1861 Census

1861 Census Date – 7 April 1861

The 1861 Census UK was was taken on the night of 7th April 1861.  We are pleased to advise that familyhistory.co.uk has linked up with ancestry.co.uk to provide direct links to the 1861 National Census which includes the 1861 English Census, 1861 Scottish Census and 1861 Welsh Census.  In addition we have links to 1861 IOM Census (including Douglas) and 1861 Channel Islands Census (including Alderney, Jersey and Guernsey).  So all the 1861 British Census records are included below.

To access the 1861 England Census, 1861 Scotland Census, 1861 Wales Census, 1861 Isle of Man Census and 1861 Channel Islands Census use the following links:

1861 Census Links

1861 England Census
1861 Isle of Man Census
1861 Wales Census
1861 Channel Islands Census
1861 Scotland Census

Victorian Britain at the time of the April 1861 Census

Prime Minister

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1859 to 1865).

Government of the day

The ‘Liberals’ – a coalition of Whigs, Peelites (free trade Conservatives) and Radicals.

Foreign Secretary

Lord John Russell, Earl Russell (1859 to 1865).

Chancellor of the Exchequer

William Ewart Gladstone (1859 to 1866).

Historical Snapshot – Victorian Britain in the decade up to the 1861 Census

The decade leading up to the 1861 Census witnessed turbulence abroad, new alliances at home and further industrial progress such as the advent of mass steel production.

Industrial and technological developments

The decade began with the Great Exhibition of 1851. Organised by Prince Albert and Henry Cole, the ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’ (aka the Crystal Palace Exhibition) was the first international exhibition of manufactured products. Running from 1 May – 15 October, it attracted over 6 million visitors. Many of the exhibits became the original exhibits of the South Kensington Museum which was founded in 1857 and is now known as the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Also in 1851, the first successful telegraph cable was laid across the English Channel.

In August 1856, the mass production of steel, so essential for industrial progress, was made possible by Bessemer’s Steel Process (developed by Sir Henry Bessemer).

Domestic affairs

The march to free trade continued

Gladstone was of the view that tax should be as low as possible – because governments never spend money wisely. Gladstone’s first budget of 1853 lasted 4 hours but is still considered a masterpiece. Many duties were abolished and the intention (scuppered by the Crimean War) was to get rid of income tax as well.

The decade ended with the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty (1860) – a beneficial trade deal with France.

1858 – The Fenian Society was established

Its mission was armed revolt against the British to secure an independent Ireland.

1859 – The Birth of the Liberal Party

Lord Palmerston was the first leader of this coalition of Whigs, Peelites (free trade Conservatives) and Radicals. It was the logical conclusion of the new political allegiances forged after the repeal of the Corn Laws over a decade earlier.

Foreign Affairs

The Crimean War (1853 – 1856)

This was considered the first ‘modern’ war; it was documented extensively and used modern technologies such as explosive naval shells. Britain entered the war in 1854, allying herself with France, Turkey and Sardinia, against an expansionist Russia.

Although Britain and her allies won, the war was disastrously managed. The Charge of the Light Brigade, where the wrong position was charged and the wrong set of guns captured, gives a flavour of the general level of competence on display during this conflict. Of the 20,097 British soldiers who died in this war, over 16,000 died from disease. It is, therefore, fitting that the most famous figure to emerge from this war was a nurse: Florence Nightingale.

The Victoria Cross was introduced in 1856 to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War.

The Second Opium War (1856 – 1860)

Britain secured from the Chinese the bizarre twin objectives of a) free movement of Christian missionaries and b) the legalisation of opium imports.

The Indian Mutiny (1857 – 1858)

This occurred when the Bengal Sepoys (Indian Soldiers) rose up against the British East India Company (who effectively ruled India on behalf of the British). The Sepoys had many grievances including British ‘westernising’ policies and the ‘doctrine of lapse’ (a form of annexation). Rumours that new rifle cartridges were greased with animal fat were the final trigger for the outbreak.

Following the siege of Cawnpore (now Kanpur) which fell to the rebels in June 1857, around 200 British women and children were massacred in the Bibighar Massacre. This led to a spiralling of atrocities on both sides, with ‘Remember Cawnpore’ becoming the British Army’s battle cry.

A comprehensive list of recorded inscriptions from tombs and memorials to the British victims of the Indian Mutiny is contained in the List of inscriptions on Christian tombs and tablets of historical interest in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh by Sir Edward Blunt. A free downloadable copy is available at archive.org/details/listofinscriptio00blunuoft . You can download the book in your chosen format and search the place name e.g. ‘Cawnpore’ for research of the Bibighar massacre.

The British eventually quashed the mutiny, abolished the East India Company and brought in direct rule in India; the ‘British Raj’.

Outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861

Within days of the Census, America was plunged into civil war. Palmerston and Russell were surprisingly successful in managing to sit this one out.