I was delighted to be asked to co-host Housing History Hour https://www.househistoryhour.co.uk on 4thFebruary at 7pm (GMT) and this post draws together more online resources that can be helpful to those wishing to learn more.

Please click here to see the #HouseHistoryHour Moments from that event.

I am constantly finding new resources and am putting these together here so they are easier to find and add to in the future. You may find my previous post on documentary type films of interest too.

There are resources I have referred to before that are really good to help gain a sense of poor housing in the past and the effects it has on occupiers physical and mental health. Poor housing is recorded in a variety of ways, including in photography. Nick Hedges is amazing and photographs are immensely moving, particularly the way in which he forms relationships with the characters in his pictures. By coincidence, this was published this week on Nick Hedges’ photography. Other great photographers featuring housing and communities are Tish Murtha and Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen.


Here is a list of virtual places to search for housing history images:

Wellcome: https://wellcomecollection.org/images

British Library: https://imagesonline.bl.uk/

National Archives: https://images.nationalarchives.gov.uk/assetbank-nationalarchives/action/viewHome

London Metropolitan Archive: https://www.londonpicturearchive.org.uk/london-metropolitan-archives

Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture: https://moda.mdx.ac.uk/collections/photographs/

Bishopsgate: https://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/archives    https://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/archives-1/accessing-the-archives

With regard to Copyright, the rule of thumb is to never use photographs without written permission and this can be a complicated process. The archivists will often try to help you secure permission from the relevant person who ‘created’ the photograph in the first place, but finding this person can be hard work. Publishers are quite rightly strict on this. Sometimes copyright has expired or – where applicable – you can use the photograph with a Creative Commons Licence and again you must be careful to follow the exact instructions about what to write to acknowledge the photographer’s work.

These two relevant posts demonstrate use of photographs and acknowledgements:


These are some general websites I have come across in the course of my work that are interesting around the history of public health and housing:


https://wellcomelibrary.org/moh  (Medical Officer of Health Reports 1848-1972)




https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/features/thomas-annan (Scroll to The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow) https://digital.nls.uk/learning/thomas-annan-glasgow/

You may also find resources in local archives and the staff there are usually immensely helpful and know exactly where everything is. Some people have been kind enough to get in touch with me and share unique resources they have such as Inspector’s Notebooks. It has also been possible to find other photographs and documents people keep in their own homes, but are happy to share, for example via social media, including ancestry sites. These can really help build up a more detailed history, including – if you are lucky – stories that can lead you to new resources and places.


Others have been really helpful in adding to this post. Thanks to:

@History_Will (with whom I have previously enjoyed presenting) – In  France, Gérard Boncourt photographed workers and working-class conditions in the Nord in 1950-60s, including some now demolished: http://bloncourt2.over-blog.com/2015/01/a-voir-absolument.html (added January 2021)

@GraemeMitchell3 – Liverpool’s housing: https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/incoming/gallery/slums-poor-workhouses-liverpool-4729582  (added January 2021)

@urban_formation – Jacob Riis (USA):  https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/jacob-riis?all/all/all/all/0

Leeds: http://www.leodis.net/default.aspx (added 2 February 2021)

@MissSarahWise –  advises to check out any local history libraries since they often have an unusual range of images and may be very reasonable on cost. The RIBA library is for those who want to drill down deep but there may be a day pass fee. The Builder (today Building Magazine) has a fantastic archive that researchers used to be welcome to use. Also digitised copies of the Illustrated London News are good (added 3 February) (I will aim to add links in due course).
@UWEenvhealth – Bath Public Health Records: https://www.batharchives.co.uk/records-public-health