Upcoming blogs: The works of Pearl Jephcott

Following previous blogs on the works of Pearl Jephcott and the interst this has generated, madeinleicester.com will be publishing more blogs on this subject in 2014/2015. Look out for three blogs that will be published here and via our twitter account @mi_leicester :

Upcoming Blogs with accompanying images:

‘Parents at Home’ in Jephcott’s Homes in High Flats (image 1)

The Social Background of Delinquency – Jepchott and Carter. (image 2)

Jepchott’s Some Young People (image 3)


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‘Parents at Home’ in Jephcott’s Homes in High Flats

The Social Background of Delinquency – Jepchott and Carter.

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Jepchott’s Some Young People

Jephcott’s A Troubled Area: Notes on Notting Hill

John Goodwin

jeFor many the area of Notting Hill has become synonymous with urban gentrification, the ‘romantic comedy’ as well as the internationally renowned annual August carnival. Yet long before the London riots of 2011, or the inner city riots of the early 1980s, this area of North Kensington became synonymous with the race riots of 1958. Local ‘teddy boys’, inspired not least by a resurgent whiff of fascism, attacked members of the expanding black community. The riots themselves have been well documented and subject to much discussion (see below) yet one now largely forgotten exploration of the causes of these riots is well worth revisiting. Pearl Jephcott’s  ‘A Troubled Area: Notes on Notting Hill’ is a detailed consideration of ‘the causes of the general malaise of North Kensington’ (Jephcott 1964:18). Jephcott worked on the research from 1st May 1962 to November 1963. The City Parochial Fund funded the study as The North Kensington Family Study. The exact locale for the research was the ‘Notting Dale’ area that Jephcott described as being within a seven-minute walk of the Ladbroke Grove tube station.

After the first few months of the study, during which Jephcott immersed herself into the area ‘she did not know well’, it was decided (given the scale of what she had observed) to focus specifically on the social problems associated with multiple occupancy housing and ‘the possibility of stimulating small-scale joint action among the residents on specific problems’ (Jephcott 1964:  19).  She concentrated on 20 multiple occupancy houses for the detailed study, collecting data through ethnographic observation, collating the written experiences of the residents, photographs and by amassing information on rents, home ownerships and lettings. In doing so Jephcott richly captures a world so far removed from current gentrified location and graphically documents the squalor, the problems of multi-occupancy, the lack of provision for children and adolescents, alongside the lived experiences of ‘the residents from overseas’ (Jephcott 1964: 80). Ahead of her time Jephcott pointedly remarks that ‘though the unfamiliar colour of their skin causes them to be classed together, they are far from being a group racially or socially’ (Jephcott 1964: 80) – this at a time when the population of Britain, more broadly, was struggling with ‘difference’ and where dominate discourses steered towards a homogeneity in the ‘them’ and ‘us’.  Indeed, with some foretelling of what was to come in later debates, in their review, Jackson (1965) suggests of the book ‘what is quickly made clear is that this is not mainly a problem of race relations but of urban geography, class, history, and housing. There are long-term explanations which underlie the squalid degeneration of areas like Ladbroke Grove’ (Jackson 1965: 350).

One of the most appealing aspects of Jephcott’s broader approach is the ‘lack of side’ – a non-judgemental style to research where the researcher documents to  explain and offers evidence based recommendations where possible. In the current era of ‘sociology of/as activism’ this may not appear very radical and yet, perhaps in the ‘Millsian’ sense, this was a definitive political act of writing to ‘speak the politics of truth to power’ (see Mills 2008[c1944]). Jephcott’s concerns were fundamentally for the individuals who she had researched and portrayed in her writings, and as Goudsblom (1977) writes:

‘Unfortunately it is not superfluous to remind ourselves that in sociology we are dealing with people. All too often sociologists….start out with an abstract conception of social action or social system.…it makes sense, therefore, to state quite explicitly that we are concerned with people, bonded together in dynamic constellations….’ (Goudsblom 1977: 6-7)

The concern for people is still something often overlooked in contemporary sociology and, to that end, suggests Jephcott is well worth revisiting.

References and Further Information

Goudsblom, J. (1977) Sociology in the Balance: A Critical Essay. New York: Columbia University Press.

Harvey, A. (1965) Book Review: A Troubled Area by Pearl Jephcott, Faber, 1964, Urban Studies 2: 85-86.

Jackson, J.A. (1965) Review of Back Street New Worlds: A Look at Immigrants in Britain (Huxley) and A Troubled Area: Notes On Notting Hill (Jephcott), Race Class, 6: 350

Mills, C.W. (2008[c1944]) The Powerless People: The Role of the Intellectual in Society, in, Mills, C.W. (2008) The Politics of Truth: Selected Writings of C. Wright Mills – Selected and Introduced by John H. Summers. Oxford: Oxford University press.





I would like to thank Bharat Mehta of the Trust for London (the Parochial Foundation was amalgamated with Trust for London in July 2010) for locating archived material relating to A Troubled Area and the North Kensington Projects.

British United Shoe Machine Company (BUSM)

John Goodwin

ImageRecently the local BBC radio station ran a feature asking listeners to call in with their ideas for street names based on boots and shoes. The piece was entertaining and there were no shortage of suggestions. The feature was prompted by a new housing development in the Ross Walk area of Leicester covering the old factory site of the British United Shoe Machine Corporation. As with so many old manufacturing sites in the city, or nationally, this once productive site has been transformed from a place of work to a place of residence. This once very public space is now a collection of private homes. A powerful symbol of the transformation of urban spaces following large-scale deindustrialisation.  The factory site had, for many years, been occupied by various employers following BUSM’s collapse in 2000 becoming a self-styled ‘business park’. Gradually the site became increasingly derelict and unusable.  However, in the years preceding demolition I had visited the factory site many times with my camera (as I had done with other many old factory sites) with the aim of capturing something of the buildings, not necessary to record them for posterity but perhaps to serve as an aide memoir in the various research projects I was involved in.

Of all the images I captured of the site, the one I kept returning to time and time again was a black and white photograph of a steel inspection cover. This cover, covering a small utility vault, was not inside the actual factory site but in the middle of the pavement of Ross Walk. When the photograph was taken the steel cover has been partially covered with concrete but what can clearly be discerned are the company initials BUSM arranged in the style of the recognisable BUSM logo (there were other examples around the factory site). What fascinated me about the image is that is speaks to the ‘size’ of the organisation i.e. BUSM was such a large organisation they could afford, at their peak, to have their own ‘branded’ inspection covers. A clear signifier of the scale of the operation. Yet the scale of BUSM, and the thousands of skilled workers, made its demise all the more tragic for Leicester and for those who had worked there. This is reflected in our own research where it is clear that the 1960s cohort of Leicester young workers could not have known (or expected) the economic turmoil that they would face throughout their working lives. They entered a labour market at fifteen with expectations of a job for life in one of Leicester’s dominant industries. They could never have predicted that some forty-five years later very little of these industries would remain or that their factory site would become a new housing estate. As with the factory the inspection cover is long gone.

Well let us say that [with] any apprenticeship you’ve got a future. You’ve got 5 years for a start and then after that you can rely on a decent wage every week afterwards for the rest of your life. (Apprentice Engineer, British United Shoe Machinery Company, 1964)

For more on BUSM there is a UK heritage lottery funded history project which contains some good visual materials as well as oral histories: http://www.buhistory.org.uk/


Goodwin, J. and O’Connor, H. – Back to Different Futures: Individual Experiences of Work in a Changing Industrial Landscape, forthcoming.

Leicester and Married Women Working:

John Goodwin and Henrietta O’Connor

2013-10-10 14.55.49As we have suggested (Goodwin and O’Connor 2013b) our first encounter with Pearl Jephcott was not a direct one. We were not aware of her books, beyond the occasional citation, and we were certainly unaware of the sheer breadth and depth of Jephcott’s contribution to British social science. We became interested in Jephcott be cause of her apparent links to Leicester via the Married Women Working research or what in Leicester became to be known locally as ‘the married women project’. Although not a well-known research collaboration there are tantalising references to this research in the literature. For example, as Smith (1961) reports:

The social science Dept. of the London School of Economics and the Sociology Dept. of the University of Leicester have together been collecting data designed among other things to test the stereotypes in industrial situations….Ours in Bermondsey at first based itself on the Peek Frean biscuit factory and the later extended into a study of family life in a local community. The Leicester study has so far based itself on the St. Margaret factory of N. Corah & Sons. (Smith 1961: 13).

The Richard Titmuss papers at the LSE reveal a shared project, led by Ilya Neustadt1, designed specially to offer a comparative study of the employment of women in a Leicester factory with those women who worked for Peek Frean.  Yet despite receiving a total of of £5986 over three years for a project, requests to DSIR extend the research time supported by Richard Titmuss, and a significant amount of fieldwork undertaken, the Leicester version of the married women project only delivered one paper (see Brown et al 1964). As with the ‘young worker project’ (see Goodwin and O’Connor 2005) the married women study was to enter the ether as yet another substantive piece of fieldwork that ultimately failed to deliver on its promise.  Yet it is the intersections between this failed project, the originally successful Bermondsey study and Jephcott’s innovative research designs that fascinates us the most. Moreover these projects, successful or otherwise, consider themes such as childcare, work life balance, women in management and so forth well before these become the central concern of sociology following the feminist critique of the 1970s and 1980s. As Oakely suggests, Jephcott studied working-class women at a time when the study of working-class culture meant studying men (Oakely 1989: 445). We are revisiting both variants of the married women project not least to ascertain the scope and extent of the Leicester project and to critically examine what Jephcott’s Married Women Working offers contemporary analyses of gender and work (see Goodwin and O’Connor 2013b).


[1] Although in reality it is likely that Richard Brown undertook all of the significant work on the Leicester version of the study.


Brown, R.K., Kirkby, J.M. and Taylor, K.F. (1964) The Employment of Married Women and the role of the Supervisory Role, British Journal of Industrial Relations, 2(1): 23-41.

Goodwin, J. and O’Connor, H. (2013a) Embodying Leisure: The Use of Images in Jephcott’s Time of Ones Own, LERN Occasional Papers No. 2

Goodwin, J. and O’Connor H. (2013b) The Employment of Married Women in a Leicester Factory 1959. LERN Occasional Papers No. 3 (forthcoming).

Goodwin, J. and O’Connor, H. (2006) Norbert Elias and the Lost Young Worker Project, Journal of Youth Studies, 9 (2), 159-173.

Jephcott, P. with Seear, N. and Smith, J.H. (1962) Married Women Working. London: Allen and Unwin

Oakley, A. (1989) Women’s Studies in British Sociology: To End at Our Beginning?  The British Journal of Sociology, 40(3): 442-470.

Smith, J.H. (1961) Managers and Married Women Workers, British Journal of Sociology, 12(1): 12-22.

Embodying Leisure: The Use of Images in Pearl Jephcott’s ‘Time of One’s Own’.

Embodying Leisure – The Use of Images in Jephcott’s Time of Ones Own. LERN Occasional Papers No. 2 John Goodwin and Henrietta O’Connor, University of Leicester.


While the lives and works of many sociologists have now been well documented numerous sociologists at the ‘coal face’ of social research remain ignored. As such, beyond the contributions of those more ‘well known’ scholars, considerably more needs to be done to examine the history of our discipline and reassess the significant contributions made by ‘other’ researchers so that we may reappraise what can be learnt from these ‘pioneer scholars’. In this paper we focus on Pearl Jephcott (1900-1980) who in research career spanning forty year, but now largely forgotten, was at the forefront of methodological innovation in the 1960s. A full review of her work and contribution is beyond the scope of a single paper so we consider in more detail one of the most striking features of her sociological practice – the use of images in the book Time of One’s Own (1967).

Free download here: Occasional Papers No. 2 John Goodwin and Henrietta O’Connor, University of Leicester

Homes in High Flats

Henrietta O’Connor

mapOne of the striking aspects of Pearl Jephcott’s archive in the University of Glasgow Library is the breadth and depth of her research activity. For her seminal study on high-rise living, ‘Homes in High Flats’, Pearl carried out extensive research on the development of tower blocks in the UK and overseas. Her archive contains numerous folders filled with articles, photographs and maps of high rise living ‘from places such as far apart as Melbourne, Philadelphia, Caracas, Prague and Moscow’ (Jephcott, 1971:2).  Maps are a regular feature of her work and it is no surprise that as part of her study of high-rise flats in Glasgow Pearl began by carrying out a mapping exercise illustrating the locations of the new housing developments. The map featured in this blog is taken from her archive and shows how she used the city map to indicate new housing developments that were complete at the time of her research, each separate tower block depicted by small red squares. Planned or incomplete blocks were illustrated by a red unfilled square.

Although the first tower block in Glasgow was occupied as early as June 1952 it was not until the 1960s that the rapid expansion of this type of building occurred. The main sample for the planned research consisted of those developments that were occupied by July 1968 (143 blocks in total), increasing to 163 by May 1969. The final sample consisted of five estates, narrowed down ‘to enable staff to make sustained relationships with individual households, increasing their chances of finding out which aspects of multi-story life had most bearing on the tenants satisfaction or otherwise’ (p28). The five estates selected were located across the city and two research staff went to live in a high-rise flat, for just over 6 weeks, in four of the five locations. The five estates selected were Wynford (16 blocks), Royston (3), Albion (3) Castlemilk (5) and Red Road (3) (see Jephcott, 1971: 29).


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Map: University of Glasgow Archive, Glasgow Map DC127/17/6

Jepchott, P. (1971) Homes in High Flats: Some of the Human Problems Involved in Multi-Storey Housing. Oliver and Boys: Edinburgh

Embodying Leisure: The Use of Images in Pearl Jephcott’s ‘Time of One’s Own’


John Goodwin and Henrietta O’Connor

While the lives and works of many sociologists have now been well documented numerous sociologists at the ‘coal face’ of social research remain ignored. As such, beyond the contributions of those more ‘well known’ scholars, considerably more needs to be done to examine the history of our discipline to reassess the significant contributions made by ‘other’ researchers so that we may reappraise what can be learnt from these ‘pioneer scholars’. To this end we have just completed this occasional paper relating to the work of Pearl Jephcott (1900-1980). Jephcott had a research career spanning forty years and made significant contributions to the understanding of social life especially urban living, youth, gender and class. Jephcott was also at the forefront of innovation in social science research methodology during the 1960s. Yet despite the quality and depth of her work she is now largely forgotten save for the occasional citation. A full review of her work and contribution is beyond the scope of a single paper so we consider in more detail one of the most striking features of her sociological practice – the use of images in the book Time of One’s Own (1967).

As well as reading this paper the previously unpublished images relating to Time of One’s Own, that we rediscovered in 2011 the University of Glasgow archives, can be view at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uofglibrary/sets/72157628015342067/

For further information see ‘Press Releases‘.