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To the Right Honourable Sir Alfred Mond, Bart., P.C., M.P.,
Minister of Health,


I have the honour to present a Preliminary Report on the thirteenth Census of the population of England and Wales.

The great events of the decennium thus concluded cannot fail to impress a character of uncommon significance upon the results of this Census, whether regarded as vestigial records of the passage of the War itself or as a source of enlightenment upon the many problems which the War has bequeathed to us. For such enlightenment, at the very time when it is most sorely needed, the country has been unusually at a loss, since there are but few questions today upon which guidance can be sought of the last Census across the great gulf of War which lies between. It is thus with a full sense of the heavy and responsible burden of service which this Census will be called upon to render that the operations now completed have been planned and carried out.

This Preliminary Report differs in the following respects from the substantive Census Reports to be issued later. The figures which it comprises are provisional, and relate solely to the number and sex of the population. This information it has been possible to obtain in advance of the main statistical operations by so organising the procedure of enumeration as to permit of the' simple figures being abstracted locally and summaries rapidly compiled and submitted by local Registrars for assembly at the Census Office. The figures are, therefore, provisional in the sense that they have been prepared from abstracts compiled by Enumerators and Registrars instead of from the Census returns direct; and they are thus subject to confirmation in the substantive Census Reports based upon the Census returns themselves, though no material discrepancy is, judging by past experience, to be expected.

The tables comprised in this Report mainly consist of figures of the population (by sexes) of (a) administrative areas, i.e., of each county, county borough, municipal borough and urban or rural district, and (b) parliamentary constituencies. The remaining tables consist either of aggregate population figures presented in a number of comparative series or of rearrangements of the figures for the more important areas in an order or grouping which experience has shown to be useful.

The special procedure adopted for the purpose of this Report cannot, however, be applied to the main contents of the Census returns, each entry in which must be separately examined and classified before the information can be expressed in statistical, form. The further Reports will, therefore, be issued in accordance with a general scheme of detailed tabulation which has now been taken in hand. Each return will be examined, and each entry will be classified and have its appropriate code number allotted to it. From the returns thus coded a card will be punched with the full particulars in respect of each individual person; and the punched cards will be submitted to the processes of mechanical tabulation for the purpose of arriving at the figures to be included in the subsequent Reports.

With regard to the form of those Reports, some choice of alternative has lain between the method of publishing a separate volume for each field of subject matter for the country as a whole, and the converse method of "county volume publication, viz., of presenting in respect of each county separately the relative statistics on a number of different subjects. In some cases the nature of the subject matter or the conditions governing its presentation preclude any option; but, roadly speaking, it has been necessary to decide between publication in the first instance by subject matter volumes, the contents of which can, if necessary, be subsequently broken up and regrouped in county volumes, and publication in the first instance by county volumes, the contents of which may similarly be regrouped and subsequently republished according to subject.

The course proposed to be adopted in respect of the 1921 Census Reports is to proceed by the publication in the first instance of county volumes. The requirements of the tabulation procedure in any event entail the building up of figures on any subject for the whole country out of the figures for each locality taken in turn; and it has seemed desirable that the figures for each county should be made available for local purposes as soon as it is possible to ascertain them. In certain cases, however, the nature of the statistics themselves will necessitate a subject matter arrangement; and the subsequent republication of other statistics by subject is not, of course, precluded where such a course would be justified by its value and convenience to the public. A separate Summary Volume will in any case be issued.

In one form or another it is intended to issue statistics comprising, inter alia, the subjects and combinations of subjects shewn below. In all cases the extent and the degree of detail will vary with the type of area in respect of which the statistics are provided. Generally speaking, the maximum detail will be given for the country as a whole; for counties the tabulation will be tolerably complete while for smaller administrative and other areas, so much will be published as seems justified on a consideration of the various functions the figures can be expected adequately to serve.

Population.— Tables showing the numbers of males and females enumerated in every civil parish and ward (of an urban district) together with their aggregations into sanitary, poor law, and parliamentary areas. Population figures will also be given for certain judicial areas and for ecclesiastical parishes.

Tables showing the number of persons working within each administrative area.

Housing.— Tables showing in administrative areas the number and kind of houses, classified according to the number of families, persons and rooms within them. Ages and Marital. Conditions . —Tables showing the distribution of each sex according to age and marital condition.

Orphanhood of Children under 15.— Tables showing the numbers of each sex in respect of whom both parents are alive, father or mother is dead, or both parents are dead.

Education.— Tables showing the numbers of persons attending educational institutions classified according to age and sex.

Birthplaces .—Tables showing the distribution of the population according to birthplace and the relation of birthplace to place of enumeration.

Foreign-born Population.— Tables showing the distribution according to country of birth and nationality and differentiating between visitors to and residents in this country and between those who are British subjects by birth and naturalised British subjects.

Occupations and Industries.— Tables showing the numbers employed in various occupations and industries respectively, classified according to age, marital condition, and industrial status (e.g., employer, employed). In addition, tables will also be given showing the various occupations covered by each industry and the numbers of people engaged therein.

Dependency.— Tables showing for married and widowed men and women the numbers and ages of all living children under age 16, classified according to age of parent, and, if possible, by reference to parent's occupation and housing conditions.

Couples.— Tables showing ages of husbands in relation to the ages of their wives.

Workplace in relation to Residence.— Tables showing daily movement of population from one area to another for purpose of work or employment.

Welsh Language .—Table showing for Wales and districts in Wales the numbers of persons who speak Welsh only, Welsh and English, or English only.

A brief account may conveniently be given in this Report, while the events are comparatively recent, of the preparations for the Census and of the actual course of its administration.

Legislation has, of course, been necessary to confer the powers under which the Census has been taken. Unlike all previous Census Acts, each of which has been limited in operation to a single Census, the Census Act, 1920, is a perpetual Act, having application not only to the recent Census but also to all future Censuses in Great Britain. Further, it enables a Census to be taken at quinquennial intervals and provides for the taking of local Censuses at any time at the request and charges of the local authority for the area concerned. It also contains provisions as to the supply of statistics in intercensal intervals with a view to their being brought into closer relation with the periodical Census statistics in pursuance of a common statistical policy.

As a natural consequence of the general form of this Act, it reserves the character of the enquiries to be included in the Census on each successive occasion for determination, subject to certain conditions, by Order in Council, power being also conferred to make Regulations covering the requirements of administrative machinery. In pursuance of these provisions, an Order in Council was made on 21st December, 1920, prescribing the date of the Census (24th April, 1921), the persons by whom and with respect to whom Census returns were to be made, and the nature of the particulars to be furnished in those returns. Regulations were also made on the same date prescribing the procedure of enumeration and the forms of return.

Considerable preparation had, however, been previously necessary Active arrangements commenced to be made at the end of 1919, when steps were taken in particular to consider the nature of the enquiries to be adopted and to secure the important object of co-ordination between the Census returns of the several parts of the United Kingdom. For this purpose the Ministers responsible for the Census in the several parts of the United Kingdom appointed by arrangement a Census Joint Committee of three officers; and to this Committee was entrusted the task of considering the nature of the Census enquiries with a view to their rendering the fullest measure of service to the common requirements of all parts of the United Kingdom awl to the attainment of a maximum degree of comparability in the resulting statistics.

The numerous enquiries proposed or submitted for inclusion in the Schedule were grouped according to subject matter, and for each group an expert Sub-Committee was founded on the administrative basis of the Joint Committee to examine and advise upon the questions involved as affecting the United Kingdom as a whole As the Schedule already appeared to have reached the extreme limits of its capacity for expansion, the problem presented was to decide upon the selection of enquiries which promised results of greatest general utility for present and future needs. As a result of this process of sifting, and after numerous consultations with authorities, scientific bodies, and industrial undertakings, the final contents of the Schedule were settled for submission to Parliament in the draft Order in Council and Regulations.

Reference may be made to those respects in which the Schedule thus adopted differed substantially from the Schedule of 1911. An enquiry was added as to the number and ages of children under 16 (including an enquiry as to orphans), in view of the increasing importance for many administrative and public purposes of statistics as to the extent of the burden of dependency upon different sections of the community. An enquiry as to place of work, which was felt to be of great value for transport, housing, and general industrial purposes, was also added. On the other hand, it was decided to omit the enquiry as to "infirmities" included in previous Censuses, in view of the generally recognised fact that reliable information upon these subjects cannot be expected in returns made by or on behalf of the individuals afflicted. Further, it was concluded, after very careful examination, that the "fertility" enquiry of 1911 (viz., as to duration of existing marriages and the number of children born of such marriages) could be omitted in 1921, notwithstanding its importance, with less disadvantage than either of the new enquiries proposed, particularly in view of the long range covered by the 1911 enquiry and of the fact that the wealth of material which it provided had not been completely exhausted.

This is the first time in the modern history of Census-taking in this country that any enquiry once introduced into the Schedule has been omitted therefrom on a subsequent occasion. The fact is indicative of a stage at which the limits of expansion have been approximately reached, and a new problem presented to the Census authorities which forms the subject of subsequent comment.

Special attention was given to the enquiries as regards occupation and industry with a view to securing an improvement in the statistics derivable therefrom. It appeared clear from experience of the 1911 results that a fuller and more scientific classification both of occupations and of industries than had hitherto been available was essential to the proper statistical treatment of this subject, and to the utility of the Census results for comparison with the Census of Production The Census Joint Committee accordingly arranged for the subject to be considered by a special Sub-Committee, assisted by representatives of the Board of Trade Home Office and Ministry of Labour. This body, working with the co-operation of the Departments mentioned, drew up occupational and industrial classifications which have been adopted for the purpose of the Census returns; and it is understood that those Departments have expressed their intention of conforming to these classifications for the purpose of their own departmental statistics. Thus the actual achievement in this respect has gone beyond the immediate object of facilitating the Census work and has secured a valuable advance in the co-ordination of official statistics by providing standard classifications to which the Departments mainly interested have agreed to adhere.

The second stage in the work of the Census Joint Committee was the decision of the form of the tables to be published by way of presentation of the results of the Census, so far as this involved questions of comparability and co-ordination between the several parts of the United Kingdom. Practically every Government Department was consulted with a view to the Census statistics being rendered as useful as possible; and suggestions were invited with the same object from the organisations representing local authorities. On the basis of the conclusions thus arrived at the detailed programme of tabulation operations at the Census Office was then prepared.

The Imperial Statistical Conference in London in the early part of 1920 afforded exceptional opportunities, of which full advantage was taken, of consultation with the statistical officers of the Overseas Dominions on the subject of Census-taking within the Empire. As a result of the discussions which took place agreement was reached with regard to the major points upon which uniformity of action within the Empire is desirable, and plans were concerted to secure that common Imperial requirements were, as far as possible, observed in the results of the separate Censuses of the several Dominions, Colonies, and Protectorates which were due to be taken in the present year.

In view of these efforts to promote improved co-ordination within the United Kingdom and within the Empire, it was a source of particular regret that conditions in Ireland were ultimately found to render it impracticable to proceed in that country with the Census as originally planned.

The administrative procedure of enumeration did not differ substantially from that previously adopted in recent years. The country was sub-divided by the 1913 local Registrars of Births and Deaths into 38,563 enumeration districts; and for each district (with certain exceptions) an Enumerator was appointed on the recommendation of the Registrar to undertake the distribution and collection of schedules. Officers of H.M. Customs and. Excise enumerated persons on board mercantile shipping, fishing vessels, etc., and the Corporation of Trinity House made the requisite arrangements in the case Of lighthouses and lightships. Returns of homeless persons were obtained by the police.

Registrars were, however, instructed directly from headquarters, and not, as on previous occasions, through Superintendent Registrars. This change of plan was made largely in the interests of economy. It did not appear that the inclusion of Superintendent Registrars in the scheme of organisation could be justified by the essential requirements of the executive operations, although, as anticipated, the change imposed an increase of active responsibility upon the headquarters staff. The Regulations provided, however, for the appointment in each area of a Census Advisory Officer; and Superintendent Registrars, with few exceptions, accepted these appointments and have acted in an honorary capacity. The Department has _thus had the inestimable advantage of the local support of Superintendent Registrars as a measure of precaution against any local emergency; and while no emergency arose which necessitated any serious demands being made upon them, their advice and support in many instances have been of great assistance.

Reference may also be made to one or two novel features in the procedure. For the first time definite provision was instituted to enable separate confidential returns to be made by those persons who would otherwise have suffered hardship by disclosing particulars to some other person charged with the duty of making the return. Consequential arrangements had, however, to be made to enable the separate return to be subsequently associated with the household return in which it should normally have been included, in order that statistics based upon" the household unit might not be vitiated by the concession.

Substantial administrative machinery had also to be devised to give statistical effect to the new place of work enquiry. While the scheme of enumeration itself ensures that the places of residence of the population on the Census night are automatically allotted to the several local sub-divisions of the country (boroughs urban or rural districts, wards, and civil parishes, etc.), in which they are situated' no statistical expression could, of course, be given to the place of work addresses until a similar allocation has been made and the local sub-division accurately identified m the case of each address. It was not to be expected that the officers in charge of the enumeration, though familiar with the topography of their own districts would be possessed of the precise and expert knowledge of localities and boundaries m other, and often distant, parts of the country to permit of their correctly assigning all place of work addresses entered in the Schedules passing through their hands.

Nor, indeed, without enormous expense (if at all) would it have been possible to have collected and trained a staff at headquarters which would have been competent to identify in all cases the local areas within the boundaries of which every place of work throughout the country was situated. The following procedure was accordingly decided upon. The local Registrar receiving the returns from Enumerators was required to identify and code the local area of each place-of-work address within the district for which he was responsible. But with regard to other place-of-work addresses, it was arranged that a simple postcard form should be written bearing the address of the place of work and the reference number of the Census Schedule upon which it was entered; and an arrangement was made with the General Post Office whereby these postcards when posted were delivered to the Registrar for the locality in which the place-of-work address was situated. This Registrar, having expert and precise knowledge of the boundaries and local sub-divisions in his own district was, of course, competent to make an accurate assignment of the address of each postcard received by him; and it was arranged that the Registrars receiving such postcards should code them and transmit them to headquarters. On receipt at headquarters the postcards thus coded were to be sorted back according to the districts whence they originated with a view to their ultimate association with the Schedules to which they respectively relate.

This procedure appeared to offer the only means whereby full advantage could be derived from the invaluable material afforded by the place-of-work enquiry. It has involved, of course, large-scale operations in connection of the many millions of place-of-work addresses; and detailed preparations have had to be made to provide for the various contingencies which were bound to arise. All the foregoing arrangements had been brought to a state of completion with a view to the Census being taken on the 24th April. Conditions occasioned by the coal dispute and the expectation of a strike of railwaymen and transport workers gave rise, however, to serious doubts as to whether the enumeration could be successfully carried out in all parts of Great Britain during the period originally fixed; and in view of the heavy loss which would have resulted had the enumeration proved abortive, a postponement was decided upon. A draft Order in Council to give effect to that decision was accordingly submitted to Parliament on the 14th April; and on the 25th April a further draft Order was submitted substituting the 19th}June for the date previously prescribed. The new date decided upon was the earliest date of which the requirements of Parliamentary procedure admitted: it was, on the other hand, the latest date before the commencement of the important series of public and industrial holidays which continues well into the autumn. Any census taken during those holidays would have substantially misrepresented the distribution of the population in the areas affected. It was in any case inevitable that some change in the distribution of population should take place between the original date and the new date; and the statistical consequences of this change are the subject of comment below.

Regulations were made on the 27th April to define the position of Enumerators who had undertaken to serve on the basis of the earlier date, and to afford them an opportunity of obtaining release from their obligations. Arrangements were made to fill the places of Enumerators who took advantage of this option, and in many other respects to bring the administrative machine to a state of readiness for the new date in the altered circumstances resulting from the postponement. The enumeration accordingly took place on the 19th June, and the collection of the returns was satisfactorily concluded in all parts of the country. A Census was taken in the Isle of Man and Channel Islands on the same day. The provision of the requisite Schedules was undertaken by this Department, the actual enumeration being carried out by the respective Island Governments. A Census was simultaneously taken of naval, military, and air force establishments abroad.

An acknowledgment of indebtedness is due in many quarters; to those Government Departments whose technical advice and assistance will have substantially contributed to the statistical value of the Census results; to other Government Departments whose practical co-operation has facilitated the administrative work of enumeration; to Local Education Authorities and elementary school teachers; to local authorities in many parts of the country; and finally to the part played by the Press in the promotion of a better understanding of the objects of the Census, and a more appreciative reception by the public of the demands which it makes upon them.

A few general observations may not be out of place as to the future prospects of Census-taking in this country, viewed in the light of recent experience and current developments.

As previously indicated, a new problem is presented to the Census authorities by the fact that the limits of expansion of the Census Schedule appear to have been reached. On the other hand the growth of knowledge and the changing angles of interest in the facts of human life make it inevitable that new appeals should from time to time be made to the Census machinery to provide information not previously needed. If the Census is still to serve as an instrument of progress, and its resources to continue fresh and adaptable, Census-taking must be envisaged on a broader basis, and its capacity husbanded, not only by a careful apportionment of burdens between Census machinery and other sources of information, but by the planning of enquiries, not in relation to each Census as an isolated event, but in relation to the series of successive future enumerations as links in a single chain of statistical policy. Unless future developments tend to remove the limitations which at present appear to be imposed upon the extent of the Census enquiries and the capacity of the public for responding to them, it has become of immediate practical importance that, in addition to relieving the Schedule of all enquiries for which provision could otherwise be made by any adjustment or reorganisation of intercensal returns, we should contemplate the alternation of some enquiries, at longer or shorter intervals as the case may require. The practical form of such a scheme would, of course, be very largely affected by the institution of a quinquennial Census (should the national finances permit in future years of the enabling powers now available being exercised); since with a quinquennial interval it would be less difficult to distribute the burden over successive occasions so as to secure a suitable rotation in the case of certain enquiries while reserving a margin for the elucidation of new problems. And, conversely, the distribution of enquiries attainable under quinquennial conditions should permit of a reduction of the scope of each Census which may have a material bearing upon the financial side of the question.

Much will depend upon the future form of the administrative machinery of Census-taking. Adherence to the established procedure has been largely dictated by the form and structure of the local registration machinery, which has survived unaltered since its establishment in the early part of the last century. The organisation of this service is, however, under review; and there is room for hope that the future development of this and other more recently created registration services may evolve a single co-ordinated system of local registration machinery which will simplify and cheapen the work of census enumeration. Could this result be achieved it would contribute materially both to the possibility of a quinquennial Census and to that closer relation between intercensal and censal returns which is so desirable in the interests of both. Part II. of this Report consists of notes prepared by the Statistical Officers of the Department upon some of the more outstanding features which the Tables exhibit. No attempt has been made, however, to do full justice to the numerous points of interest which emerge. It has been deemed to be more important that the public should be placed in possession of the figures themselves without delay; and the few days only which have been available for the statistical examination of the figures since the completion of the calculations enabled this to be undertaken have imposed severe restrictions upon the scale of any comment.

I have the honour to be,


Your obedient Servant,



18th August, 1921.

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