Content associated with: Enumeration abstract, 1841    Page 18

Constructing a parish population history

Matthew Woollard

The census reports contain a wealth of information about the population of a place across time. The construction of a single time-line of the population is fraught with difficulties, but with a knowledge of the census reports and some of their idiosyncrasies it is possible to construct something of value for further research.

In this essay, I shall bring together much of the information relating to a single parish in a coherent fashion. The parish under observation is West Ham, and despite its rapid population growth throughout the century it is not particularly difficult to synthesize the available population information. The slight difficulties in tracing the population of West Ham will not be mirrored in all other parishes, but there are many different problems which could be faced in such an exercise. Some of these will be discussed below.

The starting point for most researchers is not the 1801 census but the 1851 census. Population tables I, Vol. I. England and Wales. Divisions I-VII, 1851 is a useful place to start one's researches because the population tables for this census gives population totals broken down by sex for each of the earlier censuses, thus obviating the need to trawl through earlier volumes. However, since this particular source does not give information on the numbers of houses, it is perhaps more instructive to start with the material that is specific to the 1801 census.

The Enumeration abstract, 1801 contains the parish level totals for Britain, and in this volume the ancient counties are arranged alphabetically, starting with Bedfordshire and ending with Yorkshire, then Wales, then Scotland. Counties are also subdivided into hundreds and boroughs. If you are not sure in which hundred the parish you wish to investigate is situated, it is best to start with the Index to parishes, townships and place, Great Britain, 1851 which was part of the 1851 census. On page 270 of this volume on page 270 we are told that that the parish of West Ham was located in the hundred of Becontree.

The details relating to West Ham are found on page 102 of Enumeration abstract, 1801, under the heading of the hundred of Becontree. In this year the total population of West Ham is not given, rather it is split into three wards: Church Street, Plaistow and Stratford. The table below reproduces the main information from the published report, but the final row has been calculated from the figures above.

  HOUSES: Inhabited HOUSES: By how many Families occupied HOUSES: Uninhabited PERSONS: Males PERSONS: Females Persons chiefly employed in Agriculture Persons chiefly employed in trade, manufactures, or handicrafts All others Persons not comprized in the Two preceding classes Total of persons
Church Street 306 401 15 834 1,126 130 152 1,724 1,960
Plaistow 177 256 5 483 586 100 70 899 1,069
Stratford 598 733 4 1,624 1,832 123 489 1,012 3,456
Total 1,081 1,390 24 2,941 3,544 353 711 3,635 6,485

The arithmetic in this extract is faulty. For Church Street ward the total of the three occupational groups sums to 2,006, and not 1,960 as given in the total persons column, and the occupational groups for Stratford totals 1,624, rather than 3,456 given in the total persons column. The first of these may be caused by faulty arithmetic while the second is possibly the enumerator for Stratford misunderstanding the question of occupations, which was supposed to cover all people. Essentially, what we can be sure of from this table is that the population of these three wards summed to 6,485 comprising 2,941 males and 3,544 females. The resulting sex ratio of 1.205 women to every man seems rather high.

For 1811, the Observations and enumeration abstract, 1811 contains the parish level totals, and in this volume the ancient counties are arranged alphabetically starting with Bedfordshire and ending with York, then Wales, then Scotland, as in 1801.

Details of our sample parish, West Ham, are found on page 97, again under the heading of Becontree. At this census the combined total for all wards are given, while a note at the foot of the page tells us that West Ham is comprised of the four wards: All Saints, Church-street, Plaistow and Stratford. What is not clear here is whether or not All Saints Ward existed long before the 1811 census. The fact that it was not present in the 1801 census report suggests that it did not but this omission is not conclusive proof. The ordering of the information in the 1811 report generally the same as in 1801, with the important exception that occupational totals were collected for families and not for persons, most possibly because of the errors seen in 1801. The table below shows the main information gathered from this census.

  HOUSES: Inhabited HOUSES: By how many Families occupied HOUSES: Building HOUSES: Uninhabited Families chiefly employed in Agriculture Families chiefly employed in trade, manufactures, or handicrafts All other families not comprized in the Two preceding classes PERSONS: Males PERSONS: Females Total of persons
West Ham 1,344 1,573 19 83 404 851 318 3,703 4,433 8,136

In 1821, details of West Ham are found on page 93 of the Observations, enumeration and parish register abstracts, 1821, again in the hundred of Becontree in the county of Essex. The basic format for this census follows that of its predecessors, and the headings are identical to those found in the 1811 census.

  HOUSES: Inhabited HOUSES: By how many Families occupied HOUSES: Building HOUSES: Uninhabited Families chiefly employed in Agriculture Families chiefly employed in trade, manufactures, or handicrafts All other families not comprized in the Two preceding classes PERSONS: Males PERSONS: Females Total of persons
West Ham 1,722 1,980 9 58 439 917 624 4,472 5,281 9,753

A note tells us that the "Return of West-Ham includes the Four Wards into which the Parish is divided", but does not name them. There is also a cross (like †, but turned by 90 degrees) next to the name West Ham means that the returns from that parish did not contain any response to the question on ages. (See the note at the bottom of p.103 for further details.)

At the 1831 census the results of the enumeration are found in two volumes Enumeration abstract, 1831 (Part 1) and Enumeration abstract, 1831 (Part 2). The split occurs after Somerset, which is contained in the first of these volumes.

An additional useful piece of information is included for the first time in the 1831 returns which is the size of the geographical unit under observation. This is useful as it enables us to detect possible problems over time. In 1831 the size of West Ham was given as 5,160 acres. A similar note at the bottom of the page tells us that West Ham parish is divided into four wards.

  Acres HOUSES: Inhabited HOUSES: By how many Families occupied HOUSES: Building HOUSES: Uninhabited Families chiefly employed in Agriculture Families chiefly employed in trade, manufactures, or handicrafts All other families not comprized in the Two preceding classes PERSONS: Males PERSONS: Females Total of persons
West Ham 5,160 1,984 2,354 33 106 343 944 1,067 5,436 6,144 11,580

A further source for the population of parishes in 1831 is the Comparative account, 1831. On page 94 the parish of West Ham is found in its alphabetical sequence under Ham, West.

In this volume we are told that the population of the parish was 6,485 in 1801, 8,136 in 1811, 9,753 in 1821 and 11,580 in 1831. All of these figures tally with those given in the earlier volumes and suggest that the ward of All Saints, which was not specifically mentioned in the enumeration in 1801, was perhaps part of one of the other wards at that time. This volume also gives the annual value of the real property as assessed in April 1815 as £40,650.

The publication of the 1841 census had a slightly different format to its predecessors. The main population figures are given in Enumeration abstract, 1841 while separate abstracts were published for occupations and ages in the Occupation abstract, England and Wales, 1841 and Age abstract, England and Wales, 1841 respectively.

Despite the introduction of registration areas by the time the General Register Office was founded in 1836, this census followed the conventional arrangement of the population returns, and each county is abstracted in alphabetical order, and parishes are given alphabetically within each hundred. Page 89 of the Enumeration abstract, 1841 contains details on the population of West Ham, along with some other information. The basic population figures are shown below, but the table on page 89 also shows the numbers of males and females over and under 20 years of age.

    HOUSES PERSONS Persons born:
  Acres Inhabited Uninhabited Building Males Females Total In county Elsewhere
West Ham 5,160 2,291 105 59 6,087 6,651 12,738 7,506 5,232

There is also a note at the bottom of the page which tells us again that the parish of West Ham is made up of four wards, but also gives us the additional information that this return includes 219 persons "in a Workhouse belonging to the West Ham Union". Furthermore, while the parish of West Ham is not considered to be important enough at this time to have its own occupational return, figures for its age structure are in the Age abstract, England and Wales, 1841 on pp. 84–5. Age returns are not given for all parishes.

In 1851 the arrangement of the census volumes changes and remains in this altered format until the 1901 census. Rather than being arranged alphabetically by counties, information is presented by registration divisions. Two volumes of population returns were published: Population tables I, Vol. I. England and Wales. Divisions I-VII, 1851, which contains the basic demographic information for Divisions I to VI, and Population tables I, Vol. II. England and Wales. Divisions VII-IX. Scotland. Islands, 1851, which contains the same information for Divisions VII to XI, along with Scotland and the Island in the British Seas. The table below shows which registration counties fell into which Division.

Name and Number of Registration DivisionCounties
Division I. London Includes metropolitan parts of Middlesex, Surrey and Kent
Division II. South Eastern Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire
Division III. South Midland Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire
Division IV. Eastern Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk
Division V. South Western Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, Devonshire, Cornwall, Somerset
Division VI. West Midland Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire
Division VII. North Midland Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire
Division VIII. North Western Cheshire, Lancashire
Division IX. York All ridings
Division X. Northern Durham, Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland
Division XI. Welsh All counties, including Monmouthshire

Essex is in Division IV and information about West Ham can be found in the Population tables I, Vol. I. England and Wales. Divisions I-VII, 1851 on pages 12 and 13 which relate to this Division. In this volume information relating to each Division is contained within its own page sequence, so Population tables I, Vol. I. England and Wales. Divisions I-VII, 1851 contains ten page 12s. This information, provided at a parish level, is more detailed than that published in the previous censuses.

By 1851 the name West Ham was given to other administrative districts. It was a registration district (number 194) which is made up of four sub-districts (Stratford, West Ham, Leyton and Walthamstow). The parish of West Ham was split between two sub-districts (Stratford and West Ham), but the split was along the lines of the separate wards in parish; thus Stratford ward was in the Stratford sub-district and the Plaistow and Church Street wards were in the West Ham sub-district. In this case it is important to note that the Stratford sub-district comprised only one part-parish (in this case West Ham), and that the West Ham sub-district is comprised of two whole parishes (East Ham and Little Ilford) and one part parish (in this case West Ham). Many other parishes were split in this fashion and it is necessary to keep a check on this when constructing a parish population history.

The note on page 13 explains: "194; 1-2. West Ham Parish was returned in the aggregate prior to 1841; in order to admit of a comparison of the Subdistricts an estimated division of the population has been made. 1841 — The Return includes 219 persons in a workhouse since disused. 1851 — The Population of Stratford has greatly increased in consequence of a large number of workmen and others employed in connexion with the Eastern Counties Railway having dwellings here in the newly-built part called Hudson's Town." A further note "194; 2;1. Church-street Ward includes the Villages of Upton and Forest Gate. Plaistow Ward includes Canning New Town and Plaistow Grove, each containing about 150 houses, which have been chiefly built since 1848."

Since this discussion is solely related to the parish of West Ham, only the relevant information is shown here. For additional information see the relevant page in the Population tables I, Vol. I. England and Wales. Divisions I-VII, 1851.

No. of District No. of Subdistrict Subdistrict No. of Parish Parish, Township, or Place Type Area in Statute acres
194 1 STRATFORD 1 West Ham, part of Parish
STRATFORD
Ward 5390w
2 WEST HAM 1 West Ham, part of Parish
Plaistow and Church-street Wards
Ward
2 East Ham Parish 2495w
3 Little Ilford Parish 763

In order to extract information about the parish of West Ham from this table it would be necessary to add together the two separate parts of the parish. However, the actual figures for the whole of the parish are given at the bottom of the relevant pages, making this task slightly less problematic.

The first striking point about this table is that the acreage of West Ham has increased from 5,160 (given in 1831 and 1841) to 5,390. (Note that the lower case w here means that this figure includes some water.) In this case the difference has not been caused by the alteration of boundaries, but by more accurate surveying. It is always worthwhile using the acreage of a place to check whether the boundaries of a place have changed between censuses.

The 1851 population returns for parishes are spread over two pages. The first page gives the number of houses (in three categories: inhabited, uninhabited and building) for both 1841 and 1851. Again these figures are useful to check against the numbers given in the previous census, in case there are any discrepancies. As a rule of thumb, it is better to use the figures given in the more recent of two censuses for comparative purposes because the newer figures may have been corrected in some way. However, if there are discrepancies, it is worth checking why they may have occured. In the case of West Ham the figures given in the 1851 report for 1841 are identical to those published in the 1841 report. In addition to the current parish population figures the latter also gives figures for each of the earlier censuses. Because the earlier censuses did not give a complete breakdown of the population by ward, the Census Office has estimated the figures for each of the wards.

The manner in which this estimation took place is reasonably straightforward. The Census Office took the disaggregated figures from 1841 and used the ratio to extrapolate back from the total population figures for each year. A similar exercise was performed for the numbers of males and females that are shown on the following page of the Population tables I, Vol. I. England and Wales. Divisions I-VII, 1851.

The main returns for West Ham for 1851 are shown in the following table, though not all the information contained within the tables is shown in this essay.

  HOUSES PERSONS
  Inhabited Uninhabited Building Total Males Females
West Ham 3,306 187 96 18,817 9,253 9,564

These tables only provide the basic information on population for parishes; additional information relating to the age profile of the sub-districts (not parishes) is given in the Population tables II, Vol. I. England and Wales. Divisions I-VI, 1851 (for West Ham Sub-District on page 256. Information on the occupational structure (for men aged over 20) of the registration district of West Ham is given in this volume, starting on page 286.

The Index to parishes, townships and place, Great Britain, 1851 also provides an important finding aid for places. There are three entries in this volume for West Ham, which can be found on page 270.

 
Name of place Description County District or Union No. of District No. of sub-district Number of Parish or place Reference to Enumeration Abstracts, 1801–1841
West Ham District Essex   194      
West Ham Sub-Dis. Essex West Ham 194 2    
West Ham Parish Essex West Ham 194 1-2   Becontree

The last column of this extract is useful if you can not find the place being searched for in earlier reports as it should show the hundred or borough in which the parish you have looked up was located.

In 1861 the main report, Population tables. England and Wales. Vol. I. Index, 1861, is similar in format to the 1851 report, but contains less information. In the case of West Ham it is also important to note that it gives its name to both a registration district and a sub-district too, which could be confusing. Page 340 of this report gives us the information we are looking for. Again, what is shown below is an extract of the information found in the report. For full details look at the relevant page.

    HOUSES PERSONS
  Acres Inhabited Uninhabited Building Total Males Females
West Ham 5,390w 6,191 505 132 38,331 19,404 18,827

Again, this page of the report gives the equivalent figures for 1851 which are usefully checked against the previous report. In this case all the figures match.

Two notes at the base of this page read: "The large increase of population in the Stratford Sub-district is attributed to the establishment of manufactories belonging to the Eastern Counties Railway, the operations of Building Societies, and the erection of the Victoria Docks and iron ship building establishments" and "The large increase of population in the West Ham Sub-district is attributed to the establishment of coke ovens, the Victoria Docks, and, india-rubber and chemical works, the opening of a railway station, &c. The return for 1861 includes 677 persons on board vessels."

Further information on the institutions in the Registration District of West Ham are given on page 369 of this report. On this page we are told that there is an Industrial School for the children of the Union in the parish of West Ham. If there are considerable fluctuations in population in smaller parishes it is to follow up the institutional population tables in the various reports.

Finding detailed population figures for the 1871 census is more complex. Population tables, England and Wales, Vol. I. [Ancient] counties, 1871 contains information about ancient counties. It is best to use this volume only to extract a piece of information which is not given in the second volume relating to this census (Population tables, England and Wales, Vol. II. Registration counties, 1871): the number of "families or separate occupiers" in a parish. For West Ham we find that there were 14,130. This figure allows us to calculate the number of families per house or the number of persons per family. When doing this, however, we should be cautious, because a "separate occupier" might mean a workhouse of 500 people.

Furthermore, because West Ham was growing so rapidly in this period, the populations were broken down in this volume by ward (see page 116), but this doesn't occur for other parishes.

Table 4 of the second volume of the 1871 census (Population tables, England and Wales, Vol. II. Registration counties, 1871) has population totals for all parishes, but ordered by registration division, county and district. The format of these tables is the same as in 1861, and again only selected information has been reproduced in this essay. The page which relates to West Ham is page 169.

    HOUSES PERSONS
  Acres Inhabited Uninhabited Building Total Males Females
West Ham 4,667w 10,199 1,468 270 62,919 31,384 31,535

The notes on this page are more detailed than before, and refer to that part of the table which was divided into separate ward populations. The first, which relates to the Stratford sub-district, states: "The increase in the population of the Stratford Sub-district is attributed to the establishment of numerous factories, and to the extension of the Great Eastern Railway works." The second and third refer to the Plaistow and Church Street wards and read: "This part of the parish of West Ham includes the localities known as Stratford Green, Upton Green, Canning Town, Forest Gate, and Silvertown" and "In Plaistow and Church Street Wards the addition to the population is attributed to an increase in employment at the Victoria Docks, to the introduction of a number of important manufactures (gutta percha, telegraph wire, gas, &c.), and to the opening of an industrial school (that of St. George, Hanover Square). The population of the Plaistow Ward in 1871 amounted to 23,371 persons (11,990 males, 11,381 females), residing in 3487 houses; there were 509 houses uninhabited and 109 building, In the Church Street Ward there were 16,262 persons (7837 males, 8425 females), residing in 2728 houses; the uninhabited houses numbered 588, and 110 were building. Of the population of Church Street Ward 269 were on board vessels in the docks, and 721 were in the Whitechapel Union Industrial Schools at Forest Gate. The population of Plaistow Ward includes 256 persons in the Richmond Street Industrial Schools, belonging to St. George Hanover Square Union." The Royal Victoria Dock was constructed between 1850 and 1855 and was noted in the earlier returns.

What is also striking about this table is that the reported area of the parish has changed again, from 5,390 acres in 1851 and 1861 to 4,667 acres in 1871. This may have been because of alterations in the boundaries, but it is also possible that the area had been surveyed properly since the previous census. The use of italic print in the original table denotes that these figures have been newly provided by the Director of the Ordnance Survey rather than being based on the Tithe Survey which John Rickman first used in the 1831 census. There is evidence on page 204 of Population tables, England and Wales, Vol. II. Registration counties, 1871 that 269 acres of the West Ham parish have been "removed" because they included adjacent tidal water and foreshore, but this does not make up the whole of the difference. Local knowledge helps in this case, since the Royal Albert Dock which was situated within the parish was built between 1875 and 1880 it would be plausible to assume that the decrease in land area was related to this construction work, and that the resurveying included the Royal Victoria Dock, which would also remove "habitable" acres. There is however, another possibility: Howarth and Wilson's West Ham: a study in social and industrial problems published in 1907, states that the difference in area between 1861 and 1871 was "due to the exclusion in [the] later returns of a part of Wanstead (723 acres) which in 1861 had no houses or population".

The volume for 1881 Population. England and Wales. Vol. II. Registration counties, 1881, contains similar information in a similar format. Details are broken down again by sub-district, but on the bottom of the page the two sub-districts have been aggregated to give the totals for the whole parish.

    HOUSES PERSONS
  Acres Inhabited Uninhabited Building Total Males Females
West Ham 4,667w 19,167 1,933 760 128,953 65,410 63,543

A note at the base of the table makes no comment on the massive increase in population but does tell us that "The return includes 347 persons on board the London School Board Training Ship "Shaftsbury", which at the time of taking the census was lying in the Royal Albert Docks, but whose proper station is at Grays Thurrock in the Gray's Sub-district of Orsett (190:1), 313 persons in the Industrial Schools at Plasket, belonging to St. George in the East, and 23 in vessels."

Furthermore, page 114 of Population. England and Wales. Vol. I. [Ancient] counties, 1881 gives the number of "families or separate occupiers" as 27,722.

By 1891 West Ham has changed again, and this time into a County Borough. This does not affect the location of the parish level population returns, but again may cause some confusion when examining large parishes which have been transformed into different administrative entities.

The main population figures are given in Population. Registration areas and sanitary districts, England and Wales. Vol. II, 1891. The figures for West Ham are on page 291. A number of features can be discerned from this table. First, the number of the Registration District has changed to 196. The constitution of the Registration District has also been altered. A total of seven sub-districts now make up the whole of the district, and the parish of West Ham is split between four of these sub-districts. The basic details for the population are given in the table below. Again these are not complete and the original table should also be examined.

    HOUSES PERSONS
  Acres Inhabited Uninhabited Building Total Males Females
West Ham 4,706w 32,066 1,658 334 204,903 102,341 102,562

Again, the area of the parish has changed, increasing in size from 4,667 to 4,706 acres. This time this alteration does refer to an alteration in the boundaries of the parish. For each Division (in this volume) a separate table shows the effects of the Divided Parishes Act of 1882. For Division IV this table starts on page 372 and that reveals that a small part of the civil parish of Wanstead (indeed that part which was located in the [County] Borough of West Ham) was transferred to the civil parish of West Ham. This involved two inhabited houses and a total of ten people. The acreage involved is not given, but it is possible that these additional 39 acres were previously in the civil parish of Wanstead. Indeed, a comparison of the acreage of Wanstead as reported in the 1881 and 1891 censuses shows a decrease of 38 acres, which is probably close enough to explain the difference.

The first volume of the 1891 census entitled Population. Administrative counties, England and Wales. Vol. I, 1891 also provides some additional information. Page 98 gives a breakdown of the populations of each of the four wards in this new County Borough of West Ham (also noting in a table that the borough was incorporated on 26 June 1886).

For the English and Welsh census of 1901, separate county volumes were published for population figures, but some information was published in national volumes. The Index to population tables, England and Wales, 1901 contains the following:

Name of Parish, Township, etc.   Description Population, 1901 Registration District and PLU No. of Registration District and sub-district Page of County Volume
West Ham Essex C &P.B. 267,358   186 16 & 3
West Ham North Division Essex P.D.B. 105,719     3
West Ham South Division Essex P.D.B. 161,639     3
West Ham Essex Reg. D. 580,396 West Ham 186 23
West Ham (West Ham CB) Essex Civ. P 267,358   186: 1-4  

This page does not point us to a specific page for the parish of West Ham, but since we know that the parish of West Ham is part of the Registration District of West Ham, for which information can be found on page 23, we can move directly to this page. The volume for the 1901 census is County of Essex, 1901.

  Acres HOUSES PERSONS
  Land and inland water Inland water only Inhabited Uninhabited Building Total Males Females
  In occupation Not in occupation
West Ham 4,683 125 41,368 579 1008 492 267,903 133,498 133,860

Again the reported acreage has changed, and this time it may be connected with the resurveying of the area, which was done to separate land and inland water. However, the alteration of the area of many parishes between the 1891 and 1901 censuses may have been caused by boundaries changes following the Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894, or other local acts since 1891. Because of this it is always worth checking Table 14 of the county volumes, as it indicated any changes that have been made. In the case of West Ham changes did not affect the parish, but some affected the Registration District of the same name.

The publication of the 1911 census followed the 1891 and earlier censuses in publishing single volumes for various subjects rather than following a geographical path. Despite this it remains useful to use the Index to population tables, England and Wales, Vol. V, 1911 index to find places. Details relating to West Ham can be found on page 350.

Page 91 of Areas, families or separate occupiers, and population, England and Wales, Vol. II. Registration areas, 1911 has the population of the civil parish of West Ham laid out slightly differently than before.

    Families or occupiers 1901 1911 Large institutions
  Area 1901 1911 Persons Persons Males Females No. Pop.
West Ham 4,683 56,390 61,882 267,358 289,030 142,738 146,292 125 3262

The same information can be found on page 134 of the first volume (Areas, families or separate occupiers, and population, England and Wales, Vol. I. Administrative areas, 1911), which includes a breakdown for each of the new 12 wards West Ham County Borough (which was co-terminus with the civil parish). To find the number of dwellings in the area use Table 4 (starting on page 20) of the Buildings of various kinds, England and Wales, Vol. VI, 1911.

County volumes were again published in 1921 and the populations for the civil parish can be found in Table 3 of each of the county volumes. The volume for Essex County of Essex, 1921 gives the following information:

  1911 1921
Area Persons Persons Males Females Persons per acre Private families Population in private families Structurally separate buildings Rooms occupied Rooms per person
4,683 289,030 300,860 146,201 154,659 64.2 68,569 297,049 47,995 251,342 0.85

The period 1921 to 1931 saw considerable changes in the constitution of West Ham. During this period, the wards within the County Borough were reorganised, but, thankfully, this made no impact on the reporting of the population of the civil parish. Like its predecessor the 1831 census was published by county, and the volume: County of Essex (Part I), 1931 contains the information for Essex. The basic format of the table had changed yet again, but the main information that we need to construct a long-term population of the parish remained.

The main population table has this structure (though for some parishes it may be necessary to look at the abbreviations given in the tables carefully):

  Acreage (Land and Inland Water) TOTAL POPULATION PRIVATE FAMILIES AND DWELLINGS, 1931
  1921 1931 Private Families Population in Private Families Structurally separate Dwellings occupied Rooms occupied Persons in Room
  Persons Persons Males Females Persons per Acre
West Ham 4,689 300,860 294,278 143,714 150,564 62.8 72,994 289,042 49,280 253,254 1.14

Once more we note a change in the size of the parish (from 4,683 to 4, 689 acres), and again there is no satisfactory evidence as to the cause for this change. Table 4 in the county reports lists boundary changes for most of the different administrative units, but West Ham seems to be unaffected. Instead, the alteration in size may be due to arithmetical problems caused by the reorientation of the wards within the County Borough.

Below is a table summarizing most, but not all of the material collected on West Ham from the census reports. The final four columns contain new data which have been calculated to provide comparisons. The first of these shows the number of persons per house. Although this is not a very accurate statistic, because the manner in which occupied houses was calculated changed over time, it does give an indication of housing conditions throughout the period. The second additional column shows the percentage population increase in the decades between censuses. In two decades (1851 to 1861 and 1871 to 1881) the population of the parish more than doubled. The penultimate column gives the percentage increase in population across the whole of Essex and it taken directly from the 1931 report. This enables us to find out, for example, if the population of West Ham was increasing more rapidly or slowly than its mother county. The final column gives the sex-ratio of the population, showing that men outnumbered women only during the two decades of peak population increase. (In this table the sex ratio is given as the proportion of women to men.)

The construction of a table like this provides valuable bones on which to add the flesh of any local or community histories. It provides a demographic basis for any such study, and the other information collected during this process gives indications of the occupational structure and provides an awareness of the changes in local government. Some of the notes in the tables, especially in the mid-nineteenth century, provide valuable evidence as to the growth of a place or reasons behind large fluctuations in population.

  TOTAL Males Females Occupied houses Persons per house Percentage increase
of West Ham
Percentage increase
of Essex
Sex ratio
1801 6,485 2,941 3,544 1,081 6.00     1.205
1811 8,136 3,703 4,433 1,344 6.05 25.46 10.9 1.197
1821 9,753 4,472 5,281 1,722 5.66 19.87 14.6 1.181
1831 11,580 5,436 6,144 1,984 5.84 18.73 9.7 1.130
1841 12,738 6,087 6,651 2,291 5.56 10.00 8.7 1.093
1851 18,817 9,253 9,564 3,306 5.69 47.72 7.0 1.034
1861 38,331 19,404 18,927 6,191 6.19 103.70 9.6 0.975
1871 62,919 31,384 31,535 10,199 6.17 64.15 15.2 1.005
1881 128,953 65,410 63,543 19,167 6.73 104.95 23.6 0.971
1891 204,903 102,341 102,562 32,066 6.39 58.90 36.2 1.002
1901 267,358 133,498 133,860 41,368 6.46 30.48 38.4 1.003
1911 289,030 142,738 146,292 44,336 6.52 8.11 24.6 1.025
1921 300,860 146,201 154,659 47,995 6.27 4.09 8.8 1.058
1931 294,278 143,714 150,564 49,280 5.97 -2.19 14.4 1.048

This exercise has been carried out on a reasonably straightforward parish. For the majority of rural parishes across England and Wales this exercise is likely to be easier, but for some rural parishes and many urban parishes it is likely that boundary alterations make the production of a continuous series like this more difficult. In the north of England the tradition of parishes being made up of many townships can make going through the census volumes a chore. Some parishes are, at different points in time, located in more than one county; for example Ickford was partly in Buckinghamshire and partly in Oxfordshire (though generally recorded in Buckinghamshire), Barthomly parish was split recorded in both Cheshire and Staffordshire, because it was made up of separate townships; and some parishes were located across many different registration districts. When trying to reconstruct the broad population history of a parish, it is worthwhile to note the precise volume and page from which you are extracting information, to collect any ancillary information offered in the notes, and to keep an eye on any important changes in area which might explain any sudden fluctuations which can not be explained by either natural increase or immigration.

REFERENCE

E. G. Howarth and M. Wilson, West Ham: a study in social and industrial problems (London, 1907).

W. R. Powell, ed., A history of the county of Essex, Vol. VI (Oxford, 1973).

Last altered: 1 February 2007