It is a well known fact that the 1931 census of England and Wales was destroyed by a fire during the Second World War. However, did any fragments of this census survive at all? Were both the household schedules and the enumerators' summary books completely destroyed?

  • The "Instant Census" of 1939 will (in part) be released some time next month. See here: bbc.com/news/magazine-34570120 Oct 25, 2015 at 6:34
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    @tannenwedel, welcome! From what I have heard, the 1939 Register may be released as early as next week. But it would be a mistake to call this a census, because it is very different. To interpret any document you really have to understand why it was made.
    – Harry V.
    Oct 25, 2015 at 12:07

2 Answers 2


On the night of Saturday 19 December 1942, there was a fire at a store in Hayes, Middlesex. The store, the responsibility of the Office of Works, contained a large amount of furniture but in addition it contained the census records for England & Wales for 1931, that is the whole of the schedules, enumeration books and plans. They were all completely destroyed.

The fire was not caused by enemy action and the civil servant from the General Register Office who visited the site a few days later was bemused as to how a fire "achieved such dimensions in a store in which special hydrants had been fitted and was said to have been in charge of a fire guard of 6 paid firewatchers" and that it is "a mystery which will need investigation".

He reported that he and his colleague "are both satisfied that it would be useless to attempt any sort of salvage operation; we are leaving the Office of Works to clear and dispose of the debris in any way they think desirable".

1911census.org.uk has more information on it.


As previously mentioned all the schedules were lost, but if you want to learn more about the census and the reports that were generated from the data before the schedules were lost, here are some resources.

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