1086 Doomsday Survey of human and economic resources, and of the ownership of land in England completed. The population of England was estimated at about 2 million.
1538 Parish registers began. Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, ordered priests in every parish to keep a weekly record of baptisms, marriages and deaths occurring within their parish. See 1653.
1603 An inquiry, along the lines of that of 1563, carried out focusing on the number of communicants in each parish, with the result that dissenters and Catholics were excluded from the count. See 1678.
1632 The Company of Parish Clerks, under licence from Charles I, published “Bills of Mortality”. These were the first returns of death attributed to cause.
1653 Clergy required, as a statutory duty, to keep a weekly record of baptisms, marriages and deaths (see 1538). Civil marriages in the presence of justices of the peace introduced, became void in 1660. See 1753.
1656 Population of England estimated to have been 5.3 million. Thirty years later the population was estimated to be 4.9 million,400,000 persons fewer  
1678 An ecclesiastical census was carried out of the numbers of Anglican communicants, and of Protestant and Roman Catholic dissenters. See 1695.
1695 An Act required duties to be paid on births, marriages and burials, and for all parish priests to register these events accurately and give access to the registers to the Collectors. See 1753 and 1836
1750 Population estimated at 5.8 million; throughout the 18th century about one fifth of the population were likely to be paupers. See 1753
1753 A Bill proposing “taking and registering an annual Account of the total Number of People, and of the total Number of Marriages, Births and Deaths; and also of the total Number of Poor receiving Aims from every Parish and extra-parochial Place in Great Britain” was passed by the House of Commons on the 8th May. After the second reading in the Lords the Bill was referred to a committee, but the session ended before it was considered and so the Bill lapsed. See 1800. By 1770 the population was estimated to be 6.4 million and twenty years later (1790) eight million

The first census of the population of England and Wales was carried out on March 10th by a house-to-house enquiry together with returns of baptisms and burials between 1700 and 1800, and marriages between 1754 and 1800 as supplied by the clergy. The details included the number of inhabited and uninhabited houses, the number of families occupying the former, the number of persons of each sex, and the numbers of people employed in agriculture, trade, manufacture or handicrafts. The enumerators in England and Wales were the overseers of the poor, local clergy or other substantial householders; in Scotland they were the schoolmasters. The local returns were statistical summaries only, made in a prescribed form and attested before the justices of the peace. The first abstracts and reports of the results of the census were compiled by John Rickman (1771-1840, clerk in the House of Commons) and published in December.The population in England and Wales was counted as 8·9 million, but if allowance is made for under-recording the total was estimated at 9.2 million

1811 Census on 27 May, conducted on the same lines as for 1801, estimated the population of England and Wales at 10·2 million.
1821 Census carried out on 28 May as for 1801 with the addition of recording people’s ages. Population of England and Wales estimated to be 12 million.
1831 Census on 30 May. Population of England and Wales estimated at 13·9 million.
1833 A Select Committee of the House of Commons recommended state registration of births, marriages and deaths. See 1836.
1833 Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act introduced registration of births, deaths and marriages but contained no penalties for refusal to register; established the General Register Office; and divided the country into registration districts. Registration became effective from 1st July 1837.
1840 Start of the publication of the Registrar-General’s Weekly Returns of deaths in London.
1841 Census (6th June) the first to be conducted by the Registrar-General, counted the population of England and Wales to be 15·9 million, 36% of whom were aged under 15 years and 4% were 65 or more. In England and Wales the newly appointed local registrars were responsible for conducting the census and each head of the household for completing the enumeration form for his/her family. In Scotland the official schoolmaster or other fit person was responsible for the census locally. Details of birthplace, nationality and occupation of individuals were obtained.

Census (30th March) carried out under Farr’s supervision and collected more details than former censuses. The details included age, sex, occupation, birth place, relationship to head of household, marital state, education, and the number of persons who were deaf and dumb or blind. The handicap questions continued to be asked up to and including 1911. A question about religious worship was included, the only time that this has been asked in a census. The data about education were published in a special report in 1854.

The population in England and Wales was given as 17•9 million, 35% aged under 15 years and 4% aged 65 or more. For the first time more people were recorded as living in towns than in rural areas.During the 1850's one death in every three was attributed to an infectious disease, the most dominant being tuberculosis 

1861 Census (7th April) estimated the population of England and Wales as 20.1 million, 35 % aged under 15 years and 4 %t 65 years or more. For the first time a separate census was held in Scotland conducted by the Registrar-General for Scotland.
1864 Burials Act created Burial Boards to take over the care and management of churchyards from the vestries, and required all burials to be registered.
1871 Census (2nd April) found the population of England and Wales to be 22.7 million, with 37 % under the age of 15 years, 50% under the age of 21, 80% under 45 and 4 % aged 65 or over. For the first time the census asked a question about mental handicap ("imbecile - idiot - lunatic"); this question together with later additions about blindness and deaf and dumb were abandoned after the 1911 census. The census in Scotland asked about speaking Gaelic.
1874 Births and Deaths Registration Act consolidated and amended previous acts; introduced a penalty for failure to notify; and required medical certification of the cause of death. 

Census (3rd April) placed more emphasis on details of occupation, and , in Wales included a question on speaking Welsh. The population of England and Wales was estimated at 26 million, with 37 % under the age of 15 years and 4 % aged 65 or over.

Changes introduced in the classification of causes of death.


Census (5th April) contained new questions on the number of rooms and their occupants in all tenements with fewer than five rooms; and distinguished between employers, employees and the self-employed. Population estimated at 29 million; 35 % were aged under 15 years and 4 % 65 or over.

There are more detailed explanation that covers both The History of The UK Census 1841 - 1891 and Civil Registration in England and Wales

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This page was last updated on 28/03/03 11:30