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Cransford 1851

This past few days, I have been enjoying my first three days on annual leave and *without children* since well before lockdown. It’s been a great excuse to write some more of my book and get on with a few local history projects I’ve been tinkering with since 2018.

Without spoiling all the stories that will eventually come into print (I hope!), I thought I’d write up a little about the differences observed in the parish of Cransford through the lens of the decennial census, specifically that for 1851 vs 1841.

At first glance, the Cransford community shown in 1851 census appears similar to that recorded in 1841. The population remained almost the same – up to 309 from 303. In 1851 all houses seem to have been occupied (a total of 70 dwellings) so the population certainly wasn’t in freefall. The number of homes had risen from 61 to 70. 

The age profile is astonishingly similar across men and women in 1851, perhaps reflecting the dominance of married agricultural labourers and their families compared to single itinerant labourers. The mean age for a man was 27.3, and a little younger, 26.8, for a woman. Both figures are almost identical to ten years before. There were three baby boys, and six baby girls, and the sexes were split 154 men to 155 women. On the other end of the scale, four women were over 80, and two men. 

In both 1841 and 1851 it took precisely 13 surnames to achieve more than half the village, many of them unchanged from 1841: Baker, Chilvers, Crane, Watts, Barker, Smith, Fisk, Goodchild and Banthorp. Mouser, Reeve, Balls and Palmer replaced Boast, Cornish, Masterson and Wightman in the latter.

Yet digging a little deeper, these stats obscure some significant changes and the beginnings of a trend. The stable size of the population hides the fact that apart from those stalwart families mentioned above, most of the community had actually come or gone in the preceding ten years – 52% (158) of those enumerated in 1841 were not still in Cransford for the 1851 census.

Although it took 13 names to cover more than half the population, the total number of surnames dropped from 76 down to 62 by 1851. The age profile had shifted in the ten years since the last census, too. 

Starting with the smallest, a whopping 30% of the population was ten years old or younger in 1851, up 5% on the decade before. That’s a total of 46 boys and 48 girls.  

Conversely, the proportion of teenagers dropped substantially over the decade. Those aged 11-20 made up just over a quarter of the population (26%) in 1841. Ten years later it was down to only 18%, but this is magnified further when looking just at the males in the enumerator’s book: a drop from 28% to 16%. Something – or rather many things – must have been pushing young men away from Cransford and/or pulling them towards somewhere else. The rest of the population pyramid remained broadly the same.

The first question, then, is where the 52% (158) went? You could guess some of the answers, and you would probably be correct. Here’s what my research so far suggests… (I admit I do not have solid conclusions for every single individual yet, so take this with a pinch of salt for now).

  • 37 of those that ‘left’ appear to have died (as you might guess, mostly the oldest and the youngest). 
  • 80 (just over half) had moved locally; single women married and moved to their new husband’s parish, single men and women moved to work on neighbouring farms or couples took their families to different, predominantly rural, parishes. The average age of women that moved locally was just 18 in 1841 (20 for men). 
  • 25 moved further afield, most of them single men who were in their teens in 1841. 
  • 16 remain on my ‘to be confirmed’ list!

Of those that moved beyond Suffolk, Essex and London proved to be a draw for many, taking men to be boot makers, drapers, coffee house servants, sawyers and meat vendors. However, the young men of Cransford also dispersed across the country as wheelwrights, railway workers, soldiers and agricultural workers. Of the nine women that moved further afield, five moved with their husband or father, and the four remaining all become domestic servants (or in one case a barmaid) in London.  

And so we turn to where the 164 ‘new’ people came from to replace the outward migration of those above. It should be noted that others probably came and went between census years and are missed from the analysis altogether.

  • 89 (54%) were under ten, so couldn’t have been in the 1841 census. They were, in effect, the new generation growing into the gaps left by those ahead of them.
  • 33 (20%) were what I have classed ‘new workers’, mostly agricultural labourers and domestic servants, but also the new Rector, a curate, and two blacksmiths. At least six of this group were Cransford-born and had perhaps been living-in on another farm a decade earlier before coming back home to start their married lives when jobs and cottages permitted. This group are almost universal local even if not born in Cransford itself. The vast majority were from parishes very close-by like Badingham, Sweffling, Great Glemham, Bruisyard and Parham.
  • 13 of the ‘new workers’ brought a wife with them (8%)
  • Four newbies were family members of the new workers over ten years old (just 2% – a small number suggesting most moved early in marriage). 
  • 13 men present in 1841 married and their new wives feature on the 1851 census (8%) 
  • The final 12 were mothers, widowed daughters, grandchildren or other family members that had moved to be with their nearest and dearest in Cransford (7%) 

It may not come as a surprise that while men married and brought their wives ‘home’ to Cransford, not a single woman appears to have married and whisked a husband back to her home village!

In 1851, the population was, as demonstrated, able to cope with the emigration of its youngsters. New families grew from the teenagers-turned-young-men-and-women that remained in (or returned to) the parish, or from those drawn in from surrounding villages. 

Over time, even fewer people were born outside of Suffolk and living in Cransford – just ten by 1851. Included within those were the Rector and his wife, the curate and his wife, and six children, grandchildren or other relatives staying with extended family who weren’t as much immigrants as they were returning extended offspring.

The parish population was in effect self-sustaining at this point. Enough children were born and surviving to plug the gaps left by those striking out. But that was about to change.

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