Investigating stevenage using the 1891 census – back lane, stevenage




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STEVENAGE 1890-1900 Teaching & Learning Resources

INVESTIGATING STEVENAGE USING THE 1891 CENSUS – BACK LANE, STEVENAGE




TEACHERS’ NOTES

This is an example of the sorts of investigations and questions that can be asked of the census spreadsheets. Teachers can adapt these for their own pupils’ needs and level.

On the SEARCH page:

Place: Stevenage

Date: 1850-1900

Source: Official Records – Census returns

Keywords: All – Any

Submit Query

When the results of the search appear click on the Back Lane link. An image of the third page of the 1891 census return for Back Lane will come up on the screen with a commentary about the source. Click on Transcript and an Excel Spreadsheet of the whole of Back Lane will appear on the screen. You can download this onto a disk or drive or print it out in landscape.


WORKSHEET

1. Counting Heads:

Number of males living in Back Lane in 1891:

Number of females living in Back Lane in 1891:

How many males are 21 and over?

How many females are 21 and over?

What is the age of the oldest male?

What is the age of the oldest female?
Number of children 12 and under in Back Lane in 1891?

Are there more boys or more girls 12 and under?


2. Who is in charge?

How many Heads of Households are male?

How many are female? Can you give any reasons why these females are Heads of Households?

Do these female Heads have occupations? If yes, what are these? If no, can you guess why they do not have an occupation?

How many breadwinners are there in most households in Back Lane?
3. Family Names:

What 5 surnames are the most common in Back Lane? Can you tell whether any of these families are related to each other?


4. Work:

How many males between 13 and 19 are working?

What sort of occupations do they have?
How many females between 13 and 19 are working?

What sorts of occupations do they have?

Are there any differences between the number of females and the number of males between 13 and 18 in employment? Can you explain why this might be?

What are the 3 most common occupations for men?

What are the 3 most common occupations for women who are in employment?
Are boys and young men more or less likely to work in the same occupation as their fathers?
What evidence is there that Stevenage is still very much a rural area even though in the 1890s it becomes an Urban District within Hertfordshire?
Who are the major employers of the people who live in Back Lane? You won’t necessarily be able to name them but what kinds of businessmen are the employers?

“During the 19th century most of the towns and villages within a 20 mile radius of Luton supplied plaited straw for the thriving hat industry there … Until foreign plait undercut prices straw plaiting was a profitable sideline.”


The Stevenage straw market ceased towards the end of the century and plaits had to be taken to the Hitchin market. What evidence in Back Lane is there of the straw plait industry? Can you guess whether it is still a profitable sideline by 1891 or not? How can you tell?
5. Where have people come to Stevenage from?

What proportion of people who live in Stevenage in 1891 were born there? Use a filter to find out how many people who live in Back Lane were born in Stevenage.



  1. Click on WHERE BORN columns – County and City/Town.

  2. Then go to the DATA menu and the FILTER submenu. Click on AUTOFILTER. Arrows will appear on the top of the columns.

  3. Click on the arrow on the BORN column and then select HERTS from the dropdown menu.

  4. Click on the arrow on the CITY/TOWN column and then select STEVENAGE from the dropdown menu.

  5. The screen should now list all the people who were born in Herts Stevenage. At the bottom left hand side of the worksheet the total numbers will appear as eg 213 of 539. That means that 213 people of the 539 in the census return were born in Stevenage, Hertfordshire

How many of the total number in Back Lane were born in Stevenage? Can you work out the proportion? Click on Show all to return to original list.


Use a custom filter to exclude all the people born in Hertfordshire:

  1. Go to the DATA menu and the FILTER submenu. Click on AUTOFILTER. Arrows will appear on the top of all the columns.

  2. Click on the arrow on the BORN column and then select (CUSTOM). A CUSTOM AUTOFILTER window will appear which offers several boxes after the statement “Show rows where: BORN

  3. Click on the arrow on the first box which says Equals. A dropdown menu will appear with a number of options. Click on Does Not Contain.

  4. Select HERTS in the box to the right of this. Then click on OK. Your worksheet will display all the people who were not born in HERTS. At the bottom left hand side of the worksheet the total numbers will appear as eg 213 of 539. That means that 213 people were NOT born in Hertfordshire

On the map showing the 19th century counties of England and Wales plot where the people in Back Lane were born. Use a symbol such as a coloured dot (eg. red for men and blue for women) to plot each person’s county of birth. Note outside the borders if any people came from Scotland, Ireland and other countries.

What do you notice about where the population of Stevenage in 1891 has come from?

Are there any differences between males and females?

What is the furthest a resident has come since his/her birth?
6. Family Size:

How big are the families in Back Lane? Or how many people live in each house?



You could use a table like this one to record your data or construct one of your own depending on what you want to find out:

Type of Household

Number in family or household


1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

2 parents & child/children under 21





























1 parent & child/children under 21





























All adults (no children under 21)





























Single occupant Male





























Single occupant Female





























¾ generations (grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren)






























Extended Family – other relatives eg nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers.





























Household with servants


Boarders, Lodger and Visitors


When you have completed your table, what conclusions can you come to about families and households in Back Lane in 1891?

What was the average family size in Back Lane?

Were servants employed by families in Back Lane?

What does this tell you about this area?

Look at the households with boarders and lodgers. A boarder usually lived as a paying member of the family, including eating all meals there. A lodger rented a room or bed but did not have his/her meals provided. Can you come to come conclusions about why families took in boarders and lodgers?

Many households were made up of extended families and several generations. Can you make some guesses as to why this was so common in 1891?
Use a filter to select all the houses which have less than 5 rooms. Click on the column which shows number of rooms if less than 5 so it is highlighted.


  1. Then go to the DATA menu and select FILTER submenu and click on AUTOFILTER.

  2. An arrow will appear on the column. Click on the arrow and a dropdown menu will appear.

  3. Select (CUSTOM). A CUSTOM AUTOFILTER window will appear which offers several boxes after the statement “Show rows where No. of rooms if less than 5”.

  4. Click on the arrow on the first box which says Equals. A dropdown menu will appear.

  5. Select IS LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO and in the box to the right of this select 4. Then click on OK. Your worksheet will display all the heads of households where the numbers of rooms occupied is 4 or less.

Check how many people live in each of these households. What conclusions can you make about overcrowding in Back Lane in 1891? Can you make any links between the occupations of the householders and the size of the houses?


7. School:

What ages are the scholars who live in Back Lane?

Use a filter to find out how many scholars are living in Back Lane and what ages children there went to school.


  1. Click on OCCUPATION column.

  2. Then go to the DATA menu and the FILTER submenu. Click on AUTOFILTER. Arrows will appear on the top of the columns.

  3. Click on the arrow on the OCCUPATION column and then select SCHOLAR.

  4. The screen should now list all the children who are listed as scholars.

By what age did children in Back Lane stop going to school?

What did the girls do after they stopped going to school? What about the boys?

Are there children under 13 who are not listed as scholars?

Finally consider what one historian has said about Back Lane:

“The very poor, who lived in insanitary cottages such as those in Back Lane, relied heavily on charity.”


What evidence can you find from the 1891 census to support or disagree with this statement?
You might like to consider some or all of the following:

Numbers of people in each cottage

Number of breadwinners

Number of unemployed

Size of families

Single parent families

Widows with children

Elderly people

Types of occupations

How many people were supported by one breadwinner


What can’t we find out from the census? What does the census NOT tell us? Where else might you find what more you need to know?




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