The 1921 Census

I’ve already posted about Evadne Price’s interesting appearance in the census, and will be adding a few more details about other writers in due course.

I consulted the census at the Manchester Central Reference Library, a place dear to me since my BA student days, nearly sixty years ago. Apart from the National Archives at Kew, this is the only place where the census records can be accessed free of charge.

Getting access is easy – but you will need to become a member of Manchester Libraries. A driving license, utility bill, or similar proof of address is needed. A very pleasant lady explained the procedure to me, and I was logged in very quickly. There is a large bank of computers in the Family History section, where advisors are on hand to help (but where there is a limit of two hours per session.) Other computers in the Library can also be used, without a time limit.

I began by finding my parents, both only twelve years old when the census was taken. No surprises, except that my grandfather, about whom I have written previously, was listed as a ‘manufacturer’s agent’. What’s going on here? He had his own business before.

Then I began loking for authors. One I found was T.S. Eliot, whose entry at 12 Wigmore Street is rather painstakingly printed:

Click the image to see it larger.

Eliot is almost defiantly a Bankclerk here, rather than a poet. And there is a small biographical puzzle here, which maybe an Eliot expert could unravel. Why is he filling in the census form at Wigmore Street when all his 1921 correspondence is addressed from Clarence Court Gardens? And why are they visitors at a house in Wigmore Street where they are the only residents?

(Later: I’ve now noticed that a year later Eliot was sending letters from 12 Wigmore Street. A note to a letter to Pound in March 1922 says that ‘For a second time TSE and VHE moved out of Clarence Gate Gardens and into the flat at 12 Wigmore Street leased by Lucy Thayer, who was away on the continent’.’)

In the space asking for Vivienne’s occupation, ‘Married Woman’ has been entered by Eliot, only to be crossed out by another hand. Vivienne’s? How much, if anything, should we read into this?

One author I failed to find on the census database was W.H. Auden (just a year older than my parents, so still at school). Any suggestions where I should look for him? The pleasant woman at Manchester warned me that the census records have plenty of transcription errors that have not yet been set right. Maybe he is lost in the system somewhere.

One Comment

  1. Posted January 28, 2022 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth also has free access to the 1921 Census

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