A Census Story - 1851

Who was living in Dadlington in 1851 and what were they doing?

This article appeared in The Stoker (April 2017) 
On 31st March 1851, a census enumerator visited each household in Dadlington. For most of the residents, this was not a new experience. The government had begun collecting information at ten-yearly intervals in 1801. Whilst the first four data collections were little more than simple head counts, the 1841 census had, for the first time, asked for names, ages and occupations. The current census had added further requirements: the relationship of everyone to the head of household, their marital status, their place of birth and whether they were deaf, blind or dumb. Once collected, the enumerator would have transcribed each form into a census book, copies of which survive to this day and provide a wealth of information about the people living in the village 168 years ago. h

We know that there were nine farmers living in and around Dadlington. None of the farms were particularly big and the farmers would have worked them along with their families and labourers from the village. For this reason, most employed domestic servants to assist in their homes. Farmers either owned their farms outright: Apple Orchard Farm was owned and farmed by Henry Freeman; or they rented them as tenant farmers, like 71 year old William Shilton who farmed land belonging to three different owners.

A month after the census was taken, the Great Exhibition opened in Hyde Park in Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace. It was a celebration of Britain’s position as the world’s leading economy, one that had been moving from agriculture to industry over recent years. This change is reflected in the occupations of villagers in 1851. Whilst the majority of men still worked in the fields, almost as many villagers, often women and children, now spent their days working on stocking frames, in their own homes, to supply to hosiery trade. William Pricep and his wife both worked as knitters along with their three eldest children, the youngest being 12 years old.

Over a quarter of the 212 residents were aged 12 and under and most attended school, although education didn’t become compulsory until 1870. There were also two school mistresses living in the village, Mrs. Wood and Mrs. Jackson, the latter being married to a tea salesman from the Isle of Wight. Getting through childhood could be quite precarious: over a third of burials registered at St James over the next ten years would be children aged 12 or under.

Not that the adults had a much easier life. Only 12 villagers were aged over 60 in the census. The two eldest, 84 year old Sarah Pratt and 80 year old Hannah Rowley are described as paupers, meaning they had no independent source of money and relied on the support of others, either family or public charity. Of the other occupations in the village, there were a couple of butchers, a nurse, a charlady and two cordwainers –makers of shoes.


                                                                                                                                                          A Framework Knitter's Cottage

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1851 census
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