Wednesday 15 April 2015 - First impressions

Welcome to ‘The Problem of the Poor?’ blog page. This blog aims to keep you, the reader informed on what we, the wonderful volunteers have discovered in our unique heritage project and how we have been getting along.

Today was the first meeting of the Wednesday group project.

Members of the Wednesday group, their buddies, and as many independent researchers as could make it came together to meet each other and explore our initial expectations and assumptions.

Film footage from 1902 showed us how parts of the city centre would have looked to Nottingham’s residents at the very end of the period we are looking at. Almost all of it was recognizable today and it was curious to think that people would have seen many of the same buildings and streets that we see today.

A quiz then gave us our first knowledge of the history of Nottingham CVS (which in its 140th year dates all the way back to 1875!) and got us thinking about the ways in which, despite the physical similarities, the Nottingham of 1875-1901 might have been a very different world to today. Discovering that this was a time before old age pensions and the NHS led us to ask whether the options available to people in need – or to people trying to avoid falling into need – were much narrower than those we have today.

Asked who we thought ‘had it hardest’ when in poverty and in need of help there was a lot of lively debate. We thought about those born abroad, older people, people with physical health problems, people with mental health problems, children and lone parents – groups that we’ll go on to explore through Nottingham CVS’s archive as the project progresses.

Alongside other subjects we discussed what we thought might have been the social attitudes of the time, the different types of support and help that may have existed, and the parts of society (and individuals within these groups) that might have been the most likely to join ‘the poor’. We didn’t agree on the impossible question of who might have ‘had it hardest’, but we did agree that there wasn’t one simple one-size-fits-all story for how people fell into poverty, or for how they were able to survive or even escape it.

Want to see Nottingham City Centre as it looked to the people who lived and worked here in 1902? Visit the British Film Institute website.

And here's a video taken from The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon, which intersperses 1902 footage of a tram journey with modern clips of a tram journey through the city.

See video
Last updated: 16 July 2015