Local Authority Public Health Documents

  • Reference
      GB 133 MMC/12
  • Former Reference
      GB 133 L
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      493 items

Scope and Content

The sub-group contains official publications of local authorities in the Manchester area concerning public health. The material mainly comprises published reports of public health officials of Manchester and Salford Corporations, of which the most important are the annual reports of the Medical Officers of Health. There are also a few reports from surrounding urban district councils, Stretford, Sale and Swinton, as well as reports of the Port of Manchester Health Authority.

Administrative / Biographical History

Manchester and Salford are important areas in the history of public health. As rapidly developing urban areas, they encountered major sanitation and public health problems, and were significant in the development of statistical analysis and the implementation of bacteriological techniques. Problems such as infectious disease and malnutrition had been recognised since the late eighteenth century, and attempts were made to provide solutions. Of particular note was the Manchester Board of Health's attempts to provide infectious diseases hospitals and the formation of the Manchester and Salford Sanitary Association in 1852. However, it was only in the 1860s that an administrative structure was created that could effectively address the problems.

The administrative structure required to provide public health sprang from a number of pieces of legislation, covering local government, health and the poor. The new Poor Law came into force in 1835 and at the same time the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 enabled the incorporation of municipal and county boroughs; the borough of Manchester was formed in 1838 and that of Salford in 1844. The Public Health Act of 1848 gave central government power over sanitary condition in large urban communities, and the General Board of Health established to implement the Act. The General Board of Health was empowered to establish local boards of health in certain areas, however, the Act was largely permissive. The General Board of Health was abolished in 1858 and the public health powers were conferred by Privy Council onto local authorities. Despite this legislation, and extensive pressure from the Manchester and Salford Sanitary Association, Manchester did not appoint a medical officer of health until 1868. From the 1860s, local boards of health were established in Manchester, Salford, Withington, Levenshulme, Sale, Stretford and Swinton. At the time, some of these areas were still fairly rural, but they still suffered from malnutrition, poor housing and infectious disease.

The 1870s saw further consolidation of local control over public health. The Local Government Board was established in 1871, and was responsible for Poor Law and public health. The Public Health Act of 1875 led to more consistent administration. Borough councils became the local health authorities, and it was mandatory for each district to have a medical officer of health. The medical officer of health became the prime figure in public health, and the remit of the role rapidly developed from control of infection, to cover the wider aspects of public health such as nutrition and pollution. Covered in this sub-group are Manchester, Salford, districts later absorbed into Manchester, the Port of Manchester, and some districts in south Manchester which were not absorbed into Manchester. There were various changes to authority boundaries over the years, but the most substantial administrative change was under the Local Government Act of 1894 which led to the creation of urban and rural district councils, based on the areas covered by the local boards of health. In Manchester, a number of UDCs created in 1894 merged with Manchester between 1905 and 1909.

Infectious disease was the main driver for public health initiatives. These initiatives varied depending on prevailing scientific knowledge of infection and disease, and included sanitation, isolation, nutrition and vaccination. Control of infectious diseases was supported by a developing legal and administrative structure. Laws relating to particular aspects of public health, such as venereal diseases and tuberculosis necessitated the creation of special committees and the publication of standardised reports. The early twentieth century saw a broadening of the remit of medical officers of health. It was recognised that maternal, infant and child mortality remained unacceptably high. Education Acts of the early 1900s provided for medical inspection of schools and free meals, and from the first world war legislation made provision for maternity and child welfare. The Local Government Act of 1929 enabled county boroughs to appropriate Poor Law infirmaries as municipal hospitals. By the 1930s, the work of medical officers of health included administration of infectious diseases services, hospitals, maternity and child welfare, tuberculosis and venereal disease. There were also many school medical officers, some of whom were also medical officer of health for the area. The responsibilities of local health authorities changed substantially in 1948, with the establishment of the National Health Service. Local authorities lost their hospitals and were left with collection of miscellaneous services. The 1972 Local Government Act led to the post of medical officer of health being abolished in 1974. Public health is now administered under the narrower remit of the local Environmental Health Department.


MMC/12 is arranged into sections for each local authority:

  • /1 Manchester Corporation
  • /2 Districts absorbed into Manchester
  • /3 Port of Manchester Authority
  • /4 Salford Corporation
  • /5 Stretford UDC
  • /6 Swinton UDC
  • /7 Sale UDC

Related Material

See also Archives of the Society of Medical Officers of Health, North Western Branch (NWH) and the Society of Certifying Factory Surgeons (CFS).