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All photographs by Humphrey Spender. Copyright Bolton Council. From the Collection of Bolton Museum.

The images shown on the website are by Humphrey Spender (1910 – 2005) and date from the time of his involvement in the Mass-Observation study of Bolton.

In the late 1930s, Bolton was the site of an astonishing social experiment. For three years, more than 80 paid and voluntary observers lived among the town’s inhabitants and recorded the minutiae of their daily lives.  The project was called “Worktown” and was the brainchild of a research organisation called Mass-Observation.  One of those recruited to work on the project was the pioneering documentary photographer, Humphrey Spender.

Spender took around 900 photographs in Bolton and Blackpool on a series of visits between August 1937 and April 1938.  They cover a huge variety of topics.  He photographed people drinking in local pubs, watching Bolton Wanderers, going to vote and shopping at the open market.  The photographs now form part of the Worktown Archive at Bolton Museum.

Matthew Watson
Museum Access Officer
Bolton Library and Museum Services