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Worktown Photographs

1937 - 1939

These photographs were taken as part of the Mass Observation project.

Mass-Observation was a large-scale investigation into the habits and customs of the people of Britain that was started in Bolton in 1937. Bolton was named “Worktown” by Tom Harrisson.

The project focused on Bolton initially and during the Second World War was enlisted by the Government to monitor public morale in the population as a whole. The project still exists today and the archive is currently held at the University of Sussex.

Humphrey Spender was recruited by Harrison to be photographer for the project. Between 1937 and 1939 Spender took about 1000 photographs representing everyday life in Bolton.

The collection was purchased by Bolton Museum in 1999 along with a selection of vintage prints.