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Wiltshire Community History

Population/Census Introduction

Population figures are taken from the ten-yearly census returns from 1801 to 2001. Before that time there were only occasional estimates of population, many of which were substantially wrong. It is possible to construct population tables from analyses of the parish registers which can be found in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. Other sources which can be used are the lay subsidy assessments of 1524 and 1525 (a tax for a specific purpose), the ecclesiastical census returns of 1563 and 1603 (numbers of people in parishes of a diocese), the Protestation returns of 1641-2 (males over the age of 18), the Compton ecclesiastical census of 1676 (inhabitants over the age of 16) and the hearth tax returns of the 1660s and 1670s.

The census figures record everyone in every household on the night of the census. Where there is no figure given for a community in a particular year it could be because that community was part of a greater parish, had not yet been created as a local government unit, or cannot be determined because of boundary changes. Where there is a substantial change in population it could be because of boundary changes or military personnel living in the parish.

The parish of Imber has been uninhabited from the 1951 census onwards.

For comparative purposes the parishes of Swindon Borough Council have been included in this table as it is impossible to obtain an accurate separate total for the Wiltshire Council area for the 19th, and much of the 20th, centuries.

Note: There are some apparent anomalies in the census figures whereby there is a large increase or decrease in population over a ten year period. There are many reasons for these, including boundary changes, influx or removal of military personnel, expansion or closure of industries or, in the extreme case of Imber, the relocation of the entire population. We are unable to provide notes for all of these but they can be found in The Victoria History of Wiltshire, Vol.4 in the chapter on Population. Where there is no population figure against a date in the table, we have been unable to identify a separate total for that community as it may have been combined with another community, or did not exist in its present form, at that date.

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You can search the records by two methods:

  • Population - by community, displaying all data for all years for a single community.
  • Population by Size - by population numbers, displaying all data for a single year for all communities. This can be viewed in either (a) community or (b) descending population size order

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