Discover your ancestors who were included in the 1801 census in Dartford, England. Explore how many families lived in your relative’s household, details of those family members, and if they were employed in agriculture. The records may also reveal whether your relative was a lodger, a servant, a prisoner, or the inmate of a workhouse. This collection is published in partnership with the Family History Federation.
Each record comprises a transcript of the original census. The amount of information listed varies, but the records usually include a combination of the following information about your ancestor:
• First name(s)
• Last name
• Status (i.e. lodger, servant, marital status, pensioner, relation to head of household, workhouse inmate, prisoner, ‘nurse child’)
• Number of families in the house
• Number of males in the property
• Numbers of wives, females, servants in the property
• How many were employed in agriculture
The record set comprises over 2,580 records from 20 districts in Dartford, Kent.
These records date from 1801.
There are eight ‘nurse children’ in these records.
A nurse child is a young child, who was reared in the household of somebody other than the parents, usually for money. The child’s parents may have lived in circumstances that weren’t conducive to bringing up a child in those times; for example, unmarried mothers, parents with health issues, or parents with demanding jobs such as pub landlords or actors. These care arrangements could be temporary or long-term, similar to foster care today.
The record set includes 27 male inmates and 46 female inmates of the ‘Poor House,’ another word for the workhouse.
In 1723 single parishes were given the authority to build workhouses. Six years later, a Dartford parish workhouse was constructed at the corner of West Hill and Priory Hill, which was later converted to West Hill Hospital. Workhouses provided food and shelter for the destitute, although conditions were extremely harsh to discourage people from entering. The able-bodied had to do hard labour in return for their keep. As well as poor people, inmates included unmarried mothers, the aged, the sick and the mentally ill. The Dartford Workhouse had a special room for mentally ill patients who were prone to violence. A doctor was appointed to care for the sick, although the first doctor employed in Dartford Workhouse in 1732 may have had a somewhat unorthodox approach to the concept of ‘care.’ Dr Gill Smith was hanged in 1738 for murdering his second wife. He was also suspected of poisoning several others, including his first wife. With access to large numbers of vulnerable poor people, Smith may have been the Harold Shipman of his day.
During the early 1700s in England, bridewells were used to cope with the rising demand for local prisons where persistent petty offenders could be kept for a period of up to six months. In response to these demands, the Dartford justices leased a plot of land in Lowfield Street, to build a new bridewell. This new brick-built structure housed prisoners from Dartford and the surrounding rural area, along with prisoners from the Deptford Bridewell, which closed in 1721. Dartford Bridewell contained both male and female prisoners, segregated by gender. It was funded by the county authorities rather than by the local ratepayers.
There are 11 male prisoners and 6 female prisoners in these records.
Dartford is the main town in the borough of Dartford in the county of Kent. The town of Dartford is 16 miles from central London and is situated on the border of Kent and Greater London. The Borough of Dartford is a local government district, which has been given borough status, in the far northwest of the county of Kent. The borough’s council is in Dartford.
The first thorough survey of England took place in 1086 when William the Conqueror commissioned the Domesday Book, which provided a detailed inventory of land and property. Unlike a modern census, however, the Domesday Book didn’t give an accurate count of the people living in England then. Its purpose was to establish the ownership of assets in order to calculate taxes on these assets. In 1279 King Edward 1 ordered an inquiry into landholding in England. The surviving returns were arranged by hundred, and so they came to be called the Hundred Rolls. In the Tudor and Stuart eras, bishops were responsible for counting the number of families in their dioceses, but the British were very reluctant to carry out an official census. Some churchgoers thought that any type of population count was sacrilegious, citing the notorious census ordered by King David in Biblical times, while others claimed that a people count would reveal the country’s strengths and weaknesses to foreign enemies. In the latter part of the 18th century, there were a number of proposals for a Census Bill and mounting concern about the population of Britain and its demand for food. This was particularly fuelled by the 1798 publication of demographer Thomas Robert Malthus’s An Essay on the Principle of Population, which proposed that population growth could outstrip supplies of food and other resources. The Census Bill was presented to Parliament in 1800 and passed as the Census Act 1800 (also called the Population Act 1800).
The first census was carried out on Monday 10 March 1801, and every decade thereafter.
The 1801 census comprised two parts: the first was related to the number of people, their occupations, and numbers of families and houses. The second was a collection of the numbers of baptisms, marriages and burials, thus providing an indication of the rate at which the population was increasing or decreasing. Information was gathered by census enumerators, who were typically the local Overseers of the Poor, assisted by constables, tithingmen, headboroughs and other officers of the peace – or in the case of Scotland, schoolmasters. (Ireland wasn’t included in the census until 1821.) They visited individual households and collected the necessary information, before submitting statistical summaries.
The 1801 census estimated the population of England and Wales to be 8.9 million, and that of Scotland to be 1.6 million. Information was processed by clerks using pens and paper; it wasn’t until a century later that punch cards, mechanical sorting, and counting machines were introduced. Computers were originally used in the 1961 census.
Since 1801, there has been a census every decade except in 1941, during World War 2. The fundamental principles of census taking are still the same, although new questions have been added and others have been removed.
Census Returns, 1801-1831
The first four national censuses were typically numerical in substance, usually little more than a head count, although a significant minority of returns do include personal information. The enumerators who collected the information asked very specific questions. These included:
• Number of inhabited and uninhabited houses
• Number of families living in each house
• Number of males and females, including children
• Number of baptisms, marriages, and burials for specified years
• Number of men working in certain occupations, such as agriculture
As well as providing the above information, the fact that census returns are taken every decade also allows us to track the movements of our ancestors through time as they move home, get married, have children, or change occupations.
Furthermore, by noting how many households lived in a building and whether the household included servants or boarders or visitors, you can gain insight into the social circumstances of the family.
In 1831, the census questions were expanded somewhat, especially those relating to occupations, with the number of illegitimate births (for 1830) also being recorded for the first time.