Rossendale Free Press
YEARS & COUNTING
AS THE CENSUS DATA OF 1921 IS RELEASED, MARION McMULLEN LOOKS AT HOW FAMOUS AND EVERYDAY FOLK WERE LIVING
HOLMES creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was playing host to a number of mystics and psychics the night the 1921 Census of England and Wales was taken suggesting he may have been holding a seance at the time.
While the famous author may have been trying to contact the dead, the Government was trying to contact – and count – the living.
From the famous to the infamous, the documents just unveiled for the first time, provide a vivid snapshot of the lives of prominent individuals such as Lord of the Rings writer JRR Tolkien, Famous Five author Enid Blyton, Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne.
Real-life members of the Peaky Blinder gang, including founder Thomas Mucklow, and other notorious criminals such as serial killers John Haigh – the “acid bath murderer”, and John Reginald Christie who strangled at least eight people at his flat in 10 Rillington Place, can also be found within the records.
They detail life after World War One, economic turmoil and major social change.
Masks were being worn because of the high death rate caused by Spanish Flu and one Census record was returned stained with disinfectant and featuring a comment about how the writer was doing everything he could to avoid catching the illness.
The Census was delayed by two months because of industrial unrest and captured the details of more than 38 million people. It included more than 8.5 million households as well as all manner of public and private institutions, ranging from prisons and military bases, to public schools and workhouses.
The findings are now available to search and explore online at Findmypast. co.uk after three years of intensive conservation and digitisation with the help and support of the Office for National Statistics. The records were previously subSHERLOCK ject to the 100-year rule, which ensures records are closed to the public for a century.
Jeff James, Chief Executive and Keeper at The National Archives, says: “The
1921 Census allows a snapshot of life 100 years ago, at a time when individuals and communities were embarking on a new era where everyday rights and roles were changing.
“What makes it even more important is that it will be the last Census release for England and Wales for 30 years, with the 1931 Census lost in a fire and the 1941 Census never taken.”
The 1921 Census not only asked individuals about their age, birth place, occupation and residence (including the names of other household members and the number of rooms), but also their place of work, employer details, and gave ‘divorced’ as an option for marital status for the first time. More than
16,000 divorces were recorded nationwide, but the real figure is likely to be much higher as many hid their marital status due to the stigma surrounding divorce at the time.
King George V, who was 56 at the time, Queen Mary and their children were also included in the Census. The country was undergoing rapid social and cultural change with the role of women and the impact of World War One apparent.
The Census reveals there were 1,096 women for every 1,000 men recorded which meant there were more than 1.7 million more women than men in England and Wales –
the largest difference ever seen in a Census. The devastating impact the First World War had on families meant there were also more than 730,000 fatherless children recorded.
The number of people recorded in hospitals also increased dramatically, up 35% from 1911, three quarters of whom were men, presumably suffering from wounds received in the war.
As a result of the number of men killed or left permanently disabled, the 1921 Census also saw many more women stepping into employment, with an increase in the number of women working as engineers, vets, barristers, architects and solicitors. The top occupations for men were coal mining, agriculture and building and contracting.
The Census was taken just a couple of years after Nancy Astor had become the first female MP to take her seat in Parliament.
Tamsin Todd, of Findmypast, says: “Taken between two world wars, following a global flu pandemic, during a period of economic turmoil and migration, with social change at home as women won the right to vote, the 1921 Census documents a moment in time that will resonate with people living today.”
The 1921 Census is available online at findmypast.co.uk and can also be viewed in person at The National Archives in Kew, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and the Manchester Central Library.