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1821 census of Farnborough, Warwickshire


Introduction to the census

The first British census was taken in 1801, immediately following the Act of Union of England and Scotland. English statistician John Rickman, a Clerk to the House of Commons, is generally credited with the idea of introducing the ten-yearly census, and indeed it was he who was chiefly responsible for the administration of the first four of these, from 1801 to 1831.

Among the reasons which he gave to promote his idea were that it would ascertain the number of men eligible for conscription into the militia and of seamen available for defence, at this period of the Napoleonic wars. There were also fears that the growth in population would outstrip food production, leading to "the need to plan the production of corn and thus to know the number of people who had to be fed".

From 1801 to 1831, the census was the responsibility of the Overseers of the Poor and of the clergy; the Farnborough returns seem to have been initialled V.C., the only householder with these initials being Valentine Cannon. However, as he was by all accounts an ordinary labourer, it seems unlikely that Valentine was entrusted with the task. The enumerator's arithmetic does not appear to have been perfect, 33 males under five years of age being recorded, but totalled as 32: however, the grand total given is correct at 179. As regards females, sixteen were recorded as being between 40 and 50 years of age, but the total was given as fourteen. This was not adjusted as with the males, so the grand total of 178 would appear to be two short if the numbers for the individual households are correct.

The recorded total of 357 (359 in reality?) was also subject to some inaccuracy when published. Lewis's Gazetteer of 1831 gives a figure of 356, while White's 1850 Directory of Warwickshire (p.719) has 350. Whatever the exact figure, it is considerably higher than the 1801 and 1811 populations noted on the reverse of the 1821 sheet, at 241 and 250 respectively (again, White has 214 for 1801). The 43% increase from 1811 to 1821 is double the county figure: in the same decade, the Warwickshire population as enumerated increased by 20.2%, to 274,392.

The 1821 census, taken on the night of Monday 28th May, was the first British population count to request information about ages, and just under half of the population proved to be under twenty. Unfortunately, most of these early censuses have disappeared, Farnborough being one of only about 300 parishes for which such records survive. As regards the village results, 185, or 52%, of the inhabitants were under 20, which means that the Farnborough statistics are close to country-wide figures. No fewer than 98 (over one in four) were children under 10, nearly one in six being under five years old. For a typical example of high infant mortality, see the notes on Thomas Griffin. At the other end of the scale, it is notable that there was not a single female over 70, while there were five men, just one of whom was over 80.

Of the 63 households recorded, by far the most populous was that of William Holbech, Esq. A twelfth of the population (30 souls) were recorded in residence at his seat, Farnborough Hall, the 21 females among these no doubt including a large number "below stairs". Exactly two thirds of the remaining households had between 4 and 7 members. The full results excluding the Hall are: 14 members/1 household; 10/4; 9/3; 8/1; 7/7; 6/9; 5/8; 4/17; 3/7; 2/3; 1/2. Of the householders whose area of work was stated, 28 were employed in agriculture and 16 were in trade.

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