Statistics compiled from the national census taken every 10 years from 1801 to 1901, as reported in Volume 2 of the Victoria History of Gloucestershire, show that the total population of the county increased steadily throughout the 19th Century. In 1801 the population of Gloucestershire was 250,723 but by 1901 the figure had increased to 664,843. During the same period the population of Fairford showed a steady rise until the 1850s when it started to decline. The rate of decline was gradual but sustained over the next 50 years so that by 1901 Fairford’s population of 1,403 was only marginally above its 1801 population of 1,326. The reason for this decline is thought to lie in the general decrease in the number of people working in agriculture over the 18th and 19th centuries and the growing number of people moving to towns to work in industry. According to the census figures, Fairford’s peak year in the 19th Century was 1851 with a total of 1,859, a figure not matched again until 1971 when the population was 1,832. By comparison Fairford’s population at the last census in 2011 was recorded as 4,021 and with the recent building of houses on greenfield sites this will have increased, possibly by another 500 or more.
Comparative population graphs for Gloucestershire and Fairford
Another aspect of population dynamics is the mortality rate. The National Burial Index for England and Wales produced by the Federation of Family History Societies records a total of 1,419 burials in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin in Fairford between the years 1813 and 1858. This gives an average of 31 burials each year for an average population during this period of around 1,625. However, the National Burial Index does not record those buried in other churchyards in Fairford nor does it identify people who died in Fairford but were buried elsewhere. The peak year for burials in St Marys was 1845 with 55 burials; the lowest figure was achieved in 1824 with just 14 burials listed.
The burials recorded in the National Burial Index can be sorted by age of the deceased to show the distribution of deaths in particular age groups. This indicates that infant mortality was very high with 333 of the 1,419 total burials being those of infants aged 5 and under. This represents 23% of the total deaths for the period and was significantly higher in the earlier part of the 19th Century than in later years. However, the statistics also show that people lived to a good old age in 19th Century Fairford with a significant number of people living well into their 70s, 80s and 90s.
These notes and graphs were produced by Chris Hobson for a talk given to Fairford History Society on Victorian Fairford on 21 September 2006.