Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-md8df Total loading time: 0.385 Render date: 2021-11-28T01:55:25.599Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

5 - The development of small towns in Britain

from Part I - Circulation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

Martin Daunton
University of Cambridge
Get access


An Evocation of the traditional rural town of the mid-nineteenth century may be found in Anthony Trollope’s description of his English West Country county of ‘Barsetshire’ in Dr Thorne:

There are towns in it, of course; depots from which are bought seeds and groceries, ribbons and fire shovels; in which markets are held and country balls carried on; which return members to parliament, generally – in spite of reform bills, past, present and coming – in accordance with the dictates of some neighbouring land magnate: from whence emanate the country postman, and where is located the supply of post horses necessary for county visitings. But these towns add nothing to the importance of the county; they consist, with the exception of the assize-town, of dull, all but death-like single streets. Each possesses two pumps, three hotels, ten shops, fifteen beer-houses, a beadle and a market-place.

This chapter will trace the evolution of such small urban places over the following century; developments that built upon an already quick pace of change. Peter Borsay concluded that the period from 1688 to 1820 had been ‘for towns years of transformation’. ‘Transformation’ had also been used by Peter Clark to sum up changes experienced by English provincial towns from 1600 to 1800. Clark’s research on small towns for this period, not least in his chapter in Volume II of this series, identifies a number of economic trends causing such transformation. These included nascent industrialisation and commercial expansion, transportation evolution and also more localised developments, such as the building of spas and leisure resorts.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2001

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Adams, I. H., The Making of Urban Scotland (London, 1978)
Apperly, C. J. (pseud. Nimrod), The Life of a Sportsman (London, 1842)
Borsay, P., ed., The Eighteenth-Century Town: A Reader in English Urban History, 1688–1820, (London, 1990)
Bourne, G. (pseudonym of G. Sturt), Change in the Village (London, 1912), p..
Brownlow, J., Melton Mowbray, Queen of the Shires (Wymondham, 1980)
Carter, H., The Towns of Wales (Cardiff, 1966)
Carter, H., and Lewis, C. R., An Urban Geography of England and Wales in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1990)
Chamberlin, R., The English Country Town (Exeter, 1983)
Clark, P., ‘Small towns 1700–1840’, in Clark, P., ed., The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, vol. II; 1540–1840 (Cambridge, 2000).Google Scholar
Clark, P., and Hosking, J., Population Estimates of English Small Towns, 1550–1851, Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester, Working Paper, 5 (Leicester, 1993)
Clark, P., ed., The Transformation of English Provincial Towns, 1600–1800 (London, 1984)
Davies, J. C., and Brown, M. C., Yesterday’s Town: Market Harborough (Buckingham, 1981)
de Vries, J., European Urbanisation 1500–1800 (London, 1984)
Dickinson, R. E., ‘The distribution and functions of the smaller urban settlements of East Anglia’, Geography, 17 (1932)Google Scholar
Dyson, A. H., Lutterworth (London, 1913)
Everitt, A., ‘Town and country in Victorian Leicestershire: the role of the village carrier’, in Everitt, A., ed., Perspectives in English Urban History (London, 1973)Google Scholar
Francis, H. J. A History of Hinckley (Hinckley, 1930)
Frewen, M., Melton Mowbray and Other Memories (London, 1924)
Gilbert, A. D., Religion and Society in Industrial England: Church, Chapel and Social Change, 1740–1914 (London, 1976)
Goodacre, J., The Transformation of a Peasant Economy: Townspeople and Villagers in the Lutterworth Area, 1500–1700 (Aldershot, 1994)
Gordon, G., and Dicks, B., eds., Scottish Urban History (Aberdeen, 1983)
Hardy, T., The Life and Death of the Mayor of Casterbridge, a Story of a Man of Character (London, 1968), p..
Irvine, J. W., Lerwick: The Birth and Growth of an Island Town (Lerwick, 1985)
Jones, R., ‘Country town survival: some Anglo-Australian comparisons’, in Wilson, M. R., ed., Proceedings of the Prairie Division, Canadian Association of Geographers (Saskatoon, 1992)Google Scholar
Law, C. M., ‘The growth of urban population in England and Wales, 1801–1911’, Transactions, Institute of British Geographers, 41 (1967)Google Scholar
Lawton, R., ‘Population changes in England and Wales in the later nineteenth century: an analysis of trends by registration district’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 44 (1968)Google Scholar
Lee, J. M., ‘The rise and fall of a market town: Castle Donnington in the nineteenth century’, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, 32 (1956)Google Scholar
Lewis, S., A Topographical Dictionary of Wales, 3rd edn (London, 1844).
Lockhart, D. G., ‘Scottish village plans: a preliminary analysis’, Scottish Geographical Magazine, 96 (1980).Google Scholar
Naismith, R. J., The Story of Scotland’s Towns (Edinburgh, 1989)
Raven, N., ‘Occupational structures of three north Essex towns: Halstead, Braintree and Great Coggeshall, c. 1780–1880. Research in progress’, Urban History Newsletter, 12 (1992)Google Scholar
Robson, B. T., Urban Growth: An Approach (London, 1973)
Royle, S. A., ‘Aspects of nineteenth century small town society: a comparative study from Leicestershire’, Midland History, 5 (1979–80).Google Scholar
Royle, S. A., ‘“The spiritual destitution is excessive – the poverty overwhelming”: Hinckley in the mid-nineteenth century’, Transactions, Leicestershire Archaeology and Historical Society, 54 (1979–80)Google Scholar
Royle, S. A., ‘The development of Coalville, Leicestershire, in the nineteenth century’, East Midland Geographer, 7 (1978)Google Scholar
Stacey, M., Tradition and Change: A Study of Banbury (London, 1960)
Trollope, A., Dr Thorne, new edn (London, 1926).
Waller, P. J., Town, City and Nation: England, 1850–1914 (Oxford, 1983)
Weber, A. F., The Growth of Cities in the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1899).
Wright, N. R., Lincolnshire Towns and Industry, 1700–1914 (Lincoln, 1982)

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats