The Tewkesbury Census

by Bob Woodard

Bob Woodard was not able to complete this work since he suffered a serious illness which led to his untimely death in 1996. However, his pioneering work has been enthusiastically followed with the Woodard Database (now housed and available online via ‘Google Drive') and the Woodard Award. The Census Data is available to everyone on this page. [Editor]

My first interest in local history was in the families who had lived in my house in Gravel Walk, and who owned the property. Who were their neighbours? What sort of people were they? Where did they work? How did they live? There were many other questions.

As I tried to answer my questions I studied Moore’s Notebooks, the 1811 Enclosure Map, Croome’s map of 1825 and the Census from 1841 to 1881. These raised further questions. Did instances of the same surname in adjacent, or nearby, houses arise from family ties? Did the same landlord own such properties? Was the landlord a member of the family? For example, in 1822 John Collins sold cottages in Gravel Walk to Joseph Longmore. Isaac and Philip Collins were living in two of them. An Isaac Collins was still there in 1841 and 1851.

But John Collins did not live in Gravel Walk. He lived in Castle’s Alley, adjoining the Oldbury Field, in a brick-built house with four bedchambers and a garden. His other properties, all in Castle’s Alley, were two tenements and a large enclosed yard. Was this an impoverished inhabitant of the notorious Double Alley?[1] The house may have been the one occupied by Evans the whitesmith from at least 1831 to 1881. The executors of George Edwin Evans, market gardener, put it up for auction in 1890.

Clearly, I needed to research more than Gravel Walk. The development of the whole of Oldbury is fascinating and relevant. The present property boundaries reflect the boundaries in the enclosure map of 1811. By 1825 many of the plots had been further subdivided or joined. Sales and purchases, noted by Moore’s, the auctioneers, show the developing streets and the building of the houses. But this is still not wide enough, for many references are unclear unless taken in the context of the whole of Tewkesbury.

So I have widened the perspective. At present I am transcribing census information from the microfilm in Tewkesbury Library onto a computer. The computer record contains nearly three thousand households, many of which are the same in different census years, and nearly twelve thousand people. So far I have worked through the 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1881 censuses for the Oldbury and the west side of the High Street. I have done 1881, 1871 and 1861 for the other side of High Street. There are between twenty and twenty-five thousand more people to record.

The work has produced some alphabetical listings of the surnames of heads of household. There are tables of tentative continuities of buildings through the five census years so far available. It should be possible to superimpose trades and occupations onto these tables to give a picture of changes over the years. While I am entering the records I make cross-references to families in other census years, and any relationships, such as maiden names, that show up.

David Smith, the County Archivist, has lent me a copy of the index to Moore’s Notebooks for 1800 to 1837, GRO reference D2080, and I am making a computer record of those. An index of the books after 1837 will become available in 1992. I hope that eventually it will be possible to match many transactions in the Notebooks with the people and properties shown in the censuses and other sources. This should give a substantial view of the people and properties from 1800 onwards.

[1] Castles Alley and Double Alley were different names of the same alley. Before it was demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Bishops Walk Shopping Centre, it had been renamed Oldbury Walk. [Editor]

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