The Katharine Buildings Collection

Scope and Content

The study covers the period 1885- 1962. The main part of the collection comprises unpublished papers, completed questionnaires, background paperwork and copies of earlier studies undertaken in the nineteenth century. These papers are sorted into thirty six files and are stored in two archival boxes.

There is one file of manuscript drafts based on the research; one file of notes and queries relating to the research; one file of photographs and related pamphlets; one file of correspondence (1957, 1961-63); one file of references and sources; one file of biographical information; one file of correspondence between Ella Pycroft and Beatrice Webb; one file of extracts from Beatrice Webb's Diaries; one file on Housing Policy; two files of research from the 1880's; four files from Townsend's study; thirteen files from Townsend's survey of Katharine Buildings in 1957; eight files from Townsend's survey of Katharine Buildings in 1962.

Administrative / Biographical History

This material formed the basis for an unpublished study of the inhabitants of a building in Stepney, London. Established in 1885 as an experiment in improving working-class living conditions, the Katharine Buildings housed many descendants of the original tenants at the time of Townsend's study. Use was made of original notes and ledgers created by Beatrice Webb (nee Potter) and Ella Pycroft whilst managing the building, as well as surveys, participant observation and interviews carried out by Townsend.

Access Information

By written application to either the Librarian or Deputy Librarian. A letter of introduction may be required and prospective users will be obliged to sign an undertaking outlining the terms and conditions of access to the research materials.

Other Finding Aids

A collection level record for all paper based materials in the Katharine Buildings data collection is available via Qualidata's online catalogue, Qualicat.

Conditions Governing Use

No part of the NSPCSA collections may be reproduced, published, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Albert Sloman Library. This may be obtained by application to the Librarian or Deputy Librarian.

Professor Peter Townsend requests the right to view any work containing extensive quotation.


The materials held in the collection contain personal and identifying information. It is essential that the privacy of all respondents is not infringed. No real names or any other identifiable information used in the studies may appear in public. No attempt may be made to contact respondents directly. Use of the materials to derive information relating specifically to an identified individual or to claim to have done so is prohibited.

Appraisal Information

In consultation with academic colleagues, the library special collections acquisitions staff evaluate collections by assessing their relevance to the teaching and research interests of the University.

Custodial History

The collection was held by Peter Townsend as part of his personal papers until 1996. Then it was prepared for archiving by Qualidata and deposited in the NSPSCA. A life story interview with Townsend lasting 20 hours was conducted as part of the archiving project.


No additional material is expected.

Additional Information

National Social Policy and Social Change Archive (NSPSCA), Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex.