1902 Encyclopedia > England > Area and Population. Vital Statistics. Emigration.

(Part 2)


Part 2. Area and Population. Vital Statistics. Emigration.

Until the beginning of the present century, there existed no other knowledge of the actual area and population of the country but what was given in the vaguest estimates. But there can be little doubt that the population of England and Wales was almost stationary for centuries, owing chiefly to want of intercommunication, which led to famines, more or less severe—it being a common occurrence that, while one county, with a good harvest, was revelling in abundance, the people of the adjoining one were starving. It is calculated, on the basis of a number of parish registers, that in 1650 the population of England and Wales numbered 5,450,000, having probably risen less than half a million during the lapse of a century. In the course of another century, when there was a feeble commencement of road-making, the increase amounted, probably, to close upon a million, the calculated population of 1750 being 6,400,000. From that time began a marked increase, and at the taking of the first census, in 1801, it was ascertained that the populated, living on an area of 58,320 square miles , or 37,324,883 acres, numbered 8,892,536, being—if the former estimates were approximately correct—an increase of very nearly 2 _ millions in little over fifty years. This rate of increase was not only continued, but came to be greatly exceeded in the present century.

Since the first census of 1801, regular enumerations of the people of England and Wales have been taken every ten years. The results of these enumerations are shown in the subjoined table, giving the total numbers of the population at each census, together with the absolute increase, and the growth per cent., during each decennial period:—


The increase of population throughout the century was larger in the towns than in the country districts. This was most markedly the case in the centennial period from 1861 to 1871, as will be seen from the following table, showing the increase per cent. of the population in each of the eleven "registration districts" mapped out by the registrar-general. It will be seen that the greatest increase was in the division, rich in manufacturing and mining industries, embracing the northern counties and Yorkshire, and the least in the agricultural districts of the south-western and eastern counties.


As regards sexes, the total numbers were as follows at each of the eight enumerations from 1801 to 1871:—


The following table exhibits the main results of the census of 1871 as regards extent and population, giving the area, in statute acres, of each of the forty counties of England and twelve counties of Wales, and the number of ingabited houses—a house being defined as a separate buildings inclosed by external and party walls—in each county. The population according to the census of 1861 is appended for the same of comparison.


At the census of 1861 the number of inhabited houses was 3,739,505, so that there was an increase of 519,612 in the ten years. It was found at the census of 1871 that whereas in the whole of the United Kingdom there were on the average 5·6 persons to each inhabited house, 0·41 persons to an acre, and 2·46 acres to a person, the proportions were very different in England and Wales. Expressed in tabular form, as most concise, they were as follows:—


England and Wales are at present more densely populated than any country of Europe, except Belgium. Taking the whole of the United Kingdom, the average density of population in 1871 was 165 individuals per square mile; but while the proportion in Scotland was only 109, and in Ireland 169 per square mile, in England and Wales it was 389 inhabitants per square mile.

The growth of population leading to the present high density has been of comparatively recent date. A succinct survey of it is given in the subjoined table, showing the estimated population of England and Wales at the end of June every fifth year from 1801 to 1876, and also for 1877, according to the returns of the registrar-general.


It will be seen that the annual increase form the beginning of the century till the middle of 1877 was at the average rate of 1·35 per cent, being considerably above that of any other country in Europe.

The general increase of population was, as before noticed, far greater in the towns than in the rural districts. This was specially the case in the twenty years from the census of 1851 to that of 1871, as shown in the subjoined table.


One-forth of the total urban population of England and Wales live in London, and not far from one-third live in 18 large cities and towns, selected by the registrar-general for the publication of weekly rates of mortality. The following is a list of these 18 towns, all of them containing over 60,000 inhabitants, with their population at the censuses of 18671 and 1971, and the rate of increase per cent. during the decennial period.


At the end of June 1877, the population of the 13 largest towns in England and Wales, each with over 100,000 inhabitants, was as follows, according to the estimates of the registrar-general, based upon the returns of births and deaths;—London, 3,533,484 inhabitants; Liverpool, 527,083; Manchester, with Salfold, 500,397; Birmingham, 377,436; Leeds, 291,580; Sheffield, 274, 914; Bristol, 199,539; Bradford, 173,723; Newcastle-on-Tyne, 139,929; Hull, 136,933; Portsmouth, 124,867; Leicester, 113,581; and Sunderland, 108,343 inhabitants.

While the eight decennial census enumerations, from 1801 6o 1871, bear witness to the rapid growth of population in England and Wales, the favourable vital statistics of the country are no less distinctly shown by the annual returns of the registrar-general complied from the registers of births, deaths, and marriages. These registers, in use, though not general, since the reign of Queen Elizabeth, were formerly a part of the ecclesiastical organization, and continued to be attached, more or less, to the church till the year 1837, at the commencement of which an Act of Parliament came into operation which provided a far more complete machinery than that before existing for the exact record of all births, deaths, and marriages. The new system—established eighteen years earlier than a similar one for Scotland—which relieved the clergy from the functions previously thrown upon them, was still more improved by subsequent Acts, one of the most important of which, making all registration of births and deaths compulsory, came into operation on the 1st of January 1875. It is generally held that the present system is as perfect as that of any country in Europe.

The following table gives the annual numbers of births, deaths, marriages in England and Wales for every fifth year fro 1841—when the improved system had been brought into full organization—to the year 1876:—


The rate of births, deaths, and marriages for each 1000 of the population of England and Wales, computed on the estimated number for the middle of each of the same years was as follows:—


Taking the average of the whole period of 37 years, from 1841 to 1876, there was one birth annually to very 29 persons, one death to every 45 persons, and one individual married to every 61 persons. The highest birth rate was in 1847, when there was one birth to 32 persons; the lowest death rate in 1845 and 1850, when there was one death to 48 persons; and the highest marriage rate in 1853, when one individual was married to every 56 persons.

The proportion of the sexes born—not quite regular throughout the period, but with a marked tendency to male decrease—was that of 14,811 boys to every 100,000 girls. The disproposition in the excess of male births has been ascertained to find its equilibrium, through a higher rate of infant mortality among the males, about the tenth year of life, and is finally changed, by perilous male occupations and other causes, to the extent that there are 100,000 women of all ages to 94,900 men in England.

The number of illegitimate births underwent a gradual decline in the period from 1840 to 1876, which was greatest in the last decade. The average annual number of illegitimate births to every 100 births was 5·7 in the ten years from 1865 to 1874, and fell to 5·0 in 1875, and to 4·8 in 1876. The rate of illegitimacy was highest in the agricultural counties, where it increased in recent years, while largely decreasing the urban districts. The increase was highest in Essex, where it rose to 10·5 per cent; in Hertfordshire, where it rose to 17·3 per cent.; and in Rutlanshire, where it went as high as 23·5 per cent., so that in the latter purely agricultural county nearly one-fourth of all the births were illegitimate.

It seems probable that the decrease of illegitimacy in the urban districts is much influenced by a constantly increasing number of early marriages. While in the quinquennial period 1841-45 the proportion of males under age that married was 4·38 per cent., and of females 13·33 per cent., the marriage rate of minors, undergoing a steady and uninterrupted rise, went up in the period 1871-75 to 8·15 for males and 22·22 for females. In the ten years from 1846 to 1855, the· proportion of males under age married was 10·64 per cent., and of females under age 33·47, while in the ten years from 1866 to 1875, the proportional percentage was 17·05 for men and 47·09 for women.

The rates of births, deaths, and marriages in England and Wales compare very favourably with those of most Continental countries. While the average annual birth rate in the twenty years form 1856 to 1875 was higher in some states, such as Prussia and Austria, the annual death rate during the same period was much lower, resulting in a larger actual surplus of births over deaths. As regards the average marriage rate within the period, that of England and Wales was not as high as in some Continental countries; but this again was more than compensated for a great fecundity of marriages. Taking the total increase of population within the country, England stands at the head of the list—France being at the bottom—of all the states of Europe. The increase of population would have been still greater, but for the disturbing element of emigration. It was soon after the cessation of the Napoleonic wars that the emigration movement from the United Kingdom began, setting in at first very feebly, and being directed almost solely towards the United States of America. It gained intensity during the decade from 1841 to 1850; and, gradually rising, reached its highest point in 1851 and 1852m in which years respectively 335,966 and 368,764 persons left the kingdom. After this there was a gradual decline in the number of British emigrants till 1861, when it sank to 91,770, which decrease was followed, with changes, by a further rise, and then by a final decline, lasting to the present time.

The following table gives a survey of the emigration from the United Kingdom to foreign countries, in groups of years and single years, distinguishing two great periods of rise and fall, from 1815 to 1852 and from to 1876:—


During the whole of the two periods, embracing sixty-two years, the total number of emigrants that left the United Kingdom was 8,424,042.

In the returns of emigration issued by the Government, no distinction of nationalities was made previous to the year 1853; and it cannot be stated, therefore, how many of the emigrants who left the country from 1815 to 1853 were natives of England and Wales. In the eight years from 1853 to 1860 the number of English emigrants was 195,684, and in the ten years 1861 to 1870 it rose to 365,115. In 1871 the number was 71,926, and in 1872 it rose to 82,339 =. The number fell 78,968 in 1873, to 56,338 in 1874, to 43,867 in 1875, and to 34,612 in 1876. During the whole of the twenty–four years from 1853 to 1876 the number of emigrants from England and Wales was 928,898, out of the total emigration of 4,961,350. The proportion of English emigrants was thus less than one-fifth, and assuming the same to have been the case one-fifth, and assuming the same to have been the case during the whole period, it may be calculated that about a million and a half of natives of England and Wales quitted the country in the sixty-two years form 1815 to 1876, which formed the emigration period.

The period all but closed with 1876, in which the surplus of British emigrants over returning immigrants was reduced to the small number of 17,822. Since the year 1870, but not previously, tolerably accurate accounts were kept of immigration as well as emigration, with the results shown in the following table, which gives for the seven years from 1870 to 1876 the number of emigrants of British origin, together with the number of immigrants, with the balance of net emigration.


The British emigration of 1876 was made up of 73,396 persons of English, 10,097 of Scottish, and 25,976 of Irish origin. Of the English emigrants, 34,612 went to the United States, 6227 to British North America, 20,582 to Australia, and 11,975 to other colonies and other foreign countries. More persons of British origin returned from the United States than went there in the year 1876, the number of emigrants, being 54,554, and of immigrants 54,697. On the whole, it seems probable that the emigration movement will not soon again rise to the vast dimensions it once assumed, and that, at any rate, it will cease to be an important factor in the growth of the English population.

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