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References to the amount paid to the people who organised and carried out the censuses locally in England and Wales in Victorian times are scattered through studies on the subject and have mostly taken from contemporary newspaper accounts. Such reports are mostly concerned with the amounts paid to enumerators, who were temporary recruits. In modern times this may have occurred because the enumerators make up the category of census official which has been most closely studied by demographers and statisticians. The burden of organisation fell most heavily, however, on the Registrars of Births and Deaths, who have received comparatively little attention. In the belief that it might be useful for the various Tables of Allowances issued by the Registrar Generals to be transcribed and made available in their entirety the following is offered.


Source www.histpop.org, browse ‘TNA Other’, go to 1841, ‘History of the 1841 Census’, pp 85-87 and 38-39.

Allowances to Superintendent Registrars and Registrars (pp 85-87)

The Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, by Letter dated May 13, 1841, expressed their approval of the following Scale of Allowances to Superintendent Registrars and Registrars respectively, which had been submitted by the Commissioners for their consideration on the 23rd of April (namely): —

Table of Allowances for Superintendent Registrars

To each Superintendent Registrar

For various duties with respect to the Census of the Population £5-0-0

For every Enumerator’s Schedule delivered to him by the Registrar or Registrars of his District, and transmitted by him to the Commissioners for the Census, duly certified, together with an Abstract of the Totals in every such Schedule & a Summary of the Abstracts on or before July 10 1841 £0-1-0

For every Public Institution within his District, for which he has obtained from the Registrar a Schedule and transmitted it to the Commissioners for the Census, duly certified, together with an Abstract of the Totals in every such Schedule £0-5-0

Table of Allowances for Registrars

To each Registrar

For various duties with respect to the Census of the Population £3-0-0

For every Enumeration District within his Registration District of which the Schedule signed by the Enumerator and certified by the Registrar under his hand to be made as accurate as is possible is delivered to the Superintendent Registrar of his District before July 1 1841 £0-2-6

For every 100 Persons duly enumerated in the Schedules, duly signed, certified & delivered to the Superintendent Registrar before July 1 1841 £0-0-6

For every Public Institution (if there be any such within his District) for which he has obtained from the Master or Head a Schedule, duly signed and certified to have been made as accurate as is possible, and delivered it to the Superintendent Registrar before July 1 1841 £0-2-6

For every Enumeration District within his Registration District, in which he has left, or caused to be left, Householders’ Schedules at every House, pursuant to the Instructions of the Commissioners for the Census £0-2-6

The following additional allowance to Enumerators was also at the same time approved by the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury: —

Additional Allowance to Enumerators:—

To each Enumerator

For the delivery of his Schedule to the Registrar of his District on or before June 14 1841, duly signed by the Enumerator, and certified by the Registrar to have been made as accurate as is possible £0-5-0

Enumerators (pp 38-9)

Table of Allowances for Enumerators to be employed under the Act of 3 and 4 Victoria cap 99 for taking Account of the Population of Great Britain, as sanctioned by the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Treasury

Each Enumerator shall be entitled to remuneration according to the following Scale:—

[NB the wording in the list below has been slightly simplified: ‘50 and less than 60’ has been changed to ‘50-59’ for inhabited houses and ‘300 and less than 360’ has been changed to 300-359’ for persons enumerated]
  • Less than 50 inhabited houses or less than 300 persons enumerated £0-10-0
  • 50—59 inhabited houses or 300—359 persons enumerated £0-11-0
  • 60—69 ditto or 360—419 ditto £0-12-0
  • 70—79 ditto or 420—479 ditto £0-13-0
  • 80—89 ditto or 480—539 ditto £0-14-0
  • 90—99 ditto or 540—599 ditto £0-15-0
  • 100—109 ditto or 600—659 ditto £0-16-0
  • 110—119 ditto or 660—719 ditto £0-17-0
  • 120—129 ditto or 720—779 ditto £0-18-0
  • 130—139 ditto or 780—839 ditto £0-19-0
  • 140—149 ditto or 840—899 ditto £1-0-0
  • 150—159 ditto or 900—959 ditto £1-1-0

and so on increasing at the rate of one shilling for every ten inhabited houses visited, and of which all the Inmates are enumerated, or for every sixty Persons duly enumerated. The Enumerator will have the right of claiming to be paid according to the number either of houses visited or of Persons enumerated.

In every District containing not less than 25 inhabited houses, the Enumerator will be entitled to an additional allowance of one shilling for every mile above five miles necessarily traversed by the Enumerator in visiting every house within his District, but not including any distance traversed by him between his own place of abode and the first and last houses visited.

NB – Printed Notices and Forms will be delivered at each house, previous to the day of Enumeration, by Persons employed by the Registrar, by which it is expected that the labours of the Enumerator on that day will be materially lightened.

And, in addition to the remuneration mentioned in the foregoing “Table of Allowances”, the further sum of five shillings will be paid to each Enumerator as a compensation for the duties he will have to discharge in reference to the completion and delivery of his Returns to the Registrar subsequent to the day of Enumeration, but only after due fulfilment of the duties assigned to him.

Signed by Order of the Commissioners,

Thos Mann


General Register Office

March 1841

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One extreme example of an enumerator’s dissatisfaction with his pay ended in the death of his Registrar. This instance was mentioned by Stella Colwell in The National Archives, a Practical Guide for Family Historians, 2006, p78, when she drew attention to the inquest documents. She gave a much fuller account in Family Roots, 1991, pp 112-116. Somehow this occurrence has escaped being mentioned in any of the recent books on the census.

The incident took place in Cumberland. After the 1851 census, which took place on 30 March, the enumerators went on 10 June to collect their pay from Thomas Plenderleath of Esk Street, Longtown, a man of 60 (though only owning to 58 years in the census), who had been Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the past 14 years. One of the enumerators, William Kirkpatrick, was convinced that he had been underpaid. He was told that according to the regulations he had earned a basic 18 shillings plus three for covering some extra territory. Kirkpatrick was angry, feeling that his efforts merited an extra five shillings.

Earlier in his life William had been a pedlar and was known as ‘The Pedder’ even though he had had a draper’s shop in Bridge Street and was now retired, aged 51. The two men had been on friendly terms for some years, but that evening a quarrel broke out which was fuelled not only by the question of pay, but also by Kirkpatrick’s failure to return two books which Plenderleath had lent him. In addition Plenderleath held back two shillings as repayment of the money he had recently lent Kirkpatrick in two of the local pubs. He grew heated enough to call Kirkpatrick a swindler and to turn him out of the office.

That evening Kirkpatrick and two friends, one of whom, John Ward, was also an enumerator, went to the Bush Inn around 10pm and started drinking. When Plenderleath arrived Kirkpatrick told him to leave and threw two glasses of spirits at him. Plenderleath came back later with a friend and appeared determined to make it up with Kirkpatrick, finally bringing him a drink and sitting down beside him. At this point Kirkpatrick seized him by the throat and started to throttle him. The two were quickly separated, but Plenderleath never regained consciousness and he appeared to have had a stroke.

On 24 June at 11am he died. The inquest opened but had to be adjourned as all the witnesses had been taken to Carlisle to be questioned by the magistrates. The cause of death was given by the Coroner on the death certificate as ‘Wilful Murder Caused by Strangling by William Kirkpatrick’ but the jury which brought in the verdict added a recommendation to mercy on the grounds that he had not intended to take the deceased’s life. The proceedings were reported in the late editions of the Carlisle Journal that same day, 27 June, and reprinted on 4 July.

Kirkpatrick was arrested and appeared before the magistrates on 28 June. They remanded him to appear at the Assizes on the charge of manslaughter, a decision criticized in the Carlisle Journal of 4 July. The trial began in Carlisle on 4 August and he received a sentence of 6 months hard labour. This leniency was again questioned in the local press.

The 1861 census shows him as a visitor in Carlisle, described as a draper, so it is not clear whether he was living there, but five years later, working as a general labourer, he died of heart disease on 5 November 1866, at Keays Lane, Scotch Street, Carlisle. His daughter Mary was in attendance.

Further detail of the trial can be found in ASSI 44/168 & ASSI 45/69 at the National Archives, in issues of the Carlisle Journal (especially 8 August) and in many other local and national newspapers. See also the National Criminal Register, HO 27/95/168.

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