Cholera and the Thames

From ‘Great Stink’ to Safe to Drink KS2


Session 1 – with the National Archives

What impact did the environment have on people’s health in the 19th century? Exploring documents taken from the General Board of Health (in response to the 1848 Public Health Act) pupils investigate the causes of cholera in different localities across England and Wales. They find out about the ‘Great Stink of 1858’ and the problems this caused.

Session 2 – with Thames Explorer Trust

How clean is the Thames today? Different types of science inquiries help pupils to discover what impact the river environment has had on people’s health during the 19th and 21st centuries. Types of scientific inquiry that will be used include riverside observations, identifying river wildlife, and signs of pollution. Fair testing will measure water quality (pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen and water temperature). Collecting, analysing and presenting data allows pupils to be part of ‘River Watch’ a citizen science project. Data will be uploaded to the River Watch database, allowing classes to use it for follow-up work back at school. The data will also be used by scientists monitoring litter and water quality issues in the tidal Thames.


The National Archives.


Full day programme – 4 hours plus half an hour for lunch. Half day’s available on request.

Learning Objective

Please send us your learning objectives in advance of your trip so we can tailor the programme to your requirements.