Skip to content

Cholera 1831

Project artwork incorporating project title 'Cholera: 1831'.

New school resource pack for Key Stage 2

Cholera 1831 is a free teachers resource pack for Key Stage 2 students. Through creative exercises and structured discussions your learners will understand more about the devastating impact that cholera had on the local communities of Gateshead, and what they did to overcome it. 

Download the Lesson Plans and PowerPoints on the link below. You can access the films via the YouTube playlist below, or via links in the Lesson Plans.

Problems accessing the downloads? Please get in touch with

Curriculum Links: Science, Local History, Drama, Creative Writing, Oracy. 

All activities can be completed in a socially distanced classroom with students seated individually if required. 

Your students will be guided through activities by the character of John Snow. Snow was a real person resident in Newcastle during the time of the outbreak and who 20 years later would posit the theory that cholera was a water-borne disease. Snow will give your students a sense of what life was like in the 1800’s and how different people were responding to the threat of disease.

Background to the local history

In 1831, just before Christmas, Gateshead was hit by an outbreak of cholera. The disease had travelled from India through Russia then across Europe into Germany before making landfall in the UK at Sunderland. When cholera came to Gateshead it took a particular toll on those close to the river who lived in very difficult conditions. At the time no one knew how the disease was transmitted and local communities struggled to contain it. 

‘Cholera 1831’ is based on material from Newcastle University Library’s Special Collections. Newcastle University has a vast number of objects and tracts in its Special Collections including many related to the Gateshead cholera outbreak. This archive provides a fascinating insight into the response to the crisis by public health authorities and local residents.


We are very aware that infectious disease is currently a difficult subject. Cap-a-Pie has worked closely with teachers to create this resource and has drawn on their expertise of engaging pupils in sensitive topics. We have included optional activities to discuss the clear connections between what happened in 1831 with cholera and in 2020 with COVID-19. Please use your discretion as to whether you would like to complete this part of the project. 

The Team

Written & Directed by Brad McCormick
Performed & Writing Assisted by Adam Donaldson
Costume & Props by Imogen Cloët
Film & Edit by Lindsay Duncanson
Sound by Marek Gabrysch

This project was based on Collections Relative to the cholera at Gateshead, in the county of Durham, 1831, Rare Books, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.

Thanks to our Funders and Partners

The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Newcastle University