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Transport, urbanization and economic development in England and Wales c.1670-1911

Transport, urbanization and economic development in England and Wales c.1670-1911

Population estimates for England and Wales c.1680

Overview

The Compton census of 1676 and the Hearth Tax returns made in the 1670s and 1680s have been widely used as sources which provide numerical data which can be used to estimate the population at many levels varying from individual parishes to the whole country. Though neither provides data for the whole country, in combination they come close to a full coverage (Figure 1). They therefore offer an opportunity to compare the national population at all levels in the later seventeenth century with the country more than a century later when the first census was taken in 1801. Although both sources have frequently been employed, they have seldom been used conjointly. Attempting to do so has brought to light a range of difficulties which are both frustrating and, perhaps paradoxically, promising.

This is especially the case in relation to the study of urban growth. Over the two-century period from 1600 to 1800 the non-urban population in England rose by 69 per cent; on the continent the comparable figure was 53 per cent, a relatively trivial difference. The urban percentages, in contrast, were 732 and 81 per cent, a massive difference. The far faster rise in the English national population compared to the continent (108 and 55 per cent) was almost entirely due to exceptionally rapid urban growth. Because it is proving difficult and time consuming to reconcile Compton census and Hearth returns for towns, progress has been much slower than we had hoped and anticipated, but the outcome may be a far more authoritative picture of urban totals than currently exist.

Problems with estimating population totals from the Hearth Tax and Compton Census sources

The main problem with using Hearth Tax and Compton Census data to estimate population totals is the uncertainty regarding how to convert the numbers reported in each source to numbers of individuals. The Hearth Tax documents recorded the number of hearths per household, for taxation purposes. The unit reported is therefore the household, and the usual practice is to multiply the number of households reported by a fixed multiplier representing average household size (usually 4.5 or 4.75 persons per household) to give an estimate of inhabitants. However household size was not invariant across the country, and in particular in urban areas the units reported may refer to multiple occupancy dwellings, and so the use of a single multiplier is likely to under-estimate urban populations.

The Compton Census was intended to report the prevalence of religious non-conformity, and the units reported should have referred to the number of adults aged 16 or above. However the instructions to clerics were ambiguous, and it is evident that the units reported could be any of numbers of households, numbers of males aged 16+, adults aged 16+, or all inhabitants. Thus the multiplier to convert these units to population counts could range between 4.5 – 4.75 (in the case of households), 2.86 (assuming ages 16+ comprised 70% of the population, and males half of all adults), 1.43, and 1. Anne Whiteman was able to determine the type of unit reported in a fraction of places, but for most units we have no way of determining the correct multiplier to use.

New estimates of population totals for c.1680

These problems have limited the use of the Hearth Tax and Compton Census in the past. To overcome these problems we have already

  1. created a database of all extant Compton Census counts (transcribed from Whiteman, 1986: see Figure 1)
  2. created a database of all extant Hearth Tax counts for units not covered by the Compton Census (see Figure 1)
  3. spatially matched these units to census units from the 1801 – 1831 censuses
  4. compared first-pass estimates of population totals for 1680 with the populations reported for the same units in 1801-31 (Figure 2)
  5. compared Hearth Tax and Compton Census returns for Worcestershire and Surrey.

Figure 2 shows the change in population between c.1680 and 1801 based on first pass estimates of population c.1680. While the pattern is plausible in many cases, a simple comparison with the population totals estimated previously for the country as a whole and for individual counties (Wrigley, 2011) indicate substantial shortfalls in the population counts derived from the Compton Census and Hearth Tax sources (Table 1). The national total estimated for c.1680 from the Compton Census and Hearth Tax sources was only two-thirds of the national population estimated for 1700 using inverse projection from parish register counts, and was also less than the national population estimate for 1600.

This initial work has made it clear that for many areas we cannot use the Compton Census without comparative data to establish what unit of population was reported. Additionally it appeared (from (5) that the Hearth Tax would produce under-estimates of urban populations if a single household size multiplier were used for all returns. To address these issues we propose

  1. to collect counts of households and hearths from Hearth Tax returns for all regions where they survive and have not been collected by the Hearth Tax Online project;
  2. to compare Hearth Tax and Compton Census sources wherever they overlap;
  3. to use a process of 'triangulation' of Hearth Tax and Compton Census sources to produce new population estimates for areas where these sources are both available
  4. to use where possible baptismal records for the geographical units reported in the Compton Census to identify the fraction of the population reported in the Census and to convert the Census counts to population totals
  5. to use the relationship between the population estimates produced in (3) and (4) and the households reported in the Hearth Tax to model the relationship between household size and geographical variables (including urban/rural, elevation, soil type and land-use data);
  6. to use the model created in (5) to predict household size in areas covered only by the Hearth Tax, and thus to derive new multipliers to convert household numbers reported in Hearth Tax returns to estimates of population for those areas.

The population estimates derived in (3), (4) and (6) should provide a fairly comprehensive coverage of England and Wales, with the exception of the areas identified in Figure 1 as omitted from both sources.

We are currently asking for funding to commence objectives 2-5 above. We will extract Hearth Tax data for the counties already covered by the Hearth Tax Online project (Durham, Essex, Kent, Westmorland and Yorkshire – we have already extracted the data for Surrey and Worcestershire). We will spatially match these Hearth Tax data to the units of reporting in our existing database of Compton Census returns, and use the Hearth Tax counts of households to determine the fractions of inhabitants reported in the Compton Census returns. We will then use the estimates of population derived in this way from the Compton Census to create estimates of mean household size for each geographical unit. These estimates will then be used to test whether we can model the relationship between geographical variables and household size with adequate precision and at a sufficiently disaggregated level, for the counties where we already have Hearth Tax data.

References

Whiteman, A. (1986) The Compton census of 1676: a critical edition (Oxford, Oxford University Press).
Wrigley, E.A. (2011) The early English censuses (Oxford, Oxford University Press).

distribution of compton census data and hearth tax data

Figure 1. Distribution of surviving Compton Census data, and Hearth Tax data for areas not covered by the Compton Census material.
Sources: Leverhulme Trust project F/09 674/G database of 1670s population returns; Whiteman, 1986.

percentage change population 1680 1801

Figure 2. Percentage change in population between c.1680 and 1801, based on first pass estimates of population in c.1680.
Sources: Leverhulme Trust project F/09 674/G database of 1670s population returns; Whiteman, 1986; 1801 census.
Notes: geographical units of reporting in the Hearth Tax and Compton Census were spatially matched to 1801 census units, and in some cases units were aggregated to ensure a constant unit of comparison.

Table 1. County population totals estimated by Wrigley (2011) and from Compton Census and Hearth Tax enumerations c.1680.

County totals (Wrigley, 2011)

c1680 data

County

1600

1700

1750

% CCs units

% HT units

% miss

Pop'n estimate

1680/1700

Bedfordshire

43,550

50,163

53,102

3.27

96.73

0.00

36,613

0.69

Berkshire

57,537

72,924

92,162

17.83

79.62

2.55

59,361

0.64

Buckinghamshire

56,698

67,767

86,912

11.88

84.65

3.47

55,185

0.63

Cambridgeshire

73,318

83,959

73,764

6.71

91.46

1.83

51,970

0.70

Cheshire

74,738

91,382

124,893

99.44

0.11

0.45

89,150

0.71

Cornwall

104,064

120,718

130,302

5.93

91.60

2.47

95,577

0.73

Cumberland

76,549

80,850

83,370

51.59

41.40

7.01

44,669

0.54

Derbyshire

70,586

95,185

105,261

13.13

84.38

2.50

74,539

0.71

Devon

261,534

323,278

293,337

3.40

94.26

2.34

249,254

0.85

Dorset

75,815

86,462

92,194

96.92

3.08

0.00

57,029

0.62

Durham

77,355

115,845

127,646

94.58

0.00

5.42

64,449

0.50

Essex

156,647

164,734

188,508

38.08

60.48

1.44

111,096

0.59

Gloucestershire

102,410

139,448

206,599

11.40

87.13

1.46

106,468

0.52

Hampshire

105,384

115,304

144,633

2.13

92.10

5.78

99,656

0.69

Herefordshire

62,761

68,066

74,313

7.68

88.38

3.95

56,543

0.76

Hertfordshire

58,766

68,542

84,099

23.43

73.84

2.72

59,234

0.70

Huntingdonshire

27,942

31,982

32,004

10.75

89.25

0.00

24,811

0.78

Kent

153,442

160,708

183,701

3.67

92.41

3.92

136,904

0.75

Lancashire

183,692

232,522

317,157

96.30

0.60

3.11

148,917

0.47

Leicestershire

63,860

74,395

97,088

7.59

85.20

7.21

60,959

0.63

Lincolnshire

175,173

195,406

163,607

5.52

86.87

7.61

129,045

0.79

Middlesex

283,254

522,405

584,571

43.32

50.23

6.45

214,132

0.37

Norfolk

173,113

230,919

233,585

0.42

99.29

0.28

156,705

0.67

Northamptonshire

92,113

105,246

116,079

8.55

87.50

3.95

125,640

1.08

Northumberland

73,754

114,729

134,539

98.27

0.00

1.73

80,828

0.60

Nottinghamshire

79,039

92,193

88,427

6.31

90.54

3.15

51,855

0.59

Oxfordshire

67,671

78,003

94,893

8.35

88.47

3.18

61,651

0.65

Rutland

11,501

13,925

13,251

16.16

81.82

2.02

15,937

1.20

Shropshire

79,858

111,854

137,461

16.15

83.85

0.00

80,492

0.59

Somerset

170,910

206,409

231,958

79.22

1.30

19.48

74,065

0.32

Staffordshire

78,443

114,873

150,819

37.78

55.67

6.55

81,927

0.54

Suffolk

139,871

159,214

166,650

58.05

39.27

2.68

127,930

0.77

Surrey

85,770

124,263

151,015

5.50

91.75

2.75

128,695

0.85

Sussex

103,165

103,702

98,376

4.00

93.33

2.67

79,429

0.81

Warwickshire

66,201

87,439

132,472

10.96

86.30

2.74

52,419

0.40

Westmorland

42,680

42,067

35,468

77.27

17.27

5.45

23,557

0.66

Wiltshire

116,475

136,708

166,798

11.15

77.40

11.46

101,617

0.61

Worcestershire

66,362

93,858

109,703

1.00

95.52

3.48

52,117

0.48

Yorkshire, ER

67,278

74,116

78,268

48.41

48.22

3.38

74,472

0.95

Yorkshire, NR

102,754

117,087

119,438

66.57

28.00

5.43

96,206

0.81

Yorkshire, WR

199,749

241,973

323,482

54.47

42.78

2.75

186,900

0.58

national total

4,161,782

5,210,623

5,921,905

30.80

65.68

3.52

3,723,064

0.63