Where you are: Local History - Snippets - 1851 census
  Some details from the 1851 Census of Religious Worship


As well as conducting the Population Census in 1851, the government decided to gather information on religious worship and education provision in that year too, the only time this was attempted (too time consuming to analyse all the data!). Not all the returns for the Education Census have survived but many of the Religious Worship Census returns did survive and have now been transcribed, for example, the Borthwick Institute has published transcripts of the returns for the West and East Ridings of Yorkshire.

The one-page Religious Worship Census forms (there were separate versions for Anglican places of worship, Quaker meeting houses and 'other places of worship') were distributed and collected by the Population Census enumerators. Some incumbents were unwilling to complete these forms covering funding (for Anglicans) and provision of premises, along with the number of worshippers and Sunday School attenders on 30 March 1851 - the Rector of Whiston Church, Rotherham, wrote that being occupied saying his prayers he could not answer questions about the size of the congregation! However enough information was recorded to give an idea of the proportion of the population attending places of worship and the great range of provision for non-conformists largely developed from the early 19th Century.

Even the smallest communities such as Edlington (population 151) and Loversall (population 193) had private houses designated as meeting places for non-conformists. Sprotbrough, unusually, had no non-conformist place of worship: 'there is neither meeting house or beer shop in the parish' wrote the Rector. 

Tickhill, like most other communities in the 19th Century, saw an increase in people no longer satisfied with Anglican ways of worship, preferring non-conformist choices (or not attending places of worship at all). In 1851 Tickhill's population was 2,087. St Mary's had space for 911 worshippers, the Wesleyan Chapel 432 spaces and the Independent Chapel 130 spaces. The community thus had a total of 1473 spaces for worshippers. All three places of worship had seating rented by households or individuals leaving just under half the spaces free of charge, as follows: 

St Mary's Church 366 free spaces 545 rented spaces
Wesleyan Chapel 200 free spaces 232 rented spaces
Independent Chapel 100 free spaces 30 rented spaces


In some parishes having only a minority of seats available without paying pew rents was a source of concern - 'Too little room for the Labouring Class' wrote the Rector of St Winifred's Church, Stainton, which had only 16 free spaces compared to 100 rented ones.

The Revd Edward Hawke Brooksbank was one of the clergy not able or willing to give full answers to all the questions on the census form. He noted that St Mary's Church had no endowment but funding for the Vicarage came from land, tithes, glebe and other permanent endowments; no precise amounts were listed. He did not provide details of the size of the general congregation at St Mary's on 30 March, simply recording the Sunday School attenders - 141 in the morning and 98 in the evening. Nor did the Vicar give average attendances saying that congregations varied according to the season and general health and that congregations were 'fair'. Was he concerned that his congregation numbers might be smaller than those attending the Wesleyan Chapel?

There, 150 attended in the morning of 30 March and 230 in the evening with 100 children attending Sunday School. Average attendances for the general congregation were 200 in the morning and 250 in the evening. The Independent Chapel had 12 worshippers in the morning, 45 in the afternoon and 79 in the evening. Average attendances were not given. Charles Turner, the Chapel Steward (and druggist, by occupation, who lived in Northgate) completed the Wesleyans' return and Michael Hartshorne, Manager (and butcher and farmer, by occupation, who also lived in Northgate) completed the Independent Chapel form. The nearest places of worship for Roman Catholics and for Quakers were at Doncaster.  

The Religious Worship Census returns also show details of provision and worship in a variety of institutions: workhouses, lunatic asylums and prisons. In workhouses the dining rooms generally doubled as chapels with services conducted by visiting Anglican Chaplains, as in Doncaster Union Workhouse when 90 attended the service on 30 March (out of 185 inmates and 12 staff - 108 of the inmates were aged 14 and over, including 5 born in Tickhill and 2 in Wadworth). The Chapel of the County Pauper Lunatic Asylum in York had 200 spaces. Attendance on 30 March consisted of '70 female lunatics, 84 male lunatics, 6 female sane persons and 10 male sane persons'. Doncaster's jail had no chapel, but Armley Prison in Leeds did have one with space for 350 worshippers (295 attended on 30 March). The House of Correction at Wakefield had spaces for 750 worshippers (900 attended services on 30 March).

This information comes from: Wolffe, J. (ed.) Yorkshire Returns of the 1851 Census of Religious Worship, Borthwick Publications, University of York, Vol. 1 Introduction, City of York and East Riding (2000), Vol. 2 West Riding (North) (2005), Vol. 3 West Riding (South) (2005).

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