Black and white photograph of baby clinic, 1930s Show image info

Photograph of Bath City Council Health Department baby clinic, 1939 (from Guide to the Public Health Services of the Council)

Records of health promotion and prevention of disease, 1866 to date

From the mid-nineteenth century until 1974 Bath City Council played a major role in health promotion and the prevention of disease, as various public health acts were passed which gave it responsibility or permission to act in a wide range of areas.

By the early twentieth century, the Council was responsible for midwives and maternal, infant and child health, mental health, isolation hospitals, food standards, baths and washhouses and much more. Most of these aspects of public health remained the responsibility of the Council until 1974, when the majority passed to the Bath District Health Authority. In 2013 many returned to Bath & North East Somerset Council, but on a commissioning basis. The following records provide valuable information for research in this area.

1. Bath City Council Minutes, 1851-1974 (BC/2/1)

  • Minutes of the 1851 Bath Act Committee/Sanitary Committee/Health Committee, 1851-1974 (BC/2/1/8/1-22 and BC/2/1/9)
    The 1851 Bath Act Committee dealt with all matters relating to public health from 1851 to 1871; from 1871 most of the work of health promotion and prevention of disease passed to the newly-established Sanitary Committee. The name of this committee changed to Health Committee in 1920, reflecting the change in emphasis in its duties by this date. 
    A number of sub-committees, some permanent and some ad-hoc, dealt with specific matters:
  • Statutory Hospital/Isolation Hospital sub-committee, 1900-1948 (BC/2/1/33)
  • Midwives/Maternity and Child Welfare sub-committee, 1918-1958 (BC/2/1/37)
  • Blind Persons sub-committee, 1934-1948 (BC/2/1/40)
  • Health Services sub-committee, 1958-1968 (BC/2/1/42)
  • Joint Committee of Health and Public Assistance Committees concerning Hospital Services, 1940-1948 (BC/2/1/47)
  • Registration of nurses sub-committee, 1893 (BC/2/1/29)
  • Disinfection sub-committee, 1896-1897 (BC/2/1/31)
  • Emergency (Smallpox) sub-committee, 1902 (BC/2/1/34)
  • Tuberculosis sub-committee, 1913-1915 (BC/2/1/36)
  • Nurseries sub-committee of Maternity and Child Welfare sub-committee, 1940-1944 (BC/2/1/38)
  • Minutes of the Lunatic Asylum Committee, 1872-1876 (BC/2/1/122)
  • Minutes of the Mental Deficiency Act Committee/Mental Health Services sub-committee of Health Committee, 1914-1967 (BC/2/1/123)
  • Minutes of the Mental Treatment Act Committee, 1930-1948 (BC/2/1/124)
  • Minutes of the Public Bathing Places Committee, 1867-1872 (BC/2/1/145)
    (Amalgamated with Cold Water Committee, 1873)
  • Minutes of the Baths and Washhouses Special Committee, 1921-1926 (BC/2/58)
  • Minutes of the Swimming Facilities/Sports Facilities Committee, 1937-1968 (BC/2/1/156)


2. Reports of the Bath City Medical Officer of Health (MOH), 1866 – 1974 (BC/14)
These are a major source of information on a wide range of public health matters; they include detailed statistics, reports on the work of the MOH and his department, and offer insights into the thinking behind public health initiatives. The reports are not yet catalogued in detail, and therefore not on the online catalogue, but are available on request.


3. Clerk to Bath Urban Sanitary Authority in-letters and out-letters, 1878-1905 (BC/3/4/2 and BC/3/4/6)
Bath City Council acted as the Urban Sanitary Authority (USA) for the city from 1872 until 1905. The Town Clerk was also the Clerk to the USA, and kept a separate series of letterbooks for USA matters. In 1905, when the Council stopped holding separate meetings as USA, the Town Clerk stopped keeping a separate set of letterbooks. The letterbooks contain detailed information about a range of public health matters, including infectious diseases.

  • In-letters (letters received),1892-1905 (BC/3/4/6)
  • Out-letters (copies of letters sent out), 1878-1905 (BC/3/4/2)

Abstracts of some of the in-letters can be found at


4. Other Bath City Council records, 1851-1951

  • Registers relating to food and hygiene regulations (BC/3/6/1-4)
    Registers of slaughter houses, 1851-1930 (BC/3/6/1)
    Registers of margarine and butter manufactories, 1900-1931 (BC/3/6/2)
    Registration of Premises under the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, 1928, 1929 (BC/3/6/3)
    Licences issued under the Milk (Special Designations) Order 1936, 1937-1944 (BC/3/6/4)
  • Public Analyst’s register of foodstuff samples, 1920-1951 (BC/14)
  • Papers relating to the creation of the isolation hospital, 1871-1872 (BC/14)
  • Printed guides to the Public Health Services of Bath City, 1932 (Local Studies Collection), 1939 (BC/14), 1948 (Local Studies Collection)
  • Registers of payments made to tuberculosis patients, 1945-1947 (BC/17)
    These name individuals and the amount paid. Access is restricted under UK data protection law. They are not yet catalogued in detail.
  • Papers relating to Public Bath and Washhouses, 1846-1901 (BC/13/8)
    A small amount of material, including papers relating to Darlington Wharf and Cleveland Pools.


5. Records of Bath District Health Authority, 1974-1994 (0396)
Under far-reaching changes to the structure of the National Health Service in 1974, most public health functions were transferred to District Health Authorities. Bath City Council’s functions passed to the Bath District Health Authority. Some records of the Authority, including minutes and some records of health campaigns, have been transferred to the Record Office, but are not yet catalogued. The records are available on request, although access to some may be restricted under UK data protection law.


6. Records of Bath District Community Health Council, 1974-2003 (0580)
Community Health Councils were set up under the National Health Service reforms of 1974. They were designed to act as a public ‘watchdog’ and mouthpiece with regard to the services provided by the District Health Authorities, including their public health functions. Members were appointed by local authorities and local voluntary organisations, with a small number from the Regional Health Authority. Community Health Councils were abolished in 2003. The records are not yet catalogued, but include:

  • Council agendas and minutes
  • Annual reports
  • Reports and papers relating to specific projects
    Access to some material may be restricted under UK data protection law 


7. Records of Bath & North East Somerset Council Director of Public Health, 2013 to date
In the structural changes to the NHS which came into force in 2013, responsibility for public health passed back to B&NES, and a Director of Public Health was appointed. However, the Council commissions services, rather than carrying them out directly. No records of the Director of Public Health have yet been transferred to the Record Office. Operational records of the commissioned services remain with the organisations involved.


8. Records of Other bodies

  • Bath Board of Guardians: vaccination records, 1871-1928 (BGB/5)
    The Board of Guardians was responsible for the vaccination of all infants, not just those in receipt of poor relief. The registers and report books, arranged by district, record child’s name, parents' names, address and father's occupation, date and success of the vaccination, or whether vaccination refused. Access to later volumes is restricted for 100 years from date of last entry under UK data protection law.
  • Petty Sessions: Police Prosecutions, mid-nineteenth to late twentieth centuries (0136 and BC/3/5)
    Those charged with contravening food and hygiene and other public health bye-laws and regulations appeared before the magistrates at Petty Sessions. However, the magistrates dealt with very many other types of case, and the registers are indexed by name not offence. The researcher will therefore need to spend a considerable amount of time searching the volumes for public health offences. Note that access to registers and papers less than 85 years old is restricted under UK data protection law.
  • Petty Sessions registers and depositions, mid C19 – late C20 (0136; catalogue incomplete)
  • Police prosecution case papers, from 1905 (BC/3/5, but not yet catalogued in detail). The first two boxes of these papers, covering the years 1905-1910 have been indexed by type of case as well as by name; the index is available on request.
  • Association of Public Health Inspectors, Western Centre [Area], 1938-1966 (0960)
    Minutes of the Association, which included Bath.


9. Local Acts of Parliament (BC/1/2)
The Record Office holds a full set of all the local Acts relating to Bath; they are not yet catalogued, but can be produced on request.


10. Local newspapers
Local newspapers contain valuable information on the work of the Council in promoting public health and on public attitudes towards their work, providing an alternative perspective to the official records. They also frequently provide reports of cases brought before the magistrates. The Record Office holds various Bath newspapers, including the Bath Chronicle; details can be found in our research guide to newspapers.

The online British Newspaper Archive (BNA) at includes the weekly edition of the Bath Chronicle 1760-1950. The BNA enables targeted searches to be carried out, and is the best place to start research in the Chronicle. The Record Office offers free access to the BNA; for more information see


11. Ephemera
‘Clean Hands’ certificate issued by Lever Brothers Ltd. as part of their ‘Clean Hands’ campaign, 1927 (1255)


12. Printed and published sources

James F Blackett [formerly Bath City Medical Officer of Health], Fifty Years of Public Health and Social Welfare in a County Borough, Bath 1895-1944. Dissertation for the degree of MA. 1949 (Local Studies collection B614 BLA 1 1 0260489 3)

Better Health. The Official Journal of the Central Council for Health Education. Monthly publication; 2000 copies a month sent out to homes in Bath, with pages added ‘Notes by the Medical Officer of Health Bath’ and advertisements from Bath tradespeople. 1928-1932 (Local Studies Collection B614.05 BET)