SAFFRON WALDEN HISTORICAL JOURNAL
The Saffron Walden Historical Journal was launched in 2001 by the Saffron Walden Historical Society and all issues to date have been kept in print. It is now proposed to discontinue reprints of the early issues and instead provide the articles online, via the Recorders of Uttlesford website. Articles are reproduced by kind permission of the authors and remain the copyright of the Journal. Their publication on this website does not constitute permission to copy into any other medium, without the express permission of the Editor, who can be contacted through this website. Permission will normally be granted for non-commercial usage. The articles may be used for educational and research purposes by bona fide researchers. They can be found either under the place to which they relate or, if covering a wider area, under the Uttlesford history section. Further articles will be added twice a year, but only several years after original publication. Those wishing to contact the authors can do so via the editor. Please note that in most cases the original illustrations are not included but can be seen by consulting the original journals held at Saffron Walden Town Library.
Jacqueline Cooper, Editor
Article from Saffron Walden Historical Journal Nos 1-2 (2001-2)
THE COMPTON CENSUS IN NORTH-WEST ESSEX
by Imogen Mollet
In January 1675/6 Gilbert Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury, directed that a census be made of the number of inhabitants (or conformists), papist recusants and dissenters in each parish. Much of the administrative work was carried out by Henry Compton, Bishop of London, after whom the census came to be called. The initiative for the census came from Lord Treasurer Danby who was anxious to convince Charles II of the feasibility of steady support for the Church of England and needed figures to back the argument that the majority of English belonged to the established church. Sheldon also wrote to the Archbishop of York, Richard Steine suggesting that the census be taken in the Northern Province too. Most of England and Wales was therefore covered.
The census was taken by asking each parish three questions relating to: a) the number of inhabitants; b) the number of Popish recusants or persons suspected of recusancy; and c) the number of dissenters. The wording of the questions varied slightly from one ecclesiastical jurisdiction to another, but, in the majority of cases, no guidance was given about the age or sex of those to be counted. In many dioceses the returns were collected during the archdeacon's Easter visitation. This was the case in the diocese of , archdeaconry of Colchester, of which north-west Essex formed part.
In this area there were two deaneries, and Sampford, comprising a total of 36 parishes, excluding Chrishall, and Takeley which were peculiars and as such exempt from archidiaconal visitation. Returns were received from 25 parishes and details are annexed. The totals for these two deaneries – Newport 1582 conformist, 0 papists and 32 nonconformists; and Sampford 3273 conformists, 0 papists and 165 nonconformists – are also given in the Manuscript in the William Salt Library in Stafford, which is one of the main documentary sources on the census. The 'conformists' figures for the diocese of in the Salt MS were almost certainly arrived at by subtracting the numbers of papists and nonconformists from the figures for inhabitants.
It will be noted that there is an unexplained discrepancy between the deanery totals and the 'addition totals' of the 25 parishes whose individual returns are listed. In general the figures obtained in the census must be treated with caution since the returns were made by individual incumbents, curates or churchwardens and edited locally. Different respondents interpreted the questions in different ways e.g. were women to be counted as well as men? Should children be included? Nevertheless the census does provide a point of reference for anyone undertaking a further study of the size of the population and its religious composition.
Source: The Census of 1676: a critical edition, ed. Anne Whitemen, with assistant of Mary Clapinson. Pub. 1986 by British Academy in the Records of Social and Economic History, new Series X. ISBN 0-19-726041-1.
Archdeaconry of Colchester1
|Bardfield magna sf2||286||00||07|
|Bumpsted Helion sf||200||00||00|
|Chesterford magna sf||50||00||00|
|Chesterford parva sf|
|Chissell magna np||154||00||02|
|Chissel parva np||32||00||02|
|Eluidon np 3||170||00||04|
|Mannden np 4|
|Stanstedmount fithet sf||348||20|
|Sampford parva sf||132||20|
|Sampford magna sf||237||31|
|Wicken bonaut np||20||2|
|Wenden magna & parva np5|
|Wenden lofts np|
1. The deaneries of and Sampford are grouped together. SF and NP have been used to distinguish parishes in the two deaneries.
2. May include Bardfield Saling chapelry.
3. i.e. Elmdon. The spelling in the Salt MS has been followed throughout this list.
4. i.e. Manuden.
5. i.e. Wendens Ambo.
6. i.e. Saffron Walden.
© Saffron Walden Historical Society 2001-2