The Last Refuge Collection

Scope and Content

The study covers the period 1958-1959. Papers are sorted into 51 files stored in two archival boxes.

Box one contains 3 files on the pilot stage; 9 files of interviews with Welfare Officers grouped by region; 11 files of interviews with owners/staff from homes for the elderly.

Box two contains 10 files of contextual information including diaries, correspondence, press releases, reports and questionnaires; 18 files of drafts of chapters for Townsend's publication The Last Refuge, including tables, analyses and printed ephemera.

Administrative / Biographical History

This collection of interviews and associated documentation was created in a qualitative study of long-stay institutional care for old people in the mid- twentieth century; it used diaries, documentary research and face-to-face interviews with welfare officers, staff and residents. It complements the earlier study by Townsend The Family Life of Old People.

Conditions Governing Access

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 Last Refuge 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.


Townsend, P. The Last Refuge, A Survey of Residential Institutions and Homes for the Aged in England and Wales, (1962)(London: Routledge and Kegan Paul) .

Additional Information

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