In October 1966, two tutors of the University of Nottingham's Adult Education Department, Ken Coates and Bill Silburn, conducted an investigation into the social, economic, health and educational conditions of a large suburb of Nottingham which had been scheduled for redevelopment. Initially unidentified, it was later revealed to be St Ann's. The investigation began as part of the tutors' class 'The Anatomy of Britain', held in 1965-1966.
In the mid-1800s, thousands of back-to-back terraced houses had been built in St Ann's, along with various amenities and green spaces for recreation. Although of a high standard for working class accommodation at the time, by the 1960s, St Ann's was impoverished and run-down. In 1969 a Local Housing Act raised legal standards for housing considered 'fit for human habitation', and as a result the area was scheduled for redevelopment. At the time of the survey, this was expected to take 15 years. Some residents were moved into The Meadows. Clearance of some land took place in 1969. Building of new houses started in 1973 but the development programme continued into the 1980s.
During the 1965-66 year, the class read Abel-Smith & Townsend's work 'The poor and the poorest', a study of statistics about poverty which used a new methodology to collect the data. The book became the basis of their research in Nottingham. St Ann's was chosen partly because of its proximity to their work base, but also as the group knew this to be an area of deprivation.
Data was collected in a variety of different ways, including in-depth interviews with 1 in 6 households. One of the characteristics that made the study ground-breaking was that it did not focus on specific groups (e.g. state pensioners, the unemployed etc). Instead the students collected information from a representative cross section of the whole community.
The published report was entitled 'St Ann's: Poverty, Deprivation and Morale in a Nottingham Community'. It showed that 36% of the population of St Ann's lived in poverty, and caused a huge amount of publicity and controversy.
The survey data and the report were the basis of the television documentary 'St Ann's' (1969) directed by Stephen Frears for Thames Television. Ken Coates and Richard Silburn published a controversial and widely acclaimed book 'Poverty: The Forgotten Englishmen' (Penguin Press, 1970). In 2007 the original report was republished to mark its 40th anniversary.