It’s not often that a new
document is found which opens up wonderful opportunities for family
historians, but one rare early nineteenth century full-scale census for
Newbury, taken just before the Baffle of Waterloo, has been found
amongst the Toomer papers at the Berkshire Record Office by Lisa
Spurner. Joseph Toomer, three-times mayor of Newbury appears to have
visited every address in the town between late May and early June 1815.
He sought the names and ‘supposed ages’ of 5000 residents and the
occupation of the head of household, together with servants or
apprentices living in. Occasionally additional material was provided,
such as date of birth, name of an employer, widowhood, or relationship
in the case of stepchildren. Like the 1841 census notes were also made
about incapacity like deafness and blindness.
The census includes a neatly drawn map of the town, showing the
location of every yard and the location of many houses off the main
streets. At the time of the census a regiment of soldiers was billeted
in twos and threes in various public houses in the town.
Toomer and his family continued to update the census from time to time
up to 1878 by adding ages and dates of death of some people, and the
names of later residentrs. Joseph Toomer’s own entry shows that he was
an ironmonger, aged 55, living in Market Place. He adds the information
that he was born on 3 February 1760, and another hand reveals that he
died on 23 December 1853.
Lisa has carefully examined the ages given in the census and it appears
that many were rounded up as there were 122 persons aged 40, but only
25 aged 39 and 24 aged 41.
However, there were an estimated 2352 residents under 20, of whom 179
attended private boarding schools, which attracted 179 boys and girls
aged from five to 18 from as far away as the West Indies. The youngest
child to be in work was a ten-year-old working as a servant. Only a
small number were apprenticed (a mere 23 of the 823 youngsters aged
from 13 to 20). The oldest person was 95 year old Mary Kimber, who like
the other four aged over 90 lived in an almshouse; 90 year old Susanna
Baker still lived independently in Bartholomew Street with her 86 year
old husband, John, a cooper, the oldest person recorded as in
employment. Lisa has arranged for the whole census to be microfilmed
and she has also compiled an index available at the BRO searchroom,
reference T/B 77.
The Toomer Census is not the first unofficial (mostly pre-1841) census
for Berkshire, others are held at the BRO. There are a number for
Binfield, three for Brightwalton, three for Combe and others for
Caversham, Brimpton, Hungerford, Buckland, Brightwell, Hampstead
Marshall, Pangbourne, Tilehurst, Blewbury, Cumnor, Newham, Coleshill,
East Hendred, Milton, Straffield Mortimer, Englefield, Ufton Nervet and
Sulhamstead Abbots and Bannister. Full details can be found in Jeremy
Gibson and Mervyn Medlycott’s, Local Census Listings 1522-1930:
Holdings in the British Isles, available from the Society Bookshop.