The Centre for Worktown Studies undertakes and supports academic research and public engagement activities around the Humphrey Spender ‘Worktown’ collection of documentary photographs produced for Mass Observation in the late nineteen-thirties. This collection is held by Bolton Museum and the Centre is jointly established and managed by the University and Bolton Museum and Archive Service.

The Spender Worktown photographs were produced as a source of documentary evidence for Mass Observation’s ‘Worktown’ project which aimed to investigate and document everyday life in a northern industrial town. A Mass Observation team was established in Bolton in 1937 to produce a detailed written and photographic record of everyday life in Worktown. The Spender Collection, which comprises approximately 800 images taken in Bolton (and Blackpool as the Mass Observation team travelled there to observe ‘Worktowners’ on holiday) remains in Bolton Museum` and is a social documentary photographic archive of national and international significance.

The Centre has been designated a Good Practice Case Study of HEI- Museum collaboration by Renaissance North West.

We are happy to meet and work with other researchers interested in Mass Observation’s Worktown. All enquiries related to the Centre for Worktown Studies should be addressed to Dr. Bob Snape, Centre for Worktown Studies, University of Bolton, Deane Rd. Bolton BL3 5AB.


Tel. 01204 903609