1921 census shines a light on troubled post-war Britain


British King George V, famous children’s writer Beatrix Potter and Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are among the well-known names appearing in the recently unveiled 1921 census, which exposed public anger against the government .

The tally taken less than three years after World War I contains details of 38 million people in 8.5 million households in England and Wales, including their name, age, occupation and marital status.

The recordings, first released on Thursday after a conservation project, give people an unprecedented glimpse into the lives of millions of Britons over a century ago.

The Findmypast genealogy website and the National Archives spent three years browsing the documents, which show that following World War I, there were 1,096 females per 1,000 males registered. This is the largest difference since the census began in 1801, and in 1951 it was still 1,081 per 1,000 men.

As there were around 1.7 million more women than men in England and Wales, many households are listed as being exclusively female. Women who could not find a husband and therefore entered the labor market were called “surplus women”.

The population recorded between the start of the war in 1911 and the 1921 census increased 4.9% to 37.9 million.

Census results, which have been locked in coffers for generations, showed David Lloyd George, the then Prime Minister, was listed at Checkers, the British Prime Minister’s country house in the south-east of England, with his family and his servants.

Anger against the British government

Many people have used scribbles and sketches to hammer out their dissatisfaction with the government three years after the end of the Great War.

A 43-year-old ex-serviceman, whose name was difficult to distinguish, said it was a “shame” for veterans not to receive pensions and social support after fighting for their country.

“Remember that no pension or unemployment donation was received. Fighted since 1914 + wounded twice, ”he wrote. “This affair is a disgrace to the nation called England.”

Another disgruntled citizen, Eleanor Wakeley, who was caring for her nephew who lost his hip during the war, used her document to speak out against having to pay higher taxes.

“Increase my taxes !! Instead I can give it to him and knight those who are sitting on velvet chairs, ”she said. “The old assessed value was more than enough for me to pay – I spent half my income on this boy since I was little. I appealed – what’s the point? I am only a woman.

Civil servant Arthur Vince disfigured his 1921 census report with a prophetic political cartoon depicting top hats

Arthur Vince, a Londoner who worked as a civil servant at the Inland Revenue, made a sketch of three men in top hats sitting at a table while a woman serves tea.

He captioned it: “Count of ‘cannon fodder’ available … the next 1936 war, from the 1921 census returns !!!!!!!”.

All the king’s servants

The census reveals that King George V and his family were supported by an army of 150 servants at Windsor Castle, including 36 chambermaids, 18 footmen, 17 footmen, four wine cellar workers and a baggage packer.

The youngest Windsor staff member is a 15-year-old “deputy maid” from Kensington, London, called Maud Alice Swoad.

The King, who was Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather, was joined at Windsor Castle by 210 other people, including his wife and four of his six children.

Queen Mary and adult offspring Edward, Albert, Henry and Mary are all included on the form, registered as Prince of Wales, Duke of York, Prince Henry and Princess Mary, respectively.

Their youngest son, Prince John, had died two years earlier at the age of 13, while Prince George, 18, is listed as serving on board. HMS Iron Duke, off Malta, when the census was completed on June 19.

The monarch listed nearly 40 other visitors present at the time of the census, including King Alfonso XIII of Spain and other dignitaries, the Seventh Duke of Richmond, Lord Revelstoke and Lord and Lady Stamfordham.

King George V, seated center, his wife Queen Mary, seated left, and their children were listed on the 1921 census as residing at Windsor Castle in south-eastern England with over 150 servants .  Getty Images

Night guests from afar

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the Sherlock Holmes detective series, was listed in the census with three overnight visitors to his home.

This prompted historians to suggest that the known paranormal investigator could have attended a session.

Such ceremonies are usually conducted by a medium.

Records show the author, 62, was joined by his wife Jean, 40, and their three children Denis, Malcolm and Jean junior, aged 12, 10 and eight respectively, as well as five maids.

Their three guests have been named as married couple James Hewat McKenzie and Barbara McKenzie, 54 and 51, and a “single” listed by Conan Doyle as “Ada Bassinet”, 30, of “Toledo, USA”.

It is believed to be in fact Ada Besinnet, a well-known American psychic, while Mr. McKenzie was a parapsychologist who founded the British College of Psychic Science.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the Sherlock Holmes series, listed three overnight guests at his home in the census.  This led to suggestions that he had attended a session.  Getty Images

Beatrix Potter avoids author’s title for “farmer”

Beatrix Potter, the children’s author best known for her Peter Rabbit stories written in the early 1900s, appeared on a document under her married name, rather than under her pseudonym.

Helen Beatrix Heelis, 54, wife of lawyer William Heelis, has been described as a ‘farmer’ because of her passion for raising and keeping sheep at her home in the Lake District, northern Ireland. England.

Update: January 6, 2022, 10:50 a.m.


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