Papers of Richard (Bill) Silburn relating to his work with Ken Coates upon poverty in the St Ann's and Edwards Lane areas of Nottingham in the 1960s; 1960s-1970s

Scope and Content

The collection contains:

Manuscript and typescript draft of 'Poverty, deprivation and morale in a Nottingham community : St. Ann’s : a report of the preliminary findings of the St. Ann’s Study Group' by Ken Coates and Richard Silburn (1967), together with typescript copy, with manuscript annotations, of the submitted text (MS 875/1);

Papers and publications relating to the St Ann's research; copies of newspaper articles etc and a transcript of BBC Radio 4 documentary entitled 'The Battle of St Ann's' based on 'Poverty: The Forgotten Englishmen'. (MS 875/2);

Photographs taken by Donald Cooper of the St Ann's area in the 1960s. (MS 875/3).

Administrative / Biographical History

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.


The papers have been arranged into series based on works written and published by Silburn, published papers about his work, and the photographs used to support the research.

Access Information

Accessible to all readers.

Other Finding Aids

Copyright in all finding aids belongs to The University of Nottingham.

Online: Available on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue, accessible from the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements


Conditions Governing Use

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult.

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections

Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Custodial History

The papers were acquired in August 2010.

Related Material

Recorded interviews with residents of St Ann's, members of the study group, Ken Coates and Bill Silburn, and with the BBC producer Charles Parker, in the Charles Parker Archive, Birmingham Central Library (their catalogue reference MS 4000/6/1/66).

Papers relating to the Ken Coates Memorial Lecture Series (Ref: MS 958)

Kenneth Coates Collection (printed books) (Ref: KCC)

Papers of Kenneth Coates (1930-2010) University of Nottingham academic, sociologist and politician (Ref: KCS)


Ken Coates & Richard Silburn; "St Ann's Poverty, Deprivation and Morale in a Nottingham Community", ISBN: 978 0 85124 732 8Ken Coates & Richard Silburn; "Poverty: The Forgotten Englishmen", ISBN: 978 0 85124 375 7Abel-Smith & Townsend; "The Poor and the Poorest", London 1965.'St Ann's', documentary for Thames Television, directed by Stephen Frears.