Industrialisation transformed how and where people lived. In the century from 1800, Britain’s population more than quadrupled and became predominantly urban.
The industrial centres had many different origins. Some, such as Salford and Manchester, expanded from the nucleus of older towns. Some were small towns which expanded and merged together, as happened on Tyneside. Others were new cities, created where none had existed before – Barrow-On-Furnace, Crewe, and Middlesbrough, for example.
In 1801, London was the only city in the British Isles to have more than 100,000 residents. By 1911, there were 36 such cities. In 1851 city dwellers comprised 54 percent of the total population; by 1911 this had increased to 79 percent. This transition reflects dual influences on the population – the ‘push’ caused by growing rural poverty and the ‘pull’ of new urban opportunities.
This story looks at the emergence of new urban centres in the nineteenth century – with particular reference to Manchester. It also outlines some of the crises in public health that arose in these environments as a result and the actions that were taken in attempting to address them.