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1. Number and Nature of Areas.

Area of England and Wales

The area of England and Wales, according to returns with, which the Registrar-General has been favoured by the Director-General of Ordnance Surveys, is 37,327,479 statute acres, exclusive of 826,709 acres of tidal water or foreshore, but inclusive of 198,317 acres of inland water. The acreage of land and inland water together is that usually quoted in the several Tables of the Census Report in which area is given.

The area of land alone is 37,129,162 acres, or 58,014 square miles, and its apportionment, in the year 1901, to various uses may, with the help of the Agricultural returns, be thus approximately stated:—

Corn Crops 5,886,052 acres
Green Crops 2,511,744 "
Clover and Grasses under Rotation 3,262,926 "
Flax, Hops and Small Fruit 120,683 "
Bare Fallow 336,884 "
Permanent Pasture or Grass 15,399,025 "
Mountain and Heath Land used for Grazing 3,556,636 "
Woods, Plantations, Nursery Grounds, Houses, Streets, Roads, Railways, Waste Grounds, &c. 6,055,212 "
* The Area of Woods and Plantations was 1,847,351 acres in the year 1895; it has not been separately ascertained for any later date.

Sub-divisions for Administrative purposes

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 of the local Officials, in ascertaining the precise limits of the several divisions to be separately distinguished in the Tables, laborious and extremely complicated.

Counties and other Ancient Sub-divisions

It is not difficult to trace the development of the multiplicity of administrative areas. Before the extinction of the Saxon Heptarchy, several Counties had already been created, and the number was much increased in the interval between that time and the Norman conquest; there were also sub-divisions of Counties, viz., Hundreds, Tythings, and Hides, a hide of land containing 100 or 120 acres for the support of a free family, ten such holdings forming a tything, and ten or twelve tythings a hundred. Boroughs date from Saxon times, when they appear to have been modifications or groupings of hundreds, the burgesses having been associated together for defence and for other purposes. From the Domesday Record, it is evident that Counties were sub-divided into Lands (of the King, Bishop, and tenants in chief), and these into Manors which were probably, in many instances, identical with ancient Tythings or Townships, but which underwent changes in the course of time.


The origin of the modern Civil Parish, better known as Township in the more Northerly Counties, is somewhat obscure, but it appears probable that, in the first instance, the area which was combined with the ancient Township, as a nucleus, for ecclesiastical purposes was made to serve also for civil purposes. These parochial areas were utilised in the reign of Queen Elizabeth for the relief of the Poor, the rates for the maintenance of the poor belonging to a parish being levied (under the provisions of 43 Eliz c 2 )1 on the other inhabitants of that parish; this sten in Poor Law administration was, however, confined to 89 parishes. Many parishes were divided in the reign of Charles II., having been found too large for the proper application of the Poor Laws.

Poor Law Unions

In 1782 (22 Geo, III., c. 83) most of the parishes to which previous Acts related were combined to form Unions. Various Local Acts increased the number of Unions to 33, besides which 17 single parishes administered relief each within its own borders. In 1834 an Act (4 & 5 Wm. IV., c. 76) established Boards of Guardians and 585 Poor Law Unions, which were constituted of convenient numbers of parishes, while in 20 cases a single parish had its own Board of Guardians. In the creation of Poor Law Unions more regard was had to the convenience of the residents and the conservation of existing parishes than to the boundaries of Counties, and thus it happens that many Unions are partly in two Counties.

The Divided Parishes Acts of 1876 and 1879 afforded means of disposing of large numbers of detached parts of parishes} and the Act of 1882, amending the Divided Parishes Act of 1876, at one stroke caused every detached part of a parish which was entirely surrounded by a single parish to be either adsorbed in the surrounding parish, or, if its population exceeded 300, created a separate parish. Very many detached parts of parishes, however, still remain, some of them incidentally created by the operation of sub-section (3) of the 1st section of the Local Government Act of 1894; a list of those existing at the time of the Census in any County is given in Table 13 of the County Part relating to that County.

Registration Areas

When the system of Civil Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages was established in 1837, the Poor Law Union was made the unit for Registration purposes, the consequence being that many Registration Districts and Sub-districts are partly in two Counties, and that Registration Counties, which are aggregates of Registration Districts (each of which is either co-extensive with a Poor Law Union or Parish, or contains two entire Unions or Parishes), differ from what have been termed Ancient or Geographical Counties, and also from the modern Administrative Counties. The Ancient Counties have, moreover, themselves undergone changes—notably under the provisions of the Act 7 & 8 Vict., c. 61.

The Commissioners appointed under the provisions of the Local Government (Boundaries) Act, 1887 (50 & 51 Vict., c. 61), indicated, in their report date 5th July, 1888, how Unions, and therefore Registration Districts, might cease to extend into more than one County—partly by formation of new Unions, partly by modification of Union boundaries, and partly by alteration of the boundaries of Counties.

Administrative Counties and County Boroughs

In 1888 a Local Government Act (51 & 52 Vict., c. 41) was passed by which "Administrative Counties" and "County Boroughs" were created. Of the 62 Administrative Counties 15 were identical with the Ancient or Geographical Counties as then existing; in some few cases the Administrative County together with a County Borough, or with two or more County Boroughs, with which it was associated, was co-extensive with the Ancient County; whilst in most cases there was more or less difference, chiefly on account of the provision that "where any urban sanitary district is situate partly within and partly without the boundary of such County, the district shall be deemed to be within that County which contains the largest portion of the population of the district, according to the Census of one thousand eight hundred and eighty-one."

The differences between, the Ancient and Administrative Counties, thus occasioned, have been much increased under the provisions of the Local Government Act of 1894 (56 & 57 Vict., c. 73), by which County Councils were required, in accordance with Section 36, to institute inquiries and, where deemed expedient, to make application to the Local Government Board for the alteration of Country boundaries, in order that, in the words of the Act, "the whole of each parish, and, unless the country council for special reasons otherwise direct, the whole of each rural district shall be within the same administrative country."

There are, therefore, three kinds of Counties—the Ancient, the Administrative, and the Registration —all of which are separately distinguished in the Census Tables. The Ancient Counties are chiefly of importance because at present they are the basis of the Parliamentary Country Divisions as constituted by the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885. These Divisions were then formed from Petty Sessional Divisions of Ancient Counties, and, probably, had the Administrative Countries existed at that time, the Parliamentary system would have been brought into line with them.

By means of the Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894, much has been done towards the simplification of areas. Every Urban District is now entirely within one Administrative Country, and each Civil Parish, with few exceptions, within one Urban or Rural District, while in many cases all the areas constituting an Urban District have been consolidated into a single Civil Parish; but ten Rural Districts are still partly included in two Counties, and in nine instances Rural District Councils administer, for convenience, Civil Parishes situated in a different Administrative Country. There remains only one Civil Parish which is contained partly in two Administrative Counties, viz., Stanground, which is partly in Huntingdonshire and partly in the Isle of Ely. For purposes of the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and for those of the Census, the assimilation of Registration to Administrative Counties, which might be effected by the means suggested by the Commissioners in 1888, is most desirable, and it may well be hoped that these recommendations, or some similar measures, may be embodied in an Act, so that this end may be more expeditiously achieved than is practicable under the provisions of existing statutes.

Beyond this, however, the importance of Urban and Rural Districts as the units of sanitary administration renders it scarcely short of a necessity that there should be a closer relation as regards area between these Districts and Registration Districts, in order to facilitate the preparation of detailed statistics of mortality, such as are now given for Registration Districts in the Registrar-General's Annual Reports, for each Urban and Rural District. The cost of registration is now mainly borne by the Guardians of the Poor, and under these circumstances the area of the Registration District can practically be no other than that of the Poor Law Union, or of a combination of Poor Law Unions, which at present are identical, in but few cases, with Urban or Rural Districts.

Of 636 Registration Districts, as constituted at the beginning of 1903, about two-thirds (419) were each situated within a single Administrative Country, and 22 each within a single County Borough; whilst 165 were each included partly within two Administrative Counties or within an Administrative Country and a County Borough, 27 within three, two within four, and one District within five, of these Administrative areas (see Table 44 in Appendix A to this Report).

Ecclesiastical Parishes

Ecclesiastical Parishes, with which the ancient Manors appear to have been co-extensive, and which originally formed the basis for the Poor Law parishes, have undergone much change; so that, with changes in both civil and ecclesiastical parishes made at various times, and to a varying extent, a great many Ecclesiastical Parishes, particularly in towns, bear no relation to Civil Parishes. The legislation of recent years has tended to accentuate the difference, for alterations in Civil Parishes under the provisions of the Divided Parishes Acts of 1876, 1879 and 1882, or under those of the Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894, do not affect Ecclesiastical Parishes.

Summary statement of areas dealt with in Census Tables

It will be evident from the foregoing statements that the actual number of different kinds of areas in England and Wales existing for various purposes must be very considerable Those dealt with in the Census Tables, which relate to areas as constituted on the Census Day, may be thus summarized:—

54 Ancient Counties.
468 Parliamentary Areas.
2 Ecclesiastical Provinces.
35 Ecclesiastical Dioceses (including the Diocese of Sodor and Man).
14,080 Ecclesiastical Parishes.
62 Administrative Counties (excluding the Isles of Scilly2 ).
67 County Boroughs.
734 Petty Sessional Divisions.
54 Country Court Circuits.
500 Country Court Districts.
28 Metropolitan Boroughs with their Wards.
1,122 Urban Districts (including 316 Country or Municipal Boroughs) with the Wards of those which are so sub-divided.
664 Rural Districts.
14,900 Civil Parishes.
11 Registration Divisions.
55 Registration Counties (reckoning individual Counties of North and South Wales separately).
635 Registration Districts.
2,064 Registration Sub-districts.

2. Changes of Area since 1891.

In Civil Parishes

The Local Government Act of 1888 had caused many changes to be made in Civil Parishes and in other areas, as was pointed out in the Report on the Census in 1891, and the further Local Government Act of 1894 added impetus to the succession of changes.

Of the 14,900 Civil Parishes which appear in the present Census Tables, 883 were created between 1891 and 1901, while 1,308 underwent change of area.

In Ecclesiastical Parishes

Only 302 of the 14,080 existing Ecclesiastical Parishes were newly created in the decennium. There were, however, many alterations in the boundaries of these parishes. The difficulty, noticed in previous Reports, of ascertaining the precise boundaries of Ecclesiastical Parishes has again been experienced, and we are much indebted to the Clergy who have willingly afforded us valuable help in this task.

In Urban and Rural Districts

The number of Urban Districts created between the Censuses of 1891 and 1901 was 164, and the number dissolved or merged in other Urban Districts was 53, raising the number at the latter Census to 1,122, of which the boundaries of 281 had undergone alteration in the interval. The boundaries of Rural Districts were largely altered by these changes, but still more by those effected under the provisions of the Local Government. Acts of 1888 and 1894, so that not a third of them remain as they existed in 1891. It is satisfactory to note that, as the result of these changes, only 10 Rural Districts are now partly comprised, as already stated, in two Administrative Counties.

In London

The London Government Act of 1899 divided the Administrative County of London (exclusive of the City of London) into 28 "Metropolitan Boroughs," and provided also for such improvement and simplification of boundaries as might be expedient for convenience of administration. Under such provision, numerous slight alterations were made in the boundaries of parishes within the County, while its external boundary was modified—mainly by the transfer, from the Administrative County of London, of the Parish of Penge to the County of Kent and of a detached part of the Parish of Clerkenwell to the County of Middlesex; and by the transfer, from the Admimistrative County of Middlesex to that of London, of the Urban District and Civil Parish of South Hornsey (consisting of a former part of the Parish of Hornsey and two formerly detached parts of that Parish). by means of this Act, and of subsequent Orders issued by the Registrar-General, with the statutory sanction of the Local Government Board, the Administrative Country and the Registration Country of London have been rendered co-extensive, and by the latter means the boundaries of Registration Districts have been adjusted to correspond with those of Poor Law Unions or of Parishes, of which the Metropolitan Boroughs are constituted,

In Parliamentary Areas

No change was made during the decennium in the areas for Parliamentary representation, the constituencies having remained unaltered since the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885.

In Administrative Counties and County Boroughs

The boundaries of many of the Administrative Counties were modified under the provisions of the Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894, and four Municipal Boroughs—viz., Newport (Pop.), Bournemouth, Burton on Trent and Warrington, were created County Boroughs in the intercensal period 1891-1901; Rotherham and and West Hartlepool have been added (in 1902) to the list of County Boroughs since the Census of 1901.

The numerous changes referred to in the foregoing paragraphs have involved much labour to the small Census Department of the General Register Office, whose duty it is, in the intercensal periods, to take note of such alterations, to make necessary inquiries, and to ascertain from the Enumeration books of the last Census, with the help of the local Registrars of Births and Deaths, the numbers of houses and the populations located at that time in the new or changed areas, in readiness for the next Census. Preparatory work of this and other kinds was dealt with between the Censuses of 1891 and 1901 to a greater extent than in previous similar periods, and much facilitated the progress of the various processes at the Census Office after the Census had been taken.

1 Before this time some steps had been taken in this direction, as may be seen from the following extract from the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners (1834):—

"The 27 Henry VIII. c. 25, which imposed a fine on the parish in which the impotent poor should not be relieved, and directed the surplus collection of rich parishes to be applied for the relief of poor parishes within the same hundred; the 1 Edward VI. C. 3, which directed the curate of any parish to exhort his parishioners to relieve those born in the same parish, and needing their help; and the 5 and 6 Edward VI. c. 2, which directed the parson, vicar, or churchwardens of each parish, to appoint collectors, and to gently ask for contributions in the church; were all so many steps towards making the relief of the poor a parochial charge. And it appears that the ecclesiastical division of parishes was preferred to any civil division on account of the part which the clergy were required to take in the business."

2 These do not strictly constitute an Administrative Country although they are administered by a separate Council.

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