What did the public think about public health reform in mid-Victorian Britain? Historians have had a lot to say about the sanitary mentality and actions of the middle class, yet have been strangely silent about the ideas and behaviour of the working class, who were the great majority of the public and the group whose health was mainly in question. Perhaps there is nothing to say. The working class were commonly referred to as ‘the Great Unwashed’, purportedly ignorant and indifferent on matters of personal hygiene, environmental sanitation and hence health. Indeed, the writings of reformers imply that the working class simply did not have a sanitary mentality. However, the views of sanitary campaigners should not be taken at face value. Often propaganda and always one class's perception of another, in the context of the social apartheid in Britain's cities in the mid-nineteenth century, sanitary campaigners' views probably reveal more about middle-class anxieties than the actual social and physical conditions of the poor. None the less many historians still use such material to portray working-class life, but few have gone on to ask how public health reform was seen and experienced ‘from below’. Historians of public health have tended to portray the urban working class as passive victims who were rescued by enlightened middle-class reformers. This seems to be borne out at the political level where, unlike with other popular movements of the 1840s and after, there is little evidence of working-class participation in, or support for, the public health movement.