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Aspects of the Demographic Situation in Seventeen Parishes in Shropshire 1711-60. An Exercise Based on Parish Registers

Solvi Sogner
Population Studies
Vol. 17, No. 2 (Nov., 1963), pp. 126-146
DOI: 10.2307/2172842
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2172842
Page Count: 21
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Aspects of the Demographic Situation in Seventeen Parishes in Shropshire 1711-60. An Exercise Based on Parish Registers
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Abstract

The area chosen for study was the Coalbrookdale coalfield, a fairly closely knit community north of the Severn at Ironbridge, and at that time undergoing industrialization, based on the Darby works in the Dale. It is believed to have been a fairly closed population, little affected by migration, and with little nonconformist influence. All the registers are available in printed form. There were few gaps of much significance, and they were filled by linear interpolation wherever possible. All information was recorded on standard forms and may be summarized as follows: Baptisms show severe setbacks in 1728-9, 1741-2 and 1756-7. There is a marked excess of male baptisms. There was an increase in illegitimacy over the period, and observed levels were higher than, for instance, in recent French studies. The vast majority of children were those of local residents, a few from adjacent villages. Marriages exhibit fewer fluctuations than baptisms. There were minor booms, in 1730 (following high mortality), and in 1756-7. The great majority of marriages were between people of the same parish. Only 11 per cent involved one or both partners not resident in the county. The proportion of marriages where one partner was not `of this parish' actually falls towards the end. It is not known whether this was a real movement or due to attempts to enforce the Settlement Laws. Burials show the most pronounced fluctuations. There were peaks of burials in 1728-9, 1741-2 and 1757-8. Children were counted separately, according to definitions used in previous studies. Over 40 per cent of all burials were those of children. Infants were counted where it was possible to check on the baptisms of buried children. In these villages about a third of the child burials were those of infants of about one year old or less. There is a tendency for child burials to rise over the period, but this may be due to more accurate registration later. Where marital status could be determined in three parishes, only 2.5 per cent of women buried were spinsters. The sex ratio of deaths is similar to that of baptisms. The ratio of male burials to females is highest in infancy and then falls. 98 per cent of those buried were `of this' or of the adjoining parish. Different fertility calculations were made giving ratios of either 5.18 or 5.43 baptisms per marriage in the related period. The fifty years were marked by long-term growth, with three pronounced peaks of natural increase (1716-25, 1731-45, 1746-55). For the whole period there was an excess of either 40 or 46 baptisms over each 100 burials. An attempt was made to reconstruct total population at each point. A starting figure of about 11,500 people was established for 1676 from the Compton census, the hearth tax returns being found unsuitable. Various growth models were tried to see which would fit the observed facts. Constant growth rates were found unrealistic, but a formula was found which allowed for the wave-like movements during the observed period. It is shown that if baptisms ware inflated by 15 per cent to arrive at births, and burials by 10 per cent to find deaths (as in previous studies), it is possible to calculate a population of 11,500 in 1720 and roughly 20,000 in 1760, with intermediate figures tallying with the observed natural increase or decrease, and a plausible set of birth rates (between 30 and 42 per thousand) death rates (between 16.1 and 43.5 per thousand, the latter figure in 1729), and marriage rates between 4.6 (in years of disaster) up to 10.5 (in the recovery year 1730).

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