by the cholera epidemics of the mid 19th century
  • Build on previous knowledge to gain a deeper understanding of living conditions in Nottingham


  • Document 1 - Plan of layout of a Nottingham court, from Thomas Hawksley Esq., 'Report on the Town of Nottingham...' (First Report of the Royal Commission for inquiring into the State of Large Towns and Populous Districts. PP [572], XVII, 1844)
  • Document 2 - Extract from the Nottingham Journal relating to the cholera epidemic in Nottingham, 4 August 1832
  • Document 3 - Background information. "The three stages of Cholera".
  • Document 4 - Case study of Mr John Kale from The date-book of remarkable and memorable events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood, from authentic records. Part 2, 1750-1884. (Nottingham: H. Field, 1884) (East Midlands Collection Not 3.D14 FIE)
  • Document 5 (Map) - Detail from Plan of the Town of Nottingham and its Environs by Edward W. Salmon, 1862 (East Midlands Special Collection Not 3.B8.E6), centred on the Narrow Marsh and Leenside area.
  • Case studies - Extracts from S.W. Wheaton, Local Government Board Reports and Papers on Cholera in England in 1893.


Outline Starter

  • Teacher to read the case study of Mr John Kale (Document 4) as a means of introducing the theme of cholera and the problems associated with the disease.


  • Using the description of the three stages of cholera (Document 3) the teacher can explain and use pupils to demonstrate the rapid deterioration of cholera sufferers.
  • Pupils are asked to read through the cholera case studies in pairs or groups and answer the following questions:
    • What types of people were involved?
    • How they may have contracted the disease?
    • What conditions did they live in?
    • What symptoms did they demonstrate?
    • How quickly did they die, or did they survive?
    • Whole class feedback on questions looking to establish common themes.


  • Introduction of the map (Document 5), looking particularly at the Lewis Square area of Nottingham (OHP/PowerPoint). Aim is for pupils to ask why cholera was such a problem in Lewis Square. Refer this back to Sun Street - pupils to infer about what chance people living on Sun Street would have of survival.
  • Pupils are then asked to speculate as to what needs to be done.
  • This then leads into Lesson 4 and the work of Thomas Hawksley.

Alternative options

  • Jigsaw activity with each group having a case study which they read and answer questions and then feedback to other pupils.


Next: Activity 4: Thomas Hawksley


Manuscripts and Special Collections

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Nottingham, NG7 2NR

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