British Small Towns from the 16th-19th Century

This long term project, which has been running since 1985, seeks to broaden our knowledge of the 800 or so English small towns, during the period 1600–1850 in particular. Much work has been done on the major industrial centres, county towns, and fashionable places such as Bath. Relatively little is known about the changing economic and social fortunes of the rest of the national urban network.

Sources of Data for Small Town Research

The project is collecting, storing, analysing, and, where possible publishing, data from a range of sources and covering several themes. Data is normally available to all genuine researchers, normally at a nominal cost. A major contribution to our database has been made both by individual local historians and groups such as CAMPOP.

The main areas of work are: demography, occupational structure, social and cultural life along with town descriptions and a computer based bibliography of published work on individual towns. Sources include parish registers, the census, taxation records, trade directories, contemporary newspapers, travelworks and secondary sources.

The core of the database comprises; static population estimates, parish register aggregations, occupational data from directories and the census. A large number of individual towns and whole counties have been studied. We have started collecting evidence of social and cultural life in Small Towns, using newspapers. Recent publications include a second revised edition of population estimates for the period 1550-1851 and a small collection of papers by postgraduate researchers on specific topics.


Publications from this project include:

  • P Clark, Small Towns in Early Modern Europe (1996)
  • P Clark and J Hosking, Population Estimates of English Small Towns 1550-1851 (revised edition 1993, and reprinted 1996

Project Index

The Art of the Small Town

  • Painting in 18th and early-19th century Small Towns
  • Drawing & Engraving in 18th and early-19th century Small Towns
  • Maps in 18th and early-19th century Small Towns

How Images Can Depict Town Activities

  • Architecture in Small Towns
  • Bathing in Small Towns
  • Races in Small Towns
  • Theatres in Small Towns

Classical Architecture in Eighteenth-Century Norfolk

  • The Georgian in Norfolk
  • How the Classical Style Spread
  • Urban Hierarchies, Industries and Building Traditions in Norfolk
  • Relevant Bibliography

Appendix 1: The Classical Style

  • Public Classical Architecture in Norfolk Small Towns
  • Georgian Buildings in Small Towns
  • Andrea Palladio

Appendix 2: How the Classical Style spread

  • Politics and the Spread of Classical Architecture
  • Pattern Books
  • The Influence of Estate Architecture
  • The Influence of Architecture in Larger Towns and Cities

Small Towns Project: Image Catalogue


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