Content associated with: Observations and enumeration abstract, 1811    Page 55

Census of England and Wales, 1811

Edward Higgs

The 1811 census was the second decennial census undertaken by John Rickman. Its organisation was similar to the first census in 1801. The 1811 Census Act (51 Geo. III, c. 6) was again "An Act for taking an Account of the Population of Great Britain, and the increase or diminution thereof". The schedule of the Census Act of 1811 carried the following questions for overseers of the poor in England and Wales, and for schoolmasters in Scotland;

1. How many inhabited houses are there in your parish, township or place; by how many families are they occupied; and how many houses therein are uninhabited?

2. How many houses are now building, and not yet inhabited?

3. How many other houses are uninhabited?

4. What number of families in your parish, township or place, are chiefly employed in and maintained by agriculture; how many families are chiefly employed in and maintained by trade, manufacture or handicraft; and how many families are not comprized in either of the two preceding classes?

5. How many persons (including children of whatever age) are there actually found within the limits of your parish, township, or place, at the time of taking this account, distinguishing males and females, and exclusive of men actually serving in his majesty's regular forces or the old militia, or any embodied local militia, and exclusive of seamen either in his majesty's service or belonging to registered vessels?

6. Referring to the number of persons in 1801, to what cause do you attribute any remarkable difference in the number at present?

7. Are there any matters which you think it necessary to remark in explanation of your answers to any of the preceding questions?

These questions were addressed to those responsible for taking the census by house-to-house enquiries on 27 May 1811, or as soon as possible thereafter.

The schedule of the Census Act of 1811 carried the following questions for the clergy in England and Wales:

1. What was the number of baptisms and burials in your parish, township or place, in the several years 1801, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10; distinguishing males from females?

2. What was the number of marriages in your parish, township or place, in the several years 1801, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10?

3. Are there any matters, which you think it necessary to remark, in explanation of your answers to either of the preceding questions? Especially whether any and what annual average number of baptisms, burials and marriages, may, in your opinion, taken place in your parish, without being entered in the parish registers?

Because of the paucity of parish returns from Scotland in 1801, the above questions were not asked there in 1811.

The main changes compared to 1801 were, therefore, more detailed questions relating to uninhabited housing; the substitution of the number of families for the number of persons in particular economic sectors; and the confinement of the questions on parish register data to the preceding 10 years, rather than the preceding 100 years as was done in 1801. These changes reflected lessons that had been learnt by Rickman from his analysis of the 1801 data.

All the census returns had to be made on forms that were attached to the schedule of the act (Higgs, 1989, p 115). These forms merely asked for the insertion of raw numbers (Higgs, 1989, p 22). In order to make the returns, some overseers drew up nominal listings of the inhabitants of their parishes from which the final returns were compiled. In some areas printers produced printed forms for this purpose. In London and elsewhere printed schedules were left for householders to fill up themselves. These unofficial documents were retained locally amongst the Poor Law records, or in the parish chest (Higgs, 1989, 24–6).

The official returns made by the overseers were to be sent to the Home Office not later than 1st August. There they were to be "digested and reduced to Order by such Officer as such Secretary of State (for the Home Department) shall appoint for the Purpose". Returns compiled from the parish registers had to be forwarded by the clergy to the bishop of the diocese, who was required to send them to his archbishop, who sent them to the Privy Council. The job of preparing the abstracts of the returns that were laid before Parliament was given to John Rickman (Higgs, 1989, p 6).

In 1811 the published Reports were in three parts. The Preliminary Observations (Abstract... Preliminary Observations. Enumeration Abstract) gave the questions asked, and explained why they were different to those asked in 1801. Other issues, such as problems with boundaries and the accuracy of parish registers, were also considered. An Enumeration Abstract (Abstract... Preliminary Observations. Enumeration Abstract) gave the numbers of houses, families in economic groups, and persons in counties, hundreds and parishes. A Parish Register Abstract (Abstract... Parish Register Abstract) gave the numbers of baptisms, burials and marriages in each of the years 1801 to 1810 for hundreds and towns in England and Wales.

REFERENCES

Census of Great Britain, 1811, Abstract of the answers and returns made pursuant to an Act, passed in the fifty-first year of His Majesty King George III. intituled "An act for taking an account of the population of Great Britain, and of the increase or diminution thereof". Preliminary observations. Enumeration abstract, BPP 1812 XI (316). [View this document: Observations and enumeration abstract, 1811]

Census of Great Britain, 1811, Abstract of the answers and returns made pursuant to an Act, passed in the fifty-first year of His Majesty King George III. intituled "An act for taking an account of the population of Great Britain, and of the increase or diminution thereof". Parish register abstract BPP 1812 XI (317). [View this document: Parish register abstract, 1811]

Edward Higgs, Making sense of the census. The manuscript returns for England and Wales, 1801–1901 (London, 1989).