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?
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.
- What? No British Censuses for 1931 or 1941? published 17 Jun 2011 on the Family Search blog
- 200 Years of the Census: Census 1911-2001 (Office of National Statistics) where you can download a blank 1931 census form
- Census of England and Wales, 1931 by Edward Higgs (Histpop.org)
- a search for 1931 Census on Histpop gives 67 results, many of which are the individual reports on the total population by county.
- List of reports from the 1931 Census from A Vision of Britain
- Census Returns from Genguide.co.uk is general guide to UK Census returns, with a list of other records that can be consulted as 'census substitutes'