19th Century Population

1. Introduction

Britain was later than many developed nations of the day in not taking a census until 1801. For several decades there had been arguments as to whether the number of poor people was increasing, either as an absolute figure, or as a proportion of the total population. Censuses were needed to make possible an analysis of the actual situation, but it was the threat of renewed war against France that brought about the first census in the spring of 1801. Since then, with the wartime exception of 1941, there have been censuses at every ten-year interval down to 2011, as well as a ten per cent sample census in 1966.

2. Nineteeth-century census-taking

In 1801 the Home Office set up the machinery for counting the people, which was based on a body of enumerators visiting each house in their enumeration districts (EDs) in order to obtain answers to a very limited number of questions.

In Lincoln, as in country areas and many other towns, the ancient parishes were much the most convenient areas for this purpose, divided where necessary between two or more enumerators. They all had men who were experienced in such matters as tax- and rate-collecting. Use of the very well-known boundaries of the ancient parishes narrowed down the possibilities of confusion, double counting and omission.

Yet, despite this, it is generally recognised that the first census was deficient, perhaps as much as by ten per cent at the national level. The setting up of civil registration (of births, deaths and marriages) in 1837 brought a sharp increase in the amount of information sought from 1841 onwards, and a change in the mode of gathering it. Whilst the parishes generally continued to be used for reporting population figures down to 1901, the enumerators were now required to issue a schedule (form) to each household, for its head to fill in, or to have filled in for him, often by the enumerator.

After census night the latter collected the form and transferred the information into his census enumerator’s book. He handed this to the registrar of his registration sub-district for checking. Lincoln city along with 13 country parishes constituted a sub-district, whilst to north and south were two very large rural sub-districts, the three districts being presided over by a superintendent-registrar. The latter was responsible for further checking and for onward transmission to the Census Office in London, which was in the charge of the Registrar-General.

The Census Office then compiled Census Reports for each county, from which the data shown on this site have been extracted. The fact that this form of administration held sway until 1901 in Lincoln with minor changes means that historians have a solid basis of comparison from one census to the other. Anyone setting out to write a parish history is thus well placed.

In the new century all was to change, which explains why in this download there are separate tables for the periods either side of 1901.

3. Census boundaries

Our map is based mainly on the plan of Lincoln published in 1883 by Padley and Thropp and shows the ancient parishes and extra-parochial areas (EPAs) which were used as the basis of EDs down to 1881. Before the 1891 census some small scale changes had been introduced to simplify some of the divided parishes and EPAs, as specified in the notes to Table 3 under 1891.

Historians should beware the surviving detached areas, such as the continued use of St John’s ED for the area north of Sewell’s Road where the County Hospital had been built. Affecting a much larger area was the splitting of the Monks Liberty EPA. The large area with a very small population north of Greetwell Road was transferred to St Peter-in-Eastgate parish, leaving the southern parts of the EPA either side of Monks Road to carry on as a separate ED until 1901. This was the only Lincoln EPA to reach a significant population (1,217).

Careful attention is recommended to the description of the geography of his ED given by an enumerator near the beginning of his book. Also to the names of streets as he recorded them in the body of the book.

For further detail on EPAs see section 7 (below), Extra notes on Extra-Parochial Areas or Places.

4. New ecclesiastical parishes not used for census purposes

Additionally, note should be taken of the building of several new Anglican churches in areas of new settlement in the late Victorian period, three of which became parish churches, rather than mission halls or chapels of ease:

  • In 1876-77 St Andrew’s Church was built in St Peter-at-Gowts parish, its new ecclesiastical parish being founded in 1883.

  • In 1894-95 St Faith’s Church was built in the western detached part of St Mary-le-Wigford parish, thus reviving a long lost medieval dedication in that area. Its registers were begun in 1899, when it became an ecclesiastical district.

  • In 1903 All Saints Church was opened on Monks Road in the eastern part of St Swithin’s parish, and the new ecclesiastical parish was recognised the following year.

It appears that none of these developments affected the census reports.

5. City overview of the nineteenth century

Turning to the city as a whole, with a population of about 7,000, Lincoln was quite a small town in 1801, hardly bigger than Boston, but had risen to almost 49,000 by 1901, a seven-fold increase across the century (Table 3 and notes).

In the period 1801-41 the population rose to about 14,000, with decadal increases below 20 per cent, but above the national average. By 1871 a figure close to 27,000 had been reached with decadal increases in the 20-30 per cent range except for 19.7 per cent in 1851-61 (approaching double the national norm).

The next decade, 1871-81, saw Lincoln set a record increase of 39.4 per cent, which the city has never broken in proportional terms and was almost three times as fast as the national average. This took the population to over 37,000, and further increases above the national average meant that the 1901 total was almost 49,000. These increases can also be compared with the typical changes in village populations across the country, which up to one of the mid-century censuses were generally increases, followed by a steady decline into the earlier periods of the twentieth century.

6. Notes on the House of Industry and the Union Workhouse

The census authorities were encouraged to keep track of persons enumerated on census night in the largest of the institutions such as the prison and the hospital and these were often listed in footnotes. Of particular interest was the pauper population receiving ‘indoor relief’ (as distinct from paupers whom parish overseers granted ‘outdoor relief’ at home). Hence, the Census Reports of 1801-1831 gave the House of Industry separately and described it as an extra-parochial place, probably created as such when the House was built. The latter was south of the site of the Union Workhouse that replaced it in the 1830s. Whereas the House of Industry appears from maps as if it was in St Martin’s parish, the Workhouse was in a detached part of St Peter-in-Eastgate parish until this area was transferred to St Paul’s parish in 1888.

However, both the House of Industry and the Workhouse are listed as in St Peter-in-Eastgate until 1851. From 1861 to 1881 the population is not given in the Reports, but could be recovered from the census enumerators’ books.

7. Extra notes on Extra-Parochial Areas or Places

These were places where generally no rates were levied, and were the relics of medieval arrangements such as the commons, and the ex-monastic and royal property that had been made free of parochial tithes. Under an Act of 1857 at least those that levied poor rates were deemed to be civil parishes and therefore it would have seemed logical to treat them as enumeration districts.

In fact the Monks Liberty, Castle Dykings, the Castle Prison and the County Asylum (The Lawn) had been treated by the Lincoln superintendent-registrar as EDs from 1841.

The Bishop’s Palace was not surprisingly a privileged place. The Castle and the Castle Dykings had been royal property.

The Castle Prison was closed between the 1871 and 1881 censuses, being replaced by the County Prison in 1872.

Across Union Road from the Castle Dykings was the Lawn area, which may once have been part of the same royal property, but was treated separately, at least from 1841.

The Holmes Common was presumed to be an EPA and Hill states that it was included in the measure of 1857 (Hill, Victorian Lincoln, p.132fn). It appears as a separate ED and CP in the 1881 census (possibly the first census at which it had a population?) and was then subsumed in St Mary-le-Wigford.

Only the Monks Liberty, the Cold Bath House, the Bishop’s Palace and the South Common survived as separate EDs until the 1901 census (and possibly the Castle Dykings).

The South Common ED was operative from 1871 to 1901. Known as Canwick Common up to 1787 (and by tradition after that date), it was an EPA. It had been an area intercommoned by the ‘men’ of Canwick and those of Wigford (the city below the High Bridge). Under the 1787 Canwick Enclosure Award a boundary was drawn on the Canwick side to separate the rural parish from the Common, the latter being declared to be part of the City. As no one lived on it at the time, there was no need to give it a parochial administration. The Toll Bar Cottage was built in 1843 at the junction of Canwick Road and Washingborough Road, and is still there by the traffic lights. In 1851, when there were three people living in the house, and in 1861, when there were four, it was identified by the registrar as an EPA, but the Canwick enumerator reported it with Canwick. By 1871 there were houses along the road named South Park on the northern fringe of the South Common, making it worthwhile turning the Common into a separate ED.

8. References

Peter Christian and David Annal, Census; the expert guide (The National Archives, 2008).

Michael Drake and Ruth Finnegan (eds.), Studying family and community history, 19th and 20th centuries, vol.4, Sources and methods: a handbook (Cambridge, 1992), for Chapter 3, Dennis Mills and Michael Drake, ‘The census, 1801-1991’, pp.25-56.

Edward Higgs, Making sense of the census revisited: census records for England and Wales, 1801-1901. A handbook for historical researchers (University of London Institute of Historical Research, 2005).

Sir Francis Hill, Victorian Lincoln (Cambridge, 1974)

Dennis Mills and Kevin Schurer (eds.), Local communities in the Victorian census enumerators’ books (Oxford, 1996).

Richard I. Woods, The population of Britain in the nineteenth century (London, 1992).

Also, census and related information is available up to 1937 on http://www.histpop.org/ and Local Population Studies (journal and society): http://www.localpopulationstudies.org.uk/