Main content

Archaeology of homelessness; residential care revisited

Older people in residential care. Laurie Taylor revisits Peter Townsend's landmark study of old peoples' homes, 50 years on. Also, the material culture of homelessness.

Residential care revisited - Laurie Taylor considers Peter Townsend's landmark research, 'The Last Refuge', fifty years after its publication. Retracing Townsend's footsteps, a hundred, older volunteer researchers sought to find out what had happened to the 173 care homes in his classic study. Julia Johnson, one of the authors of the new study, charts the changes and continuities in care for older people in England and Wales. She's joined by Robin Darton, an expert in social care, Also, the archaeologist Rachael Kiddey, examines artefacts from two homelessness sites in Bristol and York. What can these items, as well as oral histories collected from the homeless, tell us about what it means to have no shelter in the 21st century?

Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Available now

28 minutes

Rachael Kiddey

PhD student, Department of Archaeology, University of York



Find out more about Rachael Kiddey


Talk: Contemporary homelessness – an archaeological approach

Interdisciplinary Dialogue: Researching Material Culture

Thursday 22 November 10.30am - 4pm

Kanaris Theatre, Manchester Museum

Julia Johnson

Visiting Research Associate, Faculty of Health & Social Care Research, The Open University


Find out more about Julia Johnson 


Residential Care Transformed: Revisiting 'The Last Refuge'

Julia Johnson, Sheena Rolph, Professor Randall Smith Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

ISBN-10: 1137265698

ISBN-13: 978-1137265692


Last Refuge Revisited project

ESRC funded project which was undertaken between May 2005 and April 2007.


The project sought to study continuity and change in residential care for older people in England and Wales over a period of nearly fifty years, providing evidence of continuities and discontinuities in the way old age and later life have been thought about during this time. It was done by revisiting an earlier project by Peter Townsend, which resulted in his book The Last Refuge.

Robin Darton

Senior Research Fellow, Personal Social Services Research Unit, University of Kent


Find out more about Robin Darton



Care Homes for Older People: Volume 1. Facilities, Residents and Costs

Ann Netten, Andrew Bebbington, Robin Darton, Julien Forder

Personal Social Services Research Unit, University of Kent, 2001

ISBN: 1902671244



Care Homes for Older People: Volume 2. Admissions, Needs and Outcomes. The 1995/96 National Longitudinal Survey of Publicly-Funded Admissions

Andrew Bebbington, Robin Darton, Ann Netten

Personal Social Services Research Unit, University of Kent, 2001

ISBN: 1902671252


  • Wed 21 Nov 2012 16:00
  • Mon 26 Nov 2012 00:15

Explore further with The Open University

Explore further with The Open University

BBC Thinking Allowed is produced in partnership with The Open University

Download this programme

Download this programme

Subscribe to this programme or download individual episodes.