Population History of the Ancient Parishes of Tatham & Melling



The area comprises the ancient ecclesiastical parishes of Melling and Tatham in Lonsdale. Whilst the latter coincides with the township of Tatham (the civil administrative unit – now civil parishes), the former consisted of seven townships: Melling with Wrayton, Arkholme with Cawood, Hornby, Farleton, Roeburndale, Wray with Botton, and Wennington. These eight adjacent townships also share a common element in their history, having been a core component of the historic Hornby Castle Estate. In its post-Saxon form, the estate originated in a grant of the manor of Hornby to the Montbegon family in c. 1086 by William the Conqueror. Ownership then followed a complex sequence of events involving descent, marriage, seizure and reassignment, resulting in changes in the size of the estate, with a notable one being the addition of Tatham manor in 1460 by marriage.1 In the 1580s, William Stanley 3rd Lord Monteagle had a detailed survey made of his estate, which showed it then to comprise lands in all of the above townships as well as other manors and lands in Lonsdale and elsewhere.2 However, over the subsequent centuries there have been substantial sales of individual properties, culminating in the final sale of the remnant in 1938.

Changes in the population of such an area are a response to a set of inter-related economic and health factors which affect birth and death rates and inward and outward migration. Such factors include conflict, disease, famine, commodity prices and, from the late 1700s onwards, technological improvements in agriculture, industry and transport. The influence of these can be traced in the history of the population of Melling and Tatham, which can be reconstructed to varying degrees over the last nine centuries, using the decadal censuses from 1801-2001 and by modelling and estimation for the preceding centuries.

1801-2001: the census data

Fig 1: Tatham & Melling parishes: population trends 1801-2001.

The census data show that the local townships have all experienced major changes in their population in the last 200 years. With two exceptions, after early nineteenth century peaks the numbers dropped to minima in the late twentieth century (1961-1981) before increasing again (fig. 1). The decline was greatest in Roeburndale (73 % change), but those of the more populous Tatham and Wray (56 % & 52 %) were numerically more significant. Consequently, the combined population of the two parishes followed this trend, declining by 40 % from 1821 to 1961 (fig. 3). This has been shown to be the pattern for the whole of the Lunesdale Census Registration District up to 1911, with loss in every decadal census.3 It was the only District in the north-west to display this behaviour, others, including Morecambe Bay, had overall growth and, in some cases, net migration gains. However, agricultural Districts in the north Pennines resembled Lunesdale.

Nevertheless, there was considerable variation between townships. Thus, the early decline was as low as 21 % in Melling and, here and in Hornby, was limited to the first part of the nineteenth century, thereafter the population remained relatively stable until recent advances. This probably reflected investment by incoming industrialist and urban landlords (Fosters of Hornby & Bradford, Saunders of Wennington and Liverpool, Rome of Melling & Liverpool). In addition, there was the first local expression of the welfare society, with the Poor Law Union workhouse opening at Farleton in 1874. In contrast, Wray had particularly large population swings in the nineteenth century due to the changing fortunes of the silk mill, superimposed on the decline of their traditional industries of hat and nail manufacture and coal mining. The changing economies of the townships are described elsewhere (see Tatham History Society website).

In the late 20th century, deliberate Government intervention in the local economy, through the financing of an expansion of jobs in tertiary education, health and power generation, led to population growth, with the car spreading the benefits over a wider area. However, the influence of local planning decisions is seen in the concentration of growth in Hornby.

The large scale population decline in predominantly rural or mixed economy areas over the 150 years from 1821 is generally agreed to be part of the wider movement of people to urban and industrial areas for economic reasons, in response to a combination of push and pull stimuli such as: availability of jobs; closure of local craft and small factory scale work because of competition; mechanisation of agriculture; changes in domestic service, all resulting in net out-migration. However, it was also a period of declining birth rate, due to later marriage, migration of young women and deliberate family limitation after about 1870. 4,5

1600-1800: models

For the period for which births and deaths are recorded, population changes can be analysed using a simple procedure of ‘demographic accounting’. This model relates the change between two populations to the effects of events happening in the intervening period, i.e. births, deaths and net migration. Any one of these five can be calculated if the others are known, and it can be run forwards (forecasting) or backwards (hindcasting) (see appendix for details).

The populations of Tatham and Melling are known from the censuses for every decade from 1801-1901. Before that there are two dates at which the population can be estimated: 1664 based on the number of households derived from the Hearth Tax Assessments and 1563 based on the Congregation List for the Lancashire part of the Deanery of Lonsdale, of which Melling and Tatham were a substantial portion. (Table 1).6,7 The Hearth Tax numbers are taken from copies of the originals but those for the congregation are calculated proportionally from the totals for Lonsdale using the relevant Hearth Tax value and that for the Deanery. Both are converted to populations using a standard estimate of the average household size of 4.75 persons (4.3 has also been suggested as being a better fit to the original Hearth Tax calibration data8). Interestingly, the household numbers implied by the survey of Hornby Castle Estate around 1580 indicate that it only represents about half the population of the area, on average.2 Whilst this may be partly due to under-representation of tenants, such as sub-tenants of freeholders (free tenants), it may indicate the reduced degree of ownership in the area by the Lord of the Manor.

Table 1. Household and population estimates for 1664 & 1563, Tatham & Melling


Hearth Tax

Hearth Tax


Hornby Castle Estate

Tatham w. Ireby



Tatham parish



c. 409


Melling w. Wrayton




Arkholme w. Cawood




























Melling parish



c. 1367


* x 4.75; ** corrected for Ireby based on 1811 census

For this period, the Tatham parish register of baptism and burials provides proxies for births and deaths, up to 1851 for baptisms and beyond that for deaths. Births for 1851-1901 can be obtained indirectly from the census records, i.e. net births excluding those leading to death in the census decade.9,10,11 Unfortunately, this cannot be done for Melling because the parish records appear to be deficient, with burials exceeding baptisms for most of 1645-1703, including anomalously low values for both over two decades.12

Using this information the demographic accounting procedure can be used to determine the reasons for the recorded changes in population, i.e. the net result of inwards and outwards migration of people and the net result of births and deaths, i.e. natural increase, as shown in Table 2 (see appendix for discussion of the uncertainties in these figures). For Melling, only population change figures can be given.

Table 2: Analysis of changes in Tatham and Melling populations


Q1 & Q2



Natural increase
% Q1

Net migration
% Q1

Population change
% Q1






































The results for Tatham show that, in the century from 1563 to 1664, there was a low population growth of 16 % overall due to natural increase (excess births over deaths), although about a third of that was lost to a small net out-migration. From 1661 to 1821, there was a very substantial natural increase, due to a nearly two-fold increase in the baptism rate more than offsetting an increased burial rate. This is seen elsewhere in England and is considered to be due to a fertility increase as a result of slightly earlier marriage.4 However, three quarters of this gain was lost by the four-fold increase in net out-migration. The final phase from 1821 saw the average decadal rate of natural increase grow by a further 50 %, due to the halving of the death rate whilst baptism rate remained essentially constant. However, a further nearly threefold increase in out-migration rate to 21 % led to the overall drop in population of 41 %. The trends of population changes in Melling are similar to those of Tatham, doubtless due to similar causes, although there was a larger increase in the middle period and a smaller subsequent decrease.

The net out-migration for the last phase is substantially greater than the 8-13 % mean value given for the whole Lonsdale Registration District in 1851-1911 and falls into the highest category for all districts in England.3 It is also much larger than that calculated for 5 groups of rural parishes in 4 regions of England.13 Using a similar procedure to here, net out-migration there was found to vary from 7 to11 % in 1851-1861, less than or just exceeding the natural increase.

Further detail can be obtained by using the demographic accounting model to hindcast the population change every decade, using the baptism and burial records and net migration values which give the best fit to other population data (see appendix for model details). These controls on the model are the census data and the 1664 and 1563 estimates (two for each date).

Starting at the 1901 census population, with an average net out-migration of 21 %, the predicted population curve matches the census back to 1821, agreeing with the above gross analysis. For the preceding period back to 1664, out-migration appears to have been more variable, with higher rates of 10 % back to 1731 reducing to about 4 % to 1664 and about 1.5 % to 1563. The population drop in 1811 cannot be modelled on this basis but, as the early censuses were based on head counts and the drop is only seen at Tatham, it may not be real.

Fig. 2: Tatham Parish: Hindcast population estimates 1563-1901, with baptisms and burials.

Also shown in fig. 2 is the population predicted from a whole England population model,14 calculated proportionally from the census values for 1801. That model is based on 404 parish records, including the local ones of Tunstall, Yealand and Clapham. Clearly, fig. 2 indicates that Tatham and, presumably, the surrounding area had a relatively high population pre-1801 compared to the average situation in England. However, it is known that there was considerable variation in population distribution in the country, even before the Industrial Revolution.7,15

Again, the deficiencies of the Melling parish records means that hindcast modelling cannot be carried out and the curve for the combined parishes (fig. 3) is an approximation scaled from the trends in the Tatham model, combined with the actual 1563 and 1664 population estimates.

1086-1500: estimates

For the earliest four centuries population estimates are only possible at a few dates, 1377, 1290 and 1086, derived proportionally from figures for the parishes and Lancashire in 1664 and estimates of the Lancashire population at those earlier dates (fig.3).7,15 The last are themselves based on the estimated population of England at two dates, taking into account uneven population distribution, i.e. the 1086 Domesday Book survey (in which Lancashire was greatly under-represented) and the poll tax lists for 1377 (which excluded children), together with the estimate for the proportion of deaths due to the Black Death in 1348 of up to 50 %.4

Ovarall population trend 1086-2001

Fig. 3: Melling & Tatham parishes: Population estimates 1086-2001.

The reconstructed combined population history for the seven townships in the two parishes is shown in fig. 3. Even though there are large uncertainties associated with parts of it, it gives some insight into the changes that have occurred over the millennium. The general characteristic for most of the period is one of growth, by a factor of about ten, reaching 3000 in 1821 from the very low levels of the 11th century. The long term change in the balance between fertility and mortality that this represents is considered to be largely driven by ‘nuptuality’ in the form of the age of marriage of women and the proportion not marrying, both indirectly affected by economic factors. However, two dramatic large scale decreases in population interrupted growth. Firstly, the high death rate caused by the Black Death plague of 1348 probably caused the population to approximately halve and, secondly, in the 19th century a combination of mass out-migration for economic reasons and reduced fertility, resulted in a drop by a third. In contrast, there was the rapid increase in population by a third in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries. There were also periods of up to a century when population was relatively constant, with an unstable equilibrium between gain and loss events. One such period around 1300 is considered to have occurred when the production capacity of the land had been reached and the population became prone to the effects of short-lived famine (dearth) and disease events. Another around 1600 may relate to the increased incidence of disease epidemics seen in Lancashire parishes, and a third, in the early 20th century, to a decrease in the out-migration rate.4,7,14

The economic basis for population growth was the expansion and intensification of agriculture. This included reclaiming land from the ‘waste’ on all scales, including enclosure by Parliamentary Act, and changes in the nature of land holding and land occupation by owners and tenants. Later came the improvements in stock-breeding and farming practice of the eighteenth century and, finally, the technological advances of the following two centuries. The growth of agriculture led to the growth of related craft industries, such as blacksmiths and wood workers, then increasing in diversity as more specialists could be supported by the population and as local resources became utilised, e.g. basketry, clog making, quarrying, coal mining. Some of these developed in the 19th century into proto-industries with wider markets, e.g. bobbin making, silk processing, nail and hat making. Also by then a retail and service economy existed, based in the hamlets and villages of the area.

Short term population instability

Whilst it has been possible to describe gross population changes with various degrees of precision, this does not describe the changes occurring at an individual level, i.e. changes in population composition. For the period 1781-1901, it is possible to derive information about this from census and land tax records.

Comparing the names of individuals present in adjacent censuses, and the numbers of baptisms and burials (births and deaths) in the intervening period, shows that the net out-migration figures given above are the result of large movements of people both into and out of Tatham. This can be investigated using an expanded version of the ‘demographic accounting’ model (see Appendix for details). The average results for 5 pairs of censuses from 1851-1901 are shown in fig. 4, with the range of values given in brackets.

Notably, on average, only a third (34 %) of the next census population was inherited from the preceding one, with another 10 % contributed by the births from this group in the intervening decade. The main loss, numerically equal to 2/3 of the new population, was by out-migration. The resulting deficit was only partly made up by the in-migrants and the children born to them in that decade, giving a net population decrease.

This pattern was repeated over the 60 years between 1841and 1901, giving an average figure for each 10 year period for population reduction of 6.8 %, being the difference between a net out-migration of 23.4 % and a natural increase of 16.6 %. The overall figures for the whole period are: population reduction 41 %, net out-migration 140 %, natural increase 100 %, i.e. percent of the 1841 population (slightly different to Table 2 values due to their different calculation basis). This fall in the population by well over a third, whilst largely due to out-migration is also partly due to the decline in the birth rate in this period, from 2.6 % to 1.8 %, as a result of such factors as the selective migrant loss of fertile women, later marriage and deliberate family limitation.


Fig. 4: Tatham Parish: Average decadal values for components of population change 1841-1901 (NB percentages relate to the second population and the ranges of values are given in brackets)

Clearly, the exchange of people between Tatham and elsewhere in this period was considerable, with an average of 42 % newcomers in each decade. The additive effect of this is seen in the census records of birth places of Tatham residents for 1901: 84 % of male heads of households and 87% of wives were born outside Tatham.

Analysis of the 1841-1851 decade provides some detail about these migrants. The majority of the in-migrants were families, 39 % of them headed by farmers and 20 % by other occupations including: agricultural labourers; railway & general labourer; carpenter & wheelwright; joiner; stone mason and three bobbin makers. Single adults or teenagers (41 %) were mainly farm and domestic servants, but included family members joining extant residents, e.g. wives, elderly parents etc. Birth places show that, as expected, in-migrants in 1851 came mainly from surrounding parishes up to 10 miles from Tatham church (59 %), together with 16 % from 10-30 miles and 9 % beyond that, with a further 16 % returning to Tatham.

Out-migrants were also largely families (59 %) with half of these being headed by farmers and the other half made up of families of farmers' widows, agricultural labourers and tradesmen: bobbin turner; carpenter; miner; tailor and weaver. Individual adults (27 %), male and female, were split between servants and others. The age distribution of out-migrants was markedly skewed to the 10-29 years range, who were obviously leaving for employment or marriage (fig. 5).

Fig. 5: Tatham Parish: Age structure of population components (including births) 1841-1901.

This analysis shows that there was a remarkable degree of mobility in Tatham in this period, within both the farming and small trades communities of the rural parish. This is also seen in the history of the farms, with the censuses for 1841-51 showing that an average of half the 74 farms in the parish changed hands in every decade from 1841-1901. The 1848 Tithe Act survey identifies these as being ¼ owner occupied and ¾ tenanted with the latter being four times more prone to change between 1841 and 1851. Of those that changed hands, most went to migrants from outside the parish (40 % of all farms), a few to Tatham residents (10 %) and a few were amalgamated (7 %). Only four in 1841-51 were due to the death of the farmer, plus at least one due to retirement. Eleven involved a sale and change of owner. Most of the changes were the result of a farmer giving up a tenancy, most likely to move to a farm in a neighbouring parish. Whether this was driven by the landlord through a rise in rent, or because of the farmer’s needs for a larger or smaller holding, is not known. It was facilitated by the short, one year, duration of tenancies, unlike the long, one-or-more-lives tenancies of the 1700s.16,17

However, it is clear from the annual land tax records for 1781-1823 that the decadal census snapshots are hiding even more frequent changes in land tenancies. The above census data give an apparent average farm tenancy as 20.5 y, whereas the land tax records give 11.5 y, both including a small proportion of family inheritances. It is probable therefore that similarly short tenancy durations existed in the farming community in the decades up to 1901.

Whilst net out-migration in rural areas has received much attention, less has been given to the phenomenon demonstrated here, variously called population exchange, turnover or counter flow, although long considered to exist.4 Only a few studies have quantified it using linkages between decadal censuses in one form or another. For example, in a few parishes in southeast England, the inherited component was shown to vary from 31-53 %, implying exchanges on a similar scale to those of Tatham.18,19


1 British History online 2011: Hornby. www.british-history.ac.uk.
2 Chipindell, W.H. 1939: A sixteenth century survey of the Estates of Hornby Castle Lancashire. 102, Chetham Society, Manchester, 150 pp.
3Lawton, R. 1968: Population change in England and Wales in the later nineteenth century: an analysis of trends by Registration District. Inst. Br. Geog. Trans., 44, 55-74.
4 Anderson, M. (ed.) 1996: British population history from the Black Death to the present day. CUP, Cambridge, 421 pp.
5 Short, B. 2000: Rural demography 1850-1914. In Collins, EJT (ed) The Agrarian History of England & Wales. CUP, Cambridge, Ch 21, 1232-1296.
6 Hearth Tax records. Lancashire Record Office, MF1/28 E179/250/11
7 Phillips, C. B. & Smith, J. H. 1994: Lancashire and Cheshire from AD 1540. Longman, London & New York, 416 pp.
8 Arkell, T. 1982: Multiplying factors for estimating population totals from the Hearth Tax. Local Population Studies, 28, 51=57.
9 Lancashire Parish Register Society: Tatham 1558-1812 CD 59 & Tatham Fells 1745-1837, Tatham St James the Less 1813-1837.
10 Lancashire Record Office: Bishop’s Transcript of Tatham & Tatham Fells Baptisms 1838-1851.
11 Lancashire Record Office: Tatham Parish Register of Burials 1838-1901.
12 Anguline Research Archives: Melling Parish Registers Baptisms 1625-1721, Burials 1629-1721.
13 Hinde. A. 2004: The use of nineteenth century census data to investigate migration. Local Population Studies, 73, 8-28.
14 Wrigley, E. A. & Schofield, R. S. 1981: The population history of England, 1541-1871. Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 797 pp.
15 Broadberry, S. N. 2010: English Medieval population: reconciling time series and cross sectional evidence.
16 Winstanley, M 1996: Industrialisation and the small family farm: family and household economy in 19th century Lancashire. Past and Present, 152
17 Holt, J. 1795: General view of the agriculture of the County of Lancashire with observations on the means of its improvement. Board of Agriculture, London, 241 pp.
18 Mills, D. R. & Schürer, K. 1996: Migration and population turnover. pp. 218-228. In: Mills, D. R. & Schürer, K . (eds) Local communities in Victorian census enumerators books. Local Population Studies Supplement. Oxford.
19 Wojciechowska, B. 1996: Brenchely: a study in a mid 19th century parish. In: Mills, D. R. & Schürer, K . (eds) Local communities in Victorian census enumerators books. Local Population Studies Supplement. Oxford.

Appendix: Models


The structure of the population changes in Tatham can be analysed using a simple ‘demographic accounting’ equation, which predicts a new population from an earlier or later one, by considering the population events taking place in the interval between them:

Q2 = Q1 + B - D + (MN)

where Q is the population values at times 1 & 2, and the events are births (B), deaths (D) and net migration (MN), the latter being either positive (gain) or negative (loss). The above version is for forecasting, the signs of the life events being reversed for hindcasting. Baptism and burial records of residents from the parish register are used here as proxies for births and deaths up to 1851 but, from then to 1901, the net births recorded by ages in the census data have to be used, i.e. they exclude births which resulted in deaths in the intervening years.6,7,8 Burials from the parish register for that period are corrected to the same basis. Delays between life and church events are not taken into account and it is assumed for the sake of simplicity that the population dates are the same in each year.

Any errors associated with the records of baptisms and deaths, such as under recording, which led to a change in the birth to death ratio would affect the calculated migration value. From an investigation of parish records for a reconstruction of the population of England, Wrigley and Schofield considered that both births and deaths were underestimated, with births more so than deaths, giving a correction factor for birth to death ratio which rose from 2 – 4 % from 1661 to1836.9 (Note: percentage rates / decade = rate / 1000 / y, i.e. the unit used in reference 9). These have not been applied here, which implies that the calculated net out-migration values are under-estimates if the correction factors are correct.


Detailed comparison of adjacent pairs of nineteenth century censuses, at the level of individuals, reveals that the net out-migration figures given by the simple demographic accounting model are the net result of large movements of people into and out of Tatham. This can be investigated using an expanded version of the simple model:

Q2 = Q1 – D1 – M1 + B1 + BG + MG

where Q1 and Q2 are populations separated by a decade, B1, D1 and M1 are the net births, net deaths and out-migration that affect Q1 during the decade, and MG is the in-migrants and BG their net births during the interval. The births and deaths are net events with respect to the census, as described above.


There are inherent uncertainties in this modelling associated with incomplete baptism and burial data and the household size factor. The values obtained by the modelling should be considered as approximations.

MK 2012
Page created 21-7-2011. Latest update 24-8-2012

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