About the Case Study

This case study looks at the improvement of public health in Sunderland during the nineteenth century, and the role played in that process by local people and by Parliament.   It is the result of research carried out by a group of local volunteers.

Sunderland is significant in the development of public health because it was the site of the first outbreak of cholera in the UK in 1831. 

Find out more about cholera in Sunderland.

Cholera was able to take a hold in the cramped and unsanitary living conditions then widespread in the poorer parts of Sunderland.  Our group of local volunteers looked at contemporary accounts of what those areas were like at the time, including evidence given to Parliamentary committees.  They also carried out research using the records of the local authority, Sunderland Corporation, to see what was being done at a local level to improve conditions in the town, and how this fitted in with action being taken by Parliament at a national level.

The research was carried out at Tyne and Wear Archives in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and at Parliamentary Archives in London.  The group also visited significant sites in Sunderland including Donnison School and the Church of Holy Trinity, two rare survivals from the eighteenth century East End.