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Bradford health - general

This page looks at several indicators of the way that health changed in Bradford during the Industrial Revolution. Starting with a famous commentary by George Weerth it addresses the negative aspects of industrialisation. This sort of comment is worth exploring in more depth, by analysis of housing conditions and the life expectancy statistics. Examples of these are provided in the second source which provides information about the numbers of Woolcombers who died in a number of age brackets. Taken in isolation these provide but a snapshot of what life expectancy truly was, so they are followed with some more general statistics about life expectancy to help you place them into context. The fourth source in this section provides a clue as to the cause of the low life expectancy figures and the reasons for Bradford becoming a place in which the poor toiled hard and died young.

Things to think about:

  1. Is this a balanced picture of what Bradford was like during the 19th century?
  2. How does Bradford compare with other towns?
  3. What reasons are there for these conditions?


Source 1

Every other factory town in England is a paradise in comparison to this hole. In Manchester the air lies like lead upon you; in Birmingham it is just as if you were sitting with your nose in a stove pipe; in Leeds you have to cough with the dust and the stink as if you had swallowed a pound of Cayenne pepper in one go - but you can put up with all that. In Bradford, however, you think you have been lodged with the devil incarnate. If anyone wants to feel how a poor sinner is tormented in Purgatory, let him travel to Bradford.

George Weerth, 1846

Source 2

Deaths of WOOLCOMBERS in BRADFORD in 1844

  ...under 5 5-21 above 21 Total Average at death  
West Bradford 79 15 39 133 17 years  
East Bradford 106 14 41 161 14 years 2 months  

Source 3

Average age of death in the West Riding of Yorkshire 1844

Average of death in the West Riding.................25 years 11
Average age of death in Ripon.........................36 years 3
Average age of death in Leeds.........................23 years 4
Average of death in BRADFORD....................20 years 3 months

Source 4

From a contemporary source:

These towns have been built by small speculators with no interest for anything except immediate profit. A carpenter and a brick-layer club together to buy a patch of ground, and cover it with what they call houses. In one place we saw a whole street following the course of a ditch, in order to have deeper cellars without the cost of excavations.The streets are unpaved, with a dunghill or a pond in the middle; the houses are built back to back without ventilation or drainage.

In this unit:

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Recommended Resources highly recommends these sites: - fantastic range of interactive games, revision materials and links. - outstanding use of ICT to engage pupils. - a brilliant range of learning activities from Ian Dawson - simply the best for Modern World GCSE students - make your lessons 'real' with artefacts and living history provided by experts - same author as this site, just put together in a slightly different way!