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1. Number and Nature of Areas.

The area of England and Wales

The area of England and Wales, according to the Ordnance Survey Department, after excluding 870,448 acres of tidal water or foreshore, consists of 37,317,885 acres. Of these 211,613 are water, leaving 37,106,272 acres, or 57,979 square miles, of land. (Vol. II, Table ix., p. xxxvi.)

With the aid of data derived from the Agricultural Returns this area may be divided out approximately in the following manner:—

Under all kinds of crops, bare fallow, and permanent grass 28,001,134 acres
Nursery grounds 11,483 acres
Woods, plantations 1,788,816 acres
Mountain and heath, used for grazing 2815,063 acres
Total of above 32,616,496 acres
Houses, streets, roads, waste grounds, &c. 4,489,776 acres
Total land area of England and Wales 37,106,272 acres

Subordinate areas

For administrative purposes this area is divided out with much complication; for the division made for one administrative purpose is often entirely independent of the division made for another, and the boundary lines of the various divisions consequently intersect each other with bewildering intricacy.

The numbers of areas of which the population is given separately in the Census volumes, which differ slightly in some cases from the numbers at the date of the Census, are as follows:—

  England and Wales.
54 Ancient Countries.
468 Parliamentary Areas.
303 Municipal Boroughs with their Wards.
62 Administrative Countries.
64 Country Boroughs
732 Petty Sessional Divisions.
11 Registration Divisions.
55 Registration Countries.
633 Registration Districts.
2,110 Registration Sub-districts.
1,001 Urban Sanitary Districts.
575 Rural Sanitary Districts.
14,684 Civil Parishes.
2 Ecclesiastical Provinces.
34 Ecclesiastical Dioceses.1

2. Changes of Areas since 1881.

In civil parishes

Few persons probably fully realise the enormous amount of change that has been made in recent years in the boundaries of administrative areas. Of the 14,926 Civil Parishes, of which the populations were given in the Census returns of 1881, no fewer than 3,258 had their boundaries altered in the course of the next decennium. Nor were these changes brought about by the simple transference of a single piece from one parish to another; in a very large proportion of cases the change was complex, and consisted in the transference of several—in some cases of as many as 10—distinct pieces of former areas2 and there were some instances in which one and the same parish had its area altered more than once in the course of the decennium.

Many instances came under our notice in which these changes, though made by law, were either unknown to, or unrecognised by, the local authorities, and where the overseers continued to make out their valuation lists and collect the rates on the basis of the old boundaries. In other instances the very opposite was the case. The change of parish boundaries was not only recognised." but was supposed to have a much more extensive operation than was really the case. In the Divided Parishes Acts under which most of the changes have been made, is a section expressly declaring that "nothing herein contained shall apply to the Ecclesiastical Divisions of Parishes," but notwithstanding this we found that in many cases the Registrars and Enumerators had assumed, and acted on the belief, that the change in the Civil Parish involved a corresponding change in the Ecclesiastical Parish. Again, there were several instances in which a Parish had been conterminous with an Urban Sanitary District; a change in the boundaries of such a Parish would involve no change in the Sanitary District, which latter can only have its area altered by special order approved by the Local Government Board or by Act of Parliament. Yet we found instances in which, without any such order having been issued, the Local: Authorities had assumed the change to have been made, and were levying sanitary rates on that assumption. A third complication, due to local misinterpretation of the effect, of the changes in parish boundaries, related to Parliamentary areas. These were generally described in the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885 (48 & 49 Vict. ch. 23), as consisting of such and such Sessional Divisions, with such and such Parishes, as they existed on January 1st, 1885. But since that Act was passed, no few of these Parishes and Sessional Divisions have undergone change; and we found that in some cases the Clerks of the Peace had assumed that with these changes the Parliamentary areas, had also changed, while other Clerks held the contrary and, as we take it, the indisputably correct view, that no change could be made in a Parliamentary area without the distinct action of Parliament itself.

As, however, there were no means at our command for correcting any errors due to this cause, we had no choice but to accept in all cases what was furnished to us, after correspondence, by the Clerks of the Peace, as to the constitution of the Parliamentary areas. But, as regards the other errors, relating to Ecclesiastical Parishes and Urban Sanitary Districts, we have in all cases made due corrections in the local returns, and given the population of the true legal areas.

A curious instance may be cited of the strange ideas held by some local authorities as to their power to alter the boundaries of areas when such suits their convenience, without any Act of Parliament or Order of Local Government Board whatsoever. A change of certain parish boundaries had been made under the Divided Parishes Act, and as this change would have led to some confusion unless accompanied by corresponding changes in other areas, sanitary and ecclesiastical, the various local authorities concerned met together, decided that the new line of boundary should "stand for all purposes," and drew up a formal document to that effect, which was duly stamped and signed by the various representatives.

In ecclesiastical parishes

So much, then, as to the changes in the boundaries of civil parishes. The alterations in the ecclesiastical districts or parishes have been much fewer. Nevertheless as many as 438 new ecclesiastical parishes were created in the interval between the last two censuses, and their creation of course caused numerous alterations, in, the other ecclesiastical areas, out of which they were carved.

In sanitary districts

Another set of changes are those of the sanitary districts. In 1881 there were 966 urban sanitary districts; to these an addition of 89 was made in the next 10 years or shortly afterwards, while 44 were either dissolved or merged in other urban districts, and 138 underwent change of area. The creation of new, and the dissolution of old, urban districts, as also the changes of areas, caused, of course, corresponding changes in the rural sanitary districts out of which they were cut, or to which they were restored.

In parliamentary areas

The parliamentary areas were entirely re-cast in the intercensal decennium.

In counties

There remain the counties. The use of the term county in two different senses has long caused much confusion and inconvenience. There has been the ancient or geographical county, that is to say the county of our maps, being the area which in ordinary speech is meant when the term "county" is used; and the registration or union county, which is an aggregation of poor law unions, corresponding to a certain extent, but by no means completely, with the ancient county, known by the same name. In order, so far as possible, to prevent the confusion arising among those persons, who are not familiar with the complicated divisions of the country, from the double use of the term, the facts relating to the ancient counties and their sub-divisions were given by themselves in the first volume of the Census Reports of 1871 and 1881, while the facts relating to the registration or union counties and their sub-divisions were given separately in the second volume. This, however, was but a partial safeguard, and, when the Local Government Boundaries Commission of 1888 was appointed, it was hoped that some way would be found of causing one or other of these two counties to disappear, so that the various subordinate local administrative areas might all be sub-divisions of a single larger unit. But it has turned out otherwise. The ancient county and the registration county both remain, and a third county, called the administrative county has been added to them, differing from each. In some cases3 the new administrative county is identical with the ancient county of the same name, but usually the two differ more or less, the differences being as follows:—(1.) All boroughs that were believed to have had on June 1st, 1888, populations of not less than 50,000 persons or that were already counties, and some few others, specially selected and scheduled in the Act are independent administrative areas, with the name of county boroughs. (2.) Any urban sanitary district that is situated in two or more ancient counties forms part of that administrative county alone which has the name of the ancient county in which the greater part of the population of the district, according to the Census of 1881, is included. (3.) In several cases, as Sussex, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire the ancient county, in addition to the above alterations, is divided into two or more separate administrative counties. (4.) London, consisting of parts of the ancient counties of Middlesex, Surrey and Kent, forms, in itself, a separate administrative county.

The ancient county has apparently ceased for all practical purposes to constitute an administrative area, and might altogether have been omitted from the census returns, had it not been that it is still the county of ordinary speech, to which a person invariably refers when stating where he or she was born; and on this account it was necessary to retain it for use in the birth-place tables. It is, moreover, the basis on which the re-distribution of seats, as ordained in 1885, was constructed.

Thus vastly have the various kinds of areas into which the country is divided for administrative purposes been altered in the course of the past decennium. It may very possibly be that some of these changes will hereafter conduce to simplification; but, so far as the present is concerned, they have added largely to the previous bewildering intricacy of overlapping areas, and have increased very greatly the difficulties and labour of tabulation.

1 Including the diocese of Sodor and Man, although it is outside England and Wales for all other than ecclesiastical purposes.

2 For instance four separate parts of the parish of St. Catherine, Gloucester, were detached from it and added to other parishes, while on the other hand seven pieces of other parishes were amalgamated with it.

3 Namely in the following fourteen, the counties of Bedford, Buckingham, Cumberland, Dorset, Hereford, Rutland, Salop, Westmorland, Wilts, Anglesey, Carmarthen, Merioneth, Montgomery, and Eadnor; while in the following seven, the administrative county together with the county boroughs is co-extensive with the ancient county: Devonshire, Durham, Gloucestershire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Somersetshire, Glamorganshire. As to Cornwall and the Scilly Islands, see foot-note on page 9.

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