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PART 6 Areas for which populations have been given in the census reports

6.1 Ancient areas

The sub-divisions of Great Britain used for ecclesiastical purposes, local government, parliamentary representation, the administration of justice and the registration of births, deaths and marriages during the period 1801 -1966 generally differ one from another. The difficulties created by these differences were summed up in the General Report on the 1901 Census of England and Wales in these words:

'The whole of England and Wales has been divided at different times into various administrative areas with so little regard for previously existing divisions that, at the present time, the serious overlappings of boundaries render the work both of the Census Office and the local Officials, in ascertaining the precise limits of the several divisions to be separately distinguished in the Tables, laborious and extremely complicated'.

An example may be quoted from the census results of that year when the population of the Ancient county of Derby was 620,196, that of the Admini┐strative county 504,577 and that of the Registration county 490,886. Although compilers of successive census reports have for the most part left a record Of boundary changes and variations and drawn attention to matters affecting comparability between one enumeration and another, considerable care needs to be taken when census statistics relating to different periods of time are compared.

Tables showing the principal areas in Great Britain for which populations have been given in various census reports are on pages 270- 273. The following notes refer to areas mentioned in the tables.

Ancient divisions

An account of the origin of the ancient territorial divisions of England and Wales was given in the Preliminary Observations on the results of the censuses of 1811 and 1821 , in the Comparative Account of the Population in Great Britain issued as a preliminary report on the 1831 Census (the author was John Rickman) and, more recently, in the General Reports of 1901 and 1911 . The ancient counties of England and Wales for which statistics were given in the census reports from 1801 to 1901 were 64 in number, of which 52 were in England and 12 in Wales. Some of these counties represented the limits of principalities founded by the early English settlers but Domesday (1086), the most authentic record of early divisions of England, shows that others must have come into existence at a later date. The division of Wales into counties began with the formation of Pembroke as a County Palatine in 1138 and was completed by the Act of Henry VIII which abolished the Lords Marcher.

In the course of the nineteenth century the boundaries of some of the ancient counties were altered by an Act of 1844 'to annex detached parts of counties to the counties in which they are situated', which followed changes made by the Reform Act of 1832.

The Hundred appeared in Domesday as a well-recognised division of the county. The county of York and some other northern counties were divided into Wapentakes (derived from Danish 'Vaabentag' - sound or clang of arms) instead of hundreds. The striking irregularity in size and the marked variation in the number of hundreds comprised in different counties was found inconvenient for some purposes and in the time of Henry VIII a remedy was attempted by forming Divisions (called also limits and circuits) in most of the English counties. These divisions appear to have been formed by uniting small hundreds and dividing larger ones. Some divisions already existed; the Lathes of Kent and the Rapes of Sussex, for instance, were of very ancient origin. Where the divisions were very ancient, or where it appeared desirable as an aid to classification, hundreds (as in Hampshire and Dorsetshire) were shown in first four census Abstracts classified under their respective divisions.

In the reports from 1801 to 1851 the number of counties of Scotland identified was 32; this number was increased to 33 in 1861 when separate figures were given for Orkney and Shetland.

Parishes and Chapelries

The ancient parishes varied considerably in size and, in some cases, their limits extended beyond the county boundaries. When additional churches were built to meet the needs of increasing population, parts of the ancient parishes came to be assigned to them by custom and, under the name of Chapelries, acquired boundaries which were as well recognised as those of the parent parish. When the parish became the unit of poor law administra┐tion under the Poor Relief Act of 1601, those in the northern counties especially were found too large for the purpose of administering legislation which assumed a personal knowledge of the situation and character of every┐one applying for relief- A subsequent act, which permitted townships and villages to levy their own poor rates, tended to accentuate the difference between parochial boundaries for ecclesiastical and for civil purposes respectively.

Civil parishes

The difference between civil and ecclesiastical parishes or districts became more marked during the course of the nineteenth century. Boundary changes made for civil purposes did not affect ecclesiastical parishes; similarly sub-divisions or amalgamations of ecclesiastical parishes were made indepen┐dently by the ecclesiastical authorities. The ancient parishes which had not been sub-divided were re-named civil parishes in the census reports of 1871 and confusion between them and ecclesiastical parishes was thus removed. In 1871 and 1881 sub-divisions of the ancient parishes of the north, known as townships, were grouped as 'civil parishes or townships' under the ancient parishes of which they formed part. In subsequent reports townships were shown as civil parishes and the grouping under ancient parishes was abolished. No reference was made to the ancient parishes in the reports after 1881. Changes in the boundaries of civil parishes under the Divided Parishes Acts of 1876, 1879 and 1882 gave rise to considerable misunder┐standing and confusion - for reasons which are mentioned in the General Report on the census of 1891. In the Interpretation Act of 1899 it was laid down that in all laws passed up to 1866, when compulsory church rates were abolished and the ancient parish ceased to be of importance as a unit of local government, the expression 'Parish' in England and Wales should be deemed to mean 'a place for which a separate poor rate is or can be made or for which a separate overseer is or can be appointed'.

Extra-parochial places and Liberties

Besides parishes, with their tythings or townships and chapelries, there were also many places in England and Wales not contained in the limits of any parish. These extra-parochial places had inherited an independence by which they enjoyed virtual exemption from taxation; from maintaining the poor, since there was no Overseer on whom a Magistrate's Order could be served; from the Militia Laws because there was no Constable to make returns; and from repairing the highways, because there was no official surveyor. Districts of larger extent, called Liberties, interrupted the general course of the law as it affected hundreds in the same way as extra-parochial places did that of parishes. In Dorset where this irregularity chiefly prevailed the Grants of some of these Liberties dated so late as the reign of Henry VIII and even of Elizabeth.

In 1857 the peculiar privileges enjoyed by extra-parochial places were curtailed under an Act 'to provide for the Relief of the Poor in Extra-Parochial Places' which decreed that places named extra-parochial in the 1851 Census report were to be deemed parishes for this purpose and to have Overseers appointed for them by the Justices of the Peace. In the case of extra-parochial places covering a very small piece of land, the place was annexed to an adjoining parish, if the consent of the owners and occupiers of two-thirds in value of the land was forthcoming. Special provision was made for the particular cases of the places in London termed the Inner Temple, the Middle Temple and Gray's Inn where the officer acting for the time being as Under Treasurer, and the Registrar in Charterhouse were appointed Overseers. This act did not apply to places not specified as extra-parochial in the census reports. In these cases the act was merely permissive and, therefore, largely inoperative. In a later Act of 1868 it was declared that every extra-parochial place existing on 25 December 1868, should be added to the next adjoining civil parish which had the longest common boundary. In spite of these acts there are still some places in England and Wales which are extra-parochial from civil parishes. They are all islands or lighthouses which were probably overlooked in the act since they were not contiguous with any parish and, therefore, could not be added to any. There are also still many extra-parochial places from ecclesiastical parishes which enjoy special privileges under Church laws or custom.

Poor law unions

Under an Act of 1782 'for the better relief and employment of the poor' certain parishes were, with the consent of those concerned in the localities, combined into unions for poor law purposes. This partial re-organization was made more general in England and Wales by the Poor Law Act of 1834, which vested the management of poor relief in Boards of Guardians whose sphere of responsibility extended to all parishes comprised in their unions. In forming these unions consideration had been given to local convenience and the preservation of existing parishes; in consequence, many unions were partly in two counties.

Registration areas

When civil registration was established in England and Wales by the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1836, the poor law union areas were adopted generally as Registration Districts for each of which a Superintendent Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages was appointed. The districts were divided into Sub-Districts consisting of combined parishes or localities in which resident Registrars were appointed for the registration of births and deaths. For the purpose of statistical investigation England and Wales was divided by the Registrar General into eleven topographical divisions consisting of groups of counties thought to possess a common distinctive character, namely:

  1. London: comprising the portions of Middlesex, Surrey and Kent within the limit of the Registrar General's Bills of Mortality.
  2. South-Eastern Division: comprising Surrey and Kent (Extra-Metropolitan), Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire.
  3. South-Midland Division: comprising Middlesex (Extra-Metropolitan), Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
  4. Eastern Division: comprising Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk.
  5. South-Western Division: comprising Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, Devonshire, Cornwall and Somersetshire.
  6. West-Midland Division: comprising Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.
  7. North-Midland Division; comprising Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
  8. North-Western Division: comprising Cheshire and Lancashire, ix York Division: consisting of Yorkshire.
  9. Northern Division: comprising Durham, Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland.
  10. Welsh Division: comprising Monmouthshire, South Wales and North Wales.

The counties of which these divisions were composed were not always identical with the ancient counties; they were aggregates of entire registration districts which often extended into two ancient counties, they were given, therefore, the distinctive name of Registration Counties.

When the statistics for these areas were first given in the 1851 Census reports Scotland was divided, on the same principle, into two groups of counties separated by a line extending from the Firth of Tay south of the Ochil Hills, and along the Forth river, across the head of Loch Lomond, to a line descending southwards by Loch Long to the Firth of Clyde. Counties south of the line, which included the greater part of the lowlands of Scotland were designated Southern counties, those north of the line comprising the highlands and part of the lowlands were designated Northern counties; in later reports on the censuses of Scotland these two groups were referred to as the Northern and Southern portions respectively. The Islands in the British Seas were treated as a separate division in the census reports.

The Act requiring the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in Scotland came into operation on the 1 January 1855. As had been the case in England and Wales, the divisions of the country adopted for registration did not always coincide with existing boundaries. The report on the 1861 Census of Scotland contained a detailed explanation of the difference between the civil and registration counties of Scotland arranged in tabular form to show, for each census from 1801, the populations of each civil and regis┐tration county and of the places which were not common to both. This report also gave detailed particulars of the places included in each registration district. For statistical purposes the counties of Scotland were grouped into eight divisions in this report as follows:

  1. Northern: Shetland, Orkney, Caithness, Sutherland.
  2. North-Western: Ross and Cromarty, Inverness.
  3. North-Eastern: Nairn, Elgin (or Moray), Banff, Aberdeen, Kincardine.
  4. East-Midland: Forfar, Perth, Fife, Kinross, Clackmannan. Stirling, Dunbarton, Argyll, Bute.
  5. West-Midland: Renfrew, Ayr, Lanark.
  6. South-Western: Linlithgow, Edinburgh, Haddington, Berwick,
  7. South-Eastern: Peebles, Selkirk.
  8. Southern: Roxburgh, Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, Wigtown.

Of these, the first five covered the area of the Northern portion and the last three that of the Southern portion.

Parliamentary areas

Following the Reform Act of 1832, populations of parliamentary cities, boroughs and districts of boroughs in England and Wales were published in the Enumeration Abstract for 1841. In the first volume of Population Tables I for 1851 the populations of the 21 burghs and districts of burghs in Scotland entitled to send members to Parliament were added. The presen┐tation of separate figures for parliamentary areas was necessary because the Reform Act, which took away the right to parliamentary representation from some boroughs, extended the parliamentary limits of others and created boroughs with parliamentary status, destroyed the identity between municipal and parliamentary boroughs which had hitherto existed. A further radical change was made in consequence of the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885 and the process of revising parliamentary boundaries was set in motion again under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1918; an effect of the latter act was to bring the boundaries of parliamentary counties and boroughs into line with those of local government areas as constituted on 1 October 1917. Populations for parliamentary areas were given in all censuses. An account of the development of those areas in England and Wales will be found in Volume III, Parliamentary Areas3 of the reports published on the census of 1911; changes made since then are noted in subsequent General Reports .

Ecclesiastical areas

Parish and chapelry populations given in the Enumeration Abstracts from 1801 to 1831 related to areas which had been formed for ecclesiastical purposes. Reference has already been made to the emergence of the civil parish and to developments which led to the definition of different boundaries for ecclesiastical and civil purposes. Powers given in England and Wales to the Commissioners for Building New Churches, to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and to the Bishops of dioceses by acts passed between 1818 and 1851 resulted in a considerable number of changes. The total number of ecclesiastical districts assigned under the Church Building Acts by the Church Building Commission between 1818 and 1856 was, with changes effected under the Parish of Manchester Division Act, 1850, 1,077. Under the same acts the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who took over the powers of the Church Building Commission in 1856, assigned 235 additional districts up to 1861. The districts and new parishes constituted under the New Parishes Act of 1843 and 1856 numbered 284 at the time the 1861 Census was taken. Including new districts formed within their dioceses by Bishops, the total number returned in the detailed tables in the 1861 report was 1,822 compared with 1,254 in 1851.

Several important changes in the administration of the Church between 1911 and 1921 had effect on the ecclesiastical areas for which data were shown in the census tables. Under the Welsh Church Acts passed in 1914 and 1919, the Church in Wales and Monmouthshire was disestablished. The Welsh Commission┐ers, created by the acts, were further to determine by order, with reference to the general wishes of the parishioners, whether the parish was to be treated as being wholly within or wholly without Wales and Monmouthshire. The parish, for the purposes of these acts, was to be treated according to their decision, but any parishioner could appeal against any such order to the King in Council and any such appeal would be referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Of the 21 Ecclesiastical Parishes held to be 'Border Parishes', only one was declared to be in Wales and Monmouthshire. In accordance with Section 9(2) the Ecclesiastical Commissioners distributed among various English Dioceses the 20 Ecclesiastical Parishes either in Welsh Dioceses and situated entirely in England or falling to be treated as situated in England. Eight Ecclesiastical Parishes, being wholly in Wales and Monmouthshire, were transferred from English to Welsh Dioceses. In this way some ecclesiastical areas assigned to Wales in the Ecclesiastical Areas reports of 1921 and 1931 were in local government areas of England; similarly others assigned to England were within administrative areas of Wales.

By another measure, the Union of Benefices Act, 1919, opportunity was afforded of uniting two or more ecclesiastical benefices if it were in the interests of the furtherance of religion, at the request of certain Commissions set up under the provisions of the act with the subsequent approval of the Ecclesiastical Commission. Whether the parishes composing the benefices should remain separate in all respects except as provided by the act, or whether they should be united for ecclesiastical purposes was left to be decided under each recommendation.

Under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, powers were conferred on the Church to legislate in these matters, subject only to the approval of each individual measure by both Houses of Parliament.

Populations for the parishes quoad sacra of Scotland were given in the Enumeration Abstract 1841 . They were omitted in 1851, but have been shown on every occasion since the Report on the 1861 Census of Scotland .

6.2 'Modern' Administrative Areas

Urban and Rural Districts were first formed as Urban Sanitary Districts and Rural Sanitary Districts under the Public Health Act of 1872.

The Commission appointed under the Local Government (Boundaries) Act of 1887 indicated in their Report (5 July 1888) that poor law unions - and consequently registration districts - should cease to extend beyond the boundaries of any one county. Their suggestions envisaged that necessary adjustments could be made partly by modification of union boundaries and partly by the alteration of the boundaries of counties. Expectations that matters would be simplified were unfulfilled. The Local Government Act of 1888 complicated the situation further by the creation of Administrative Counties. In many cases the administrative and ancient counties were co-extensive. Exceptions were cases where urban sanitary districts extended into two counties. In this event the urban district was accepted as within that county which contained the largest portion of the population of the district according to the census of 1881. The counties of Suffolk and Sussex were each divided into two administrative counties called respectively East and West; the three Ridings of Yorkshire were each constituted a separate administrative county; the three divisions of Lincolnshire - the parts of Holland, Kesteven and Lindsey were similarly treated; the Isle of Ely and the Soke of Peterborough also became administrative counties apart from the counties of Cambridge and Northampton respectively; and the Isle of Wight was subsequently constituted a separate administrative county apart from the county of Southampton under the provisions of the Local Government Board's Provisional Orders Confirmation (No.2) Act 1889 (52 and 53 Viet, c.177). The Metropolis as constituted by the Metropolis Local Management Act, 1855 and by subsequent amending Acts, was created an administrative county, thus diminishing the size of the counties of Kent, Middlesex and Surrey. One of the Schedules of the Act listed 61 large boroughs which were, under a further provision of the Act, created County Boroughs of themselves. These were given their own administration apart from the rest of the administrative county.

These differences between ancient and administrative counties were further increased under the provisions of another Local Government Act in 1894 (56 and 57 Viet, c.73). County councils were required under this Act to apply to the Local Government Board, in cases where they thought it advisable, for the alteration of the county boundaries. This was in order that, 'the whole of each parish, and, unless the county council for special reasons otherwise direct, the whole of each rural district shall be within the same administrative county'.

When the two Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894 had been put into full effect, former complications in boundaries were greatly simplified. Every urban district was entirely in one administrative county and every civil parish, with a few exceptions in one urban or rural district. In many cases all the areas constituting an urban district were consolidated into a single civil parish. Ten rural districts only were still partly included in two counties and in nine cases rural district councils were left, for conven┐ience, to administer civil parishes situated in a different administrative county. Only one parish remained which was contained partly in two admini┐strative counties - Stanground, which was partly in the Isle of Ely and partly in the county of Huntingdon. Under a Local Government Board Order in 1905, the part of Stanground in the administrative county of Huntingdon was created a separate parish - Stanground South - and this anomaly was removed.

The boundaries of administrative areas were again subject to considerable revision in consequence of the Local Government Act of 1929. The impli┐cations of this revision were discussed in the 1931 General Report (p.63) and a Part II of the relevant County Parts was issued to provide data tabulated on the basis of the revised areas.

6.3 New areas for tabulation purposes, 1951 - 66

Conurbations 1951 - 66

Flourishing cities and towns quickly expand beyond their formal limits, which seldom move far enough or frequently enough to keep pace with the growth of the natural community. A recent historical development, associated with industrialisation, has been the rapid massing of populations in a few giant urban centres or super-cities, which have enveloped whole neighbouring towns and settlements and so entirely over-run local govern┐ment boundaries. These are described as 'urban agglomerations' in the Demographic Yearbooks of the United Nations, as 'metropolitan areas' in the United States and as 'conurbations' in this country.

The growth of metropolitan London has been studied for a long time, and as long ago as the first census in 1801 it was remarked that the total popu┐lation enumerated within eight miles of St Paul's exceeded one million. The total population of England and Wales was then under nine millions. In 1951 the population of the area known as Greater London was over eight millions, almost a fifth of that of England and Wales (and incidentally larger than that of many countries in Europe). In comparison, in the United States at the 1950 Census the standard metropolitan area of New York with over twelve millions exceeded every other state in population, apart from the state of New York. But because of the greater number of large cities it only accounted for a tenth of the total population of that country.

During the nineteenth century similar rapid urban growth could be observed in the other industrial areas, principally in the north and midlands of England; and by the close of the century major conurbations had developed in the regions of Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the Leeds-Bradford area. In 1951 the population enumerated in the five conurbations centred on these cities accounted for a further fifth of the total for England and Wales.

The term 'conurbation' appears to have been first used in the earlier part of this century by Professor P Geddes, (see eg 'Cities in Evolution' , 1915) to refer to 'city-regions' or 'town-aggregates' such as Greater London. During the inter-war years Professor C B Fawcett studied the subject in some detail, publishing two papers on conurbations, based respectively on the 1921 and 1931 census results (namely, 'British Conurbations in 1921', Sociological Review, April 1922 , and 'Distribution of the Urban Population in Great Britain, 1931', Geographical Journal, February 1922) and a book ('Millionaire Cities') in 1935. The Royal Commission on the Distribution of the Industrial Population (the Barlow Commission), which reported in 1940,[i] paid considerable attention to this phenomenon, and at their request the General Register Office compiled a considerable amount of statistical and other material on a conurbation basis as well as for the usual regions, county boroughs and counties. The conurbations dealt with in the memorandum of evidence submitted by the Registrar General, under the title 'Statistics of Mortality in connection with Urbanisation and the Distribution of Industry', (Minutes of Evidence, 28th Day) were those of over 100,000 population at the 1931 Census, as defined by Professor Fawcett in his 1932 paper. There were 37 of these, five being in Scotland, but in several cases only one local authority area was involved, eg the city of Sheffield.

The growing interest in special qualities of conurbations made them a natural subject for further study and this was also in line with inter┐national recommendations. The United Nations Population Commission, at its fifth session in 1950, recommended that summary census tabulations should be made for 'agglomerations or clusters of population living in built-up contiguous areas which, according to the definition adopted in each country, are considered as single localities or population centres'.

Principles of definition

Professor Geddes did not define his concept of conurbation in any detail, but Professor Fawcett devoted much attention to it, in his 1932 paper giving the following definition:

'a conurbation is an area occupied by a continuous series of dwellings, factories and other buildings, harbour and docks, urban parks and playing fields, etc which are not separated from each other by rural land; though in many cases in this country such an urban area includes enclosures of rural land which is still in agricultural occupation'.

Professor Fawcett emphasised the difficulty of determining the precise boundaries even on the basis of his definition, and considered that it was only possible on the basis of acquaintance with the area and a careful study of large scale maps. The Barlow Commission felt that Fawcett's definition placed too much emphasis on bricks and mortar as constituting the link and that, while in many cases it might be adequate, in others a better test would seem to be how far out from a given centre industry or the industrial population looked to that centre as essential to its life and as the focus of its business activities. It was recognized that a definition of any particular conurbation would require a statement of the administrative areas included as a result of applying the adopted criteria.

Greater London and the five major conurbations in England and Wales were accordingly identified for statistical purposes in the 1951 Census, as was the Central Clydeside conurbation in Scotland.

No two conurbations are quite alike either in originating influences, geography or local government structure. There are general similarities, but each must be studied for itself. The definitions finally agreed for each represent the sum of informed local opinion rather than the expression of uniform scientific rules.

Finally it must be emphasised that these definitions were formed to delimit areas for statistical analysis and are not at all concerned with the way in which the boundaries of individual urban areas or groupings of areas should be determined for general administrative or local government purposes.

Conurbation centres 1961 - 66

In each of the conurbations, apart from the West Yorkshire conurbation, a central area has been identified. This central area has been defined as that containing the principal concentration of administrative and commercial offices, major shopping streets, theatres, cinemas and dance halls, public buildings, hotels, special areas and precincts (eg university, cathedral and legal) and main railway and coach termini. It is characterised by relatively low residential population, by a large concentration of employment, involving journey to work, and often by traffic congestion and car parking problems. The areas corresponding to this definition have been specified in consul┐tation with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the local planning authorities and interested university departments.

Urban and rural aggregates 1951 - 61

Urban and rural aggregates relate to groups of local authority areas by type (all those within- conurbations, urban areas, rural districts) and in the case of urban areas, by size of their resident population as estimated at Census Day. 'Urban Areas' include boroughs and urban districts as defined under the Local Government Acts, and rural districts are also as defined by those Acts.

New Towns 1951 - 66

The new towns have been among the most striking developments in Britain during the last 25 years. They are comprehensively planned communities pioneering examples of modern urban planning - providing opportunities for people to live and work in pleasant surroundings and in conditions that favour industrial expansion.

'Garden cities' - the forerunners of new towns - were originally conceived as an antidote to the overcrowded living and working conditions prevailing in the industrial towns of Britain at the end of the nineteenth century. Between the years 1800 and 1900, the proportion of the population living in the large towns rose from about 20 to 80 per cent as a result of the labour demands of the industrial revolution. In these towns, conditions for the mass of the working people were so crowded and unhealthy that a number of enlightened individuals turned to the solution of planning entirely new settlements such as Saltaire (1853), Bournville (1878) and Port Sunlight (1887). Among those most convinced of the benefits of establishing new settlements was Ebenezer Howard, who saw them as a means of combining the advantages of town and country life. In his book Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform[ii] published in 1898, he put forward detailed plans for the layout of complete new 'cities' in which factories, houses, schools, shops and other facilities could be provided. The 'cities' would be surrounded by open country for recreational purposes, and urban sprawl would be prevented by separating the 'cities' from existing large towns. In 1899 the Garden City Association (which later became the Town and Country Planning Association[iii] ) was founded to promote these aims. By 1903 Ebenezer Howard's ideas had been put into practice with the establishment of Letchworth (some 35 miles north of London) and in 1920 Welwyn Garden City, some 12 miles nearer the capital, was founded. Although there were no further garden cities, the idea gathered considerable support in the following years, and became the basis of official policy in plans prepared during the early 1940's.

In a report on the Distribution of the Industrial Population published in 1940, the Barlow Commission urged that urban growth be restrained by the adoption of a positive policy of developing new and expanding towns. In 1944 Sir Patrick Abercrombie's Greater London Plan proposed that a series of new towns should be established, each accommodating 60,000-80,000 people and industry from the overcrowded capital. It recommended sites about 25-30 miles from London, well outside the suburban areas where a speculative and unplanned housing boom had taken place during the 1920s and 1930s. As a result of these proposals, the government set up a committee in 1945 under the chairmanship of Lord Reith,

'to consider the general questions of the establishment, development, organisation and administration that will arise in the promotion of new towns in furtherance of a policy of planned decentralisation from congested urban areas; and in accordance therewith to suggest guiding principles on which such towns should be established and developed as self-contained and balanced communities for work and living'.

Within a period of nine months the Reith Committee had issued three reports which contained a blueprint for the administrative and financial machinery needed for the creation of new towns and recommendations concerning their size, lay-out, and economic and social structure. These reports were generally accepted by the government as the basis of its policy.

Statutory provision for the establishment of new towns in Great Britain was first made in the New Towns Act 1946.

The new towns programme was launched with the designation of Stevenage in November 1946. By 1951 14 new towns had been designated in Great Britain -11 in England, one in Wales and two in Scotland; and the 1951 Reports give details of these new areas. In 1961 the position in England and Wales was unchanged but there was one addition in Scotland (Cumbernauld).

By 1966 the number of new towns in England had increased to 16 (it should be noted that this includes Dawley, designated in 1963, which subsequently in 1968 became part of Telford New Town); in Scotland to four; while Wales still only had one.

Sub-divisions of Regions 1966 only

The Hunt Committee was appointed, on 21 September 1967 'to examine in relation to the economic welfare of the country as a whole and the needs of the development areas, the situation in other areas where the rate of economic growth gives cause (or may give cause) for concern and to suggest whether revised policies to influence economic growth in such areas are desirable and, if so, what measures should be adopted'.

The committee, in preparing their report The Intermediate Areas [iv] , used statistical data from both the 1961 and 1966 Censuses and some of the additional tabulations made from 1966 material are published in Economic Activity Sub-regional Tables . For England and Wales the areas are as defined by the Committee; in Scotland economic planning sub-regions were defined by the Scottish Development Department.

6.4 London Government Act, 1963

This act provided for the establishment of a Greater London Council area and the division of this area into the City of London and 32 London Boroughs. This new area covers the former County of London, most of Middlesex and parts of Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey. Some selected tables from the 1961 county report series were republished in 1966 for Greater London and the London Boroughs under the title Greater London Tables .


[i] Royal Commission on the distribution of the Industrial Population, paragraph 12. Cmd 6153. HMSO 1940.

[ii] Re-issued under the title, Garden Cities of Tomorrow .

[iii] + A voluntary society comprising individual members, local authorities (including new town development corporations) and corporate members such as amenity societies, industrial, business and professional firms and nationalised industries. It is concerned with all aspects of town and country planning.

[iv] The Intermediate Areas Report of a Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Joseph Hunt. London HMSO 1969.

Office of Population Censuses and Surveys/General Register Office, Guide to Census Reports: Great Britain 1801-1966 (London: HMSO, 1977) Crown Copyright. The Office of National Statistics has granted the Great Britain Historical GIS Project permission to computerise this publication and include it in this web site. All other rights reserved.

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