Manuscripts and Special Collections

Activity 5 - "Things can only get better"

Enquiry Question

"Things can only get better".

In what ways has life got better for the inhabitants on Sun Street and what can the granddaughter look forward to in the future?


  • Drawing on the sources they have used, bring a conclusion together on how life on Sun Street has changed over the generations
  • Compare the early 20th century living conditions in Nottingham to today's early 21st century living conditions - what has changed?
  • Analyse the usefulness of the sources to find out about the past. What sources would they keep and what would they discard?
  • Produce a PowerPoint/display about the health and living conditions of Nottingham

Core Resources

  • Picture 1 - Aerial view of dense working-class housing in the Narrow Marsh area of Nottingham in 1919. (Picture the Past, NTGM001896)
  • Document 1 - Extracts from J.R. Martin, 'Report on the Sanatory Condition of Nottingham, Coventry, Leicester, Derby, Norwich, and Portsmouth' (Second Report of the Commissioners for inquiring into the State of Large Towns and Populous Districts, Appendix Part II; 1845 (602) (610), XVIII.1, 299)
  • Document 2 - Thomas Hawksley's obituary from The Times, 25 Sep. 1893 (4 pages)
  • Document 3 (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. (Medical Rare Books WC264 FAR: pp 145-147)

Other Resources

  • All other resources used in previous lessons
  • Access to computers if available
  • Library resources and book boxes if available


Outline Starter

  • Set the scene with the pupils. The granddaughter is now grown up and her own granddaughter is asking her how living conditions have changed from the mid 19th century to the present day.
  • They will then have to produce a PowerPoint/display using the evidence to show these changes over time and answer the question, "Have things always got better?"


  • Pupils to do independent research and use prior knowledge from the documents to begin to present information.
  • They should have access to all the documents they have previously used either via the internet or by hard copy and their presentation must cover the mid 19th century, early 20th century and conclude with them looking at the present day and what health and living conditions today are like.
  • Specifically refer to the principal collection of resources downloadable for this lesson. Pupils can also include other ones as they see fit.
  • In their PowerPoint they should consider the following:
    • What evidence was most useful?
    • What can be learnt collectively from the sources?
    • How useful are the sources when studying the living conditions and health of the people of Nottingham?
    • Are there any limitations to the sources and also what else they have been able to find out?
    • How applicable is this case study to other areas of Great Britain during this period?


  • Would you have liked to have lived in Nottingham during the mid 19th century? Why?

Alternative options

  • PowerPoint/poster presentation


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Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

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