About the  Census
Events gallery heading 1901: Living at the Time of the Census Events of 1901
The 1901 Census
The census is a count of all the people in the United Kingdom and is normally taken every 10 years. The 1901 census was taken on 31 March 1901, and recorded the details of over 32 million people who were resident in England and Wales at that time. Since all the details are collected at the same time, the census provides a snapshot of what life was like on census night.

Taking the 1901 census

The 1901 census was the eleventh census of population. As always, it was taken on a Sunday - traditionally the day of least population movement. In the run-up to census night, enumerators visited every house in their area distributing forms, which each householder was instructed to complete, recording the details of every person resident on census night. From the following Monday, the enumerator collected and checked the forms, asking for details to fill in any obvious gaps or inconsistencies. The information was then copied into census enumerator's books, before being sent to the Census Office in London.


'Filling in the census paper' - link to an enlarged version

For more on the trials and tribulations of census enumerators, link to the Wirksworth Parish Records website.

At the Census Office, the information in the books was checked for accuracy, and clerks extracted different categories of information - for example, on ages, occupations and birthplaces. This data was then compiled into tables and used in the Census Report.

Follow this link to schools resources on the census.

What did the 1901 census find?

The population of England and Wales on 1 April 1901 was recorded as 32,527,813, an increase of over 12% since the 1891 census. The compilers of A Digest of the Results of the Census noted that 'if all the people in England and Wales were to pass through London in procession, four abreast, and every facility was afforded for their free and uninterrupted passage, during twelve hours daily, Sundays excepted, it would take four and a half months…the length of this column would be 3,788 miles.'

Over 96% of the population was born in England and Wales. 1% was born in Scotland, 1.3 % in Ireland, 0.4% in the British colonies (as they then were) and about 1% in other foreign countries. More people were getting married in 1901 than in 1891, with 259,400 marriages taking place in comparison to 226,526 ten years earlier.

The 1901 Census Report - link to an enlarged version

The 1901 census revealed that inhabited houses had grown by 15% - to 6,260,852 - although population had grown by only 12%. The average number of persons per house also fell slightly, from 5.32 in 1891 to 5.2 in 1901. Population densities were higher in the towns, where there was an average of 5.4 persons per house, than in the rural areas, which had an average of 4.6. Devonport, South Shields, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Gateshead showed the greatest degree of overcrowding (that is, more than eight persons per house).

Follow this link to housing in 1901.

Mass unemployment was not a spectre that haunted 1901 Britain. Over 83% of the total male population and 31% of the total female population regarded themselves as being 'occupied'. The majority of these workers were aged between 15 and 75, but 365,205 under-15s and a staggering 71,362 over-75s were recorded as being in work.

Follow this link to occupations.

Follow this link to use the 1901 census online.

The Changing Census , 1911-2001 The Changing Census, 1801-1901 Why Take a Census? The 1901 Census