Nottingham is situated on the River Trent. The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Snotingham (the village of Snot's people). Occupied by the Danes in the 9th century and became their most important centre. The Normans also recognised the strategic importance of Nottingham and built a castle here.

In the 18th century Nottingham became an important centre for the lace and hosiery industry. The town grew rapidly in the 1780s with the boom in cotton spinning and the increased demand for hosiery products. Local framework-knitters received high-wages and this led to an increase in the number of people moving to the town. By 1845 the population of Nottingham had reached 52,000. However, by this time there was a decline in the demand for framework-knitters and the town was experiencing considerable poverty.

Primary Sources

(1) Daniel Defoe, A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724)

Nottingham is one of the most pleasant and beautiful towns in England. It is seated on the side of a hill overlooking a fine range of meadows about a mile broads, a little rivulet running on the north side of the meadows, almost close to the town; and the noble River Trent parallel with both. The beauties of Nottingham, next to the situation, are the castle, the market-place, and the gardens of Count Tallard.

Nottingham is a town of great trade. The chief manufacture carried on here is frame-work knitting for stockings, the same as at Leicester, and some glass, and earthen ware; the latter much increased since the increase of tea-drinking. As they brew a good liquor here, they send it by land-carriage to Derby, through as far as Manchester and to other towns in Lancashire, Cheshire, and even into Yorkshire.

(2) Angus Reach, The Morning Chronicle (1849)

About three-fourths of the housing in Nottingham are constructed for and occupied by the working-classes, and as a rule they are built in courts and back-to-back. The general plan of construction divides them into three clear stories, of one room each - singularly inconvenient and defective arrangement. The staircases are very steep, dark and narrow.

The lower room is in general the living apartment. It is almost floored with brick, or, if boarded, as it may be in rare cases, sand supplies the place of carpeting. The street door is invariably the room door. In point of furniture, I should say that that the living apartments of the Nottingham operatives, particularly those of the framework knitters, are decidedly inferior to the dwellings of the mass of the work people in the cotton, woollen, and northern coal districts. I have been frequently struck with the bare appearance of the rooms, and this even in the houses of middlemen in the hosiery trade, who had perhaps a dozen or score of knitting frames at work. An inferior sort of sofa, however, and a clock are common. The lace-workers' houses are somewhat better furnished. A few of the latter belonging to operatives earning the higher class of wages. The apartment on the first floor is invariably a bedroom; that above it either a bedroom or a workshop, in which the knitting machines and occasionally warp-lace frames are set.

In the late cholera visitation Nottingham got off almost scot-free. There occurred but eight cases of which six resulted in death. One of the causes of this comparative immunity may no doubt be found in the sanitary improvements effected since 1832. The water supply subsequent to that year has been, and is, most abundant; and the work of sewer-making and pavement-making has been steadily progressive. A sanitary committee was appointed and thirty-four dwellings erected over the privies and ash-pits have been removed, the change in many instances throwing open hitherto unventilated courts and noisome alleys. A great number of foul nuisances of a similar class, including 21 pig-sties and 24 cess-pools containing "dangerous collections of manure", have been got rid of, and many courts and small streets paved and drained.