The 1801 Census of Devon, plus some information from 1811, 1815, 1821 and 1831

By David J. Knapman


The accompanying workbook (a set of linked spreadsheets) combines parish-by-parish census and related data for Devon from two main printed sources: (1) the 'Comparative Account of the Population of Great Britain, 1801, 1811, 1821, 1831' (pages 68 to 77: Devon), which provides total population counts for all four census years, and also contains annual property values for 1815; and (2) some of the more detailed population data from the 1801 census assembled for, and included within, Charles Vancouver's 1808 book 'General View of the Agriculture of the County of Devon', which was published as part of a series of county reports produced for the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement. This is a fascinating book, concerned with much more than just agriculture.

Both of these main source documents can be found in their entirety on-line (the 'Comparative Account' via hathitrust.org and Vancouver's book via archive.org). Vancouver's book was also re-printed and re-published by David & Charles (Publishers) Ltd of Newton Abbot in 1969.

The Act of Parliament which required the 1801 census to be carried out commanded all local rectors / vicars (or similar), and/or Overseers of the Poor or (in very small places) some other substantial Householder, to record (1) the numbers of inhabited houses and resident families; (2) the total residential population (excluding those serving in the armed forces or militias or on registered vessels) and the numbers employed in (a) agriculture; (b) trade, manufacturing or handicrafts; and (c) none of the above.

I have been unable to find a copy of the original census returns as used by Vancouver (other than the population totals), and can confirm that they are not held at the Devon Heritage Centre. Where I spotted inconsistencies between my two main sources, or oddities common to both sources, I consulted the data sets provided on the british-history.ac.uk website (from the Devon volume of 'Magna Britannia') to see if this would help to resolve the problem. The Parish notes (see later) explain how I dealt with any such conflicts between data sets.

Understanding and using the 'Full 1801-31 data set' spreadsheet

Putting these data sets into a spreadsheet ('Full 1801-31 data set'), together with other ways of categorising and grouping the parishes (e.g. Hundreds, Deaneries and modern Districts), allows the social structure of Devon in the early 19th century to be explored more actively. My intention has been to create a working spreadsheet, not to present the data in a 'take-it-or-leave-it' print-ready format.

I have also included there Vancouver's grouping of parishes into seven main regions which he defined by reference to their soil type. Within each region his printed population data tables are in approximate rather than true alphabetical order. I have therefore given each parish two codes, and if the spreadsheet is sorted first by using the column called 'Vancouver order' and then by 'Vancouver district', the original order of his tables will be re-created, facilitating checking against the original, if desired.

NB The first column of 'Full 1801-31 data set' includes some parishes that did not form part of Devon in 1801 to assist users who may be searching for them, and would otherwise wonder why they had been omitted. It also includes references to place names (e.g. Appledore, Ivybridge, and Newton Abbot) which do not share their name with a parish. These can most easily be found by using the 'Find' function.

All of the component spreadsheets, not just 'Main 1801-31 data set', are designed to be sorted and filtered as part of the analytical process. This makes it essential that the 'Filter' is applied and kept on at all times. Because the 'Sort' function is incompatible with password protection, it has not been possible to protect the spreadsheet from accidental deletions. If you are unfamiliar with sorting and filtering, you are advised to use the 'Help' function to learn about it. The default sort for 'Full 1801-31 data set' is on the first column (parish names, sorted A to Z).

All of the raw data, plus a range of calculated values, can be found in 'Full 1801-31 data set'. For the 1801 raw data (see the columns highlighted yellow) I have relied primarily on Vancouver's tables for the number of occupied houses; the number of families; the numbers of persons working in agriculture; and in trade, manufacturing industry and handicrafts; and the count of other persons, including children, the elderly, domestic servants, shopkeepers, clergymen, teachers and other professionals, and the unemployed (whether because of a lack of work or because of the existence of a private income).

I cross-checked the parish totals for residents from the 'Comparative Account' 1801 data set with Vancouver's totals, and adjusted his component parts in case of trivial disagreement, to ensure that totals and break-downs are consistent. Some discrepancies and anomalies were also resolved by reference to the 1801, 1811 and 1821 values in the 'Magna Britannia' data set, which covers the counts of inhabited houses and families as well as total populations.

I have also calculated a series of multipliers which can be used to characterise the various parishes, starting with the crude average family size (which should not be over-interpreted: we cannot be sure how consistently servants etc were counted), and then showing the three employment categories (agriculture, manufacturing (etc) and other) as percentages of the total population. These calculated columns have a different colour in the heading row.

I have then calculated various ratios (though they are expressed as percentages), to show the balance between agricultural and manufacturing (etc) employment, and between those two groups and the rest of the population. This makes it possible to test whether richer / economically more successful parishes can be identified in a reasonably systematic manner (see below).

I have then included three total parish population data sets covering 1811 to 1831 (from 'Comparative Account'), and calculated various rates of population growth.

Finally, I have taken the property values for 1815 from 'Comparative Account' and calculated probable population values for 1815 from the 1811 and 1821 census values, and used them to calculate the relative property wealth found in each parish.

The other summary spreadsheets

I have then compiled the raw and calculated data into five much smaller summary tables, each one in a separate spreadsheet: 'Parish Types', 'Hundreds', 'Deaneries', 'Modern Districts' and 'Vancouver Districts'. The last of these spreadsheets gives further detail on the criteria on which Vancouver based his districts.

The 'Parish Types' table employs the somewhat fluid concept of market towns to categorise the parishes. I have found multiple lists of market towns and towns where markets had withered and died at the time of writing, and the categorisation which I have used here is my own synthesis of these other lists. What this approach does support is the proposition that those market towns which had retained their markets were more likely to have developed a trading and manufacturing base by 1801, and to have attracted the commercial and professional classes. It also provides some evidence to suggest (by using the facility described in the next paragraph) that parishes immediately adjacent to established market towns were more likely than those further away to have some manufacturing, and to have more residents who were not employed in farming, trade, industry (etc).

Within the 'Full 1801-31 data set' spreadsheet, the second column, headed 'User-selected', allows any user of the workbook to create and display their own sub-set(s) of parishes below the 'Parish types' table to facilitate such comparisons. Up to five individual parishes, or groups of parishes, can be created (first, or course, you need to delete the ones that are there as a working example). The profiles of these user-defined parishes (in terms of balance of employment, family size etc) can then be compared to the values in the main table for the cities, towns, villages and very rural parishes found all over the county. You can easily over-type the values in the first column to show which parishes or groups of parishes you have selected.

Parish note

Since I have had to change some of the raw data in order to eliminate a relative handful of obvious errors, and to reconcile different sources etc, I give below a series of explanatory notes to explain in more detail what has been done. Those numbers which have been changed from the ones given in the two main sources are also highlighted green in 'Full 1801-31 data set' for ease of identification.



AxmouthAxmouth includes Rousdon data (see below), even though they were reported separately in 1821 and 1831.
BictonBicton includes Dotton data, even though they were reported separately in 1821 and 1831.
BrendonVancouver gives figures of 40 houses and 61 families. I have used the figures of 40 and 51 given by 'Magna Britannia'.
BurlescombeBurlescombe is divided between two Hundreds, so to make the Hundred summaries as accurate as possible the parish is reported as having two separate component parts. I have arbitrarily allocated half of the houses, population etc to each part. Anyone checking the full data set against the original sources needs to bear this in mind.
ChittlehamptonBoth Vancouver and the 'Comparative Account' give much higher population figures for 1801 than could ever be considered credible, and far higher than the equivalent data for 1811 to 1831. I believe that the original of the 1801 census may well have inadvertently added 1,000 men and 1,000 women and added them to the count of 'other' residents. Reducing the 'other' count, and the total population, by 2,000 generates much more believable data for 1801, and this is what I have done. 'Magna Britannia' also reports the same higher figures, but draws attention to the probable error.
CombeinteignheadCombeinteignhead includes Haccombe data, even though they were reported separately in 1831.
DartmouthVancouver lists three Dartmouth parishes in his table, but combines their data into a single line. I have taken the parish population totals from the 'Comparative Account', and then estimated the more detailed breakdown figures using proportions derived from them. In the case of 1815 property values the 'Comparative Account' combines those for St Petrox and St Saviour. I have estimated the individual parish values using the simple ratio of their populations.
DunkeswellBoth Vancouver and the 'Comparative Account' list 165 houses and 165 families: much higher than the equivalent data for 1811 to 1831. I believe that the printer probably inadvertently added 100 to each figure, and I have reduced both to 65, which also produces a much more credible calculated average family size.
East OgwellThe Comparative Account' population figure is 256, 2 fewer than Vancouver's total. I have therefore deducted 2 from his figure for agricultural employment.
Exeter (general)Both Vancouver and the 'Comparative Account' give data for all 22 central parishes and precincts for 1801, but the 'Comparative Account' combines Bradninch precinct with St Paul's parish in later years. I have combined them in all years to facilitate time series analysis.
Exeter St OlaveThe 'Comparative Account' population figure is 10 higher than Vancouver's (576 vs 566). I have therefore raised his figure for 'other' by 10.
HalwellVancouver evidently mixed up Halwell and Halwill parishes. I have been guided by the population totals in the 'Comparative Account', and have switched Vancouver's detailed parish figures over.
HalwillSee Halwell (above)
HarpfordVancouver inadvertently used the data from Harford here (as well as for Harford itself). I have taken the house, family and population counts for Harpford from the 'Magna Britannia' and 'Comparative Account' data sets, and arbitrarily applied the split between 'agricultural, manufacturing (etc) and other' typical of other small villages and hamlets in Devon.
HatherleighVancouver gives figures of 206 houses and 122 families. I have used the figures of 206 and 222 given by 'Magna Britannia'.
HennockSame as Harpford (above): in this case the Hennock data were wrongly taken from Hemyock.
High BickingtonVancouver gives figures of 225 houses and 129 families. I have used the figures of 125 and 129 given by 'Magna Britannia'.
HolbetonSame as Harpford (above): in this case the Holbeton data were wrongly taken from Halberton.
HuishThe 'Comparative Account' population figure is 3 lower than Vancouver's (97 vs 100). I have therefore reduced his figure for 'other' by 3.
HuntshawThe 'Comparative Account' population figure is 6 higher than Vancouver's (212 vs 206). I have therefore increased his figure for 'other' by 6. He also calls Huntshaw 'Hensham', though I am confident that we are talking about the same parish.
KigbeareVancouver keeps Kigbeare and Okehampton separate. Because they are combined in some of the 'Comparative Account' datasets I have combined them in all years to facilitate time series analysis.
LustleighVancouver gives figures of 54 houses and 30 families. I have used the figures of 34 and 30 given by 'Magna Britannia'.
Morchard BishopThe 'Comparative Account' figure for the 1801 population is missing. Vancouver gives a total population figure of 1,698, which is the same as the 'Comparative Account' figure for property value in 1815. This looks like a considerable coincidence, though his component figures for employment do add up to 1,698. However, when the property value is used, it gives Morchard Bishop the lowest value of property per capita in Devon, which adds to my suspicions. Since we have no other data on which to base alternative estimates, I have gone with what we have.
OkehamptonSee Kigbeare (above).
PlymouthVancouver reports most of Plymouth as one data set, together with Western Peverell (Pennycross) and Compton Giffard. I have used the parish totals provided by the 'Comparative Account' to break his detailed figures down (as in Dartmouth: see above). In the case of the 1815 property values the 'Comparative Account' combines the figures for St Andrew and Charles. I have estimated the individual parish values using the simple ratio of their populations.
ReweSimilar to Burlescombe (see above). However, Vancouver describes the parish as 'Rew-with-up-Exe' and the 'Comparative Account' provides separate population counts for Rewe and Up-Exe. I have used these to break Vancouver's detailed figures down (as in Dartmouth: see above).
RousdonVancouver lists Rousdon, but then gives zero returns for each statistic, and states that the totals have been combined with those for Axmouth. I have consistently combined the two parishes to facilitate time series analysis, even though some later returns are reported separately in 'Comparative Account'.
SheepstorThe 'Comparative Account' gives a total population of 59, compared to 99 in both Vancouver and 'Magna Britannia'. Based on later values the 'Comparative Account' figure seems more reasonable, so I have reduced Vancouver's figure for agricultural employment from 87 to 47.
Stoke DamerelVancouver gives a figure of 3,252 houses in 1801, which is significantly higher than the reported figures in 1811 and 1821 given in 'Magna Britannia'. I have therefore used the much lower figure given by 'Magna Britannia' (2,352): the explanation appears to be a simple error in type setting.
SourtonSame as Harpford (above): in this case the Sourton data were wrongly taken from Sowton.
UplowmanSame as Burlescombe (above). In 1831 Uplowman includes data from Whitrey even though they were reported separately then.
YarnscombeSame as Harpford (above): in this case the Yarnscombe data were wrongly taken from Yarcombe.


Full 1801-1831 Census Data Set

Parish Types



Modern Districts

Vancouver Districts

Download Full 1801-1831 Census Spreadsheet (zipped)