Ringmer 1891 Census

Sunday, 5 April 1891: Introduction to the 1891 Census

by Sue Burton

As mentioned earlier, a census has been taken in England and Wales every 10 years since 1801, except for 1941 for obvious reasons. The first four censuses were little more than head-counts and did not contain actual lists of names. From 1841 onwards, the census returns, containing names of individuals, were kept, and are now held at the Family Records Centre in London and, for Ringmer, at the East Sussex Record Office in Lewes. There is a 100-year closure on the records so the most recent census open to public inspection is that for 1891, although restricted information from later censuses can be obtained from the Public Record Office for a fee.

The 1891 census was taken on the night of Sunday 5th April. In addition to the information collected in 1881, householders were now asked how many rooms their family occupied, if less than five. But no instructions were given on the census schedule as to what constituted a room. Were large cupboards or indoor toilets to be included? One example, of an enumerator misinterpreting his instructions has been found in Warrington. Here the enumerator placed the figure '1' against the address of each householder whose family occupied fewer than five rooms. At least one street enumerated by him still stands today - a row of four-roomed terraced houses. Information was also now collected on whether each individual was an employer, an employee or neither, i.e. self-employed. In addition, the 1891 census returns for Wales and Monmouth show whether the person spoke English, Welsh or both.

As for earlier censuses, Ringmer was divided into 3 enumeration districts. The enumerators were H J Glover, Charles Pockney and Frank Washer. The first is not to be found in this transcription, the second maybe the Congregational Minister and the third maybe a 21-year old painter. As with all transcriptions, there are no guarantees as to accuracy and any information should be checked against the original.

The 1901 census will be available for public inspection in January 2002. The Public Record Office intends that it will be searchable via the Internet. Access to the Index and some detail will be available free of charge but payment, probably using a credit card, will need to be made to view a full transcription of the details of an individual or to view an image of the page itself. For the most up-to-date information see www.pro.gov.uk/census

Sue Burton, 29 December 2000