1851 census shows most Britains lived
One of the most, if not the most, spectacular changes experienced in Britain during the nineteenth century was the growth of towns and cities. Whereas the population was overwhelmingly rural at the end of the eighteenth century, the 1851 census showed that, for the first time, the majority of Britons lived in towns. By 1901 this figure had reached 77%. Around 40% lived in one of the seven great conurbations: Greater London, the West Midlands, South-East Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Merseyside, Tyneside and Clydeside. London's population in 1901 was 6.6 million, Greater Manchester's was 2.1 million and Tyneside's was almost 700,000.
The growth of new 'frontier' towns
The industrial revolution spawned the growth of many new towns, especially in the cotton districts of Lancashire: it was here, for example, that Blackburn grew into a large manufacturing town, to be depicted as 'Coketown' by Charles Dickens in Hard Times. Other towns which experienced spectacular growth during the nineteenth century include the iron-making town of Middlesbrough, the railway towns of Crewe and Swindon, and the brewing town of Burton-upon Trent. These have been characterised by John Stevenson as 'frontier towns' of the industrial revolution (Stevenson), undergoing spectacular and often unregulated growth, which frequently resulted in insanitary physical surroundings and severe overcrowding.