NEWS22 March 2017

Obituary: Chris Denham

News People UK

UK – Chris Denham, former head of census output at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), died on March 1 from complications related to leukaemia. He was 75.


Denham had joined the General Register Office at the end of the 1960s and retired from ONS just over 10 years ago, having been involved in five censuses, starting with the sample 1966 census. 

Denham was instrumental in establishing statistical Output Areas, and ‘free at the point of use’ access to detailed census data.

He was recognised by the Demographic User Group, who presented him with their annual Better Information from Government award in 2007 for tirelessly promoting improved access to data.

Ian White said: “Chris was one of my closest and dearest colleagues/friends from the days of GRO/OPCS/ONS.  I worked with him on many census projects and articles for Population Trends over the years.

"My first contact was when he asked me to create a register of census users’ interests following on from the 1971 Census – but then, that was at a time when we could probably count census users between us on our fingers.  I was particularly proud to have been associated with him on the 1971 Census Atlas, and subsequently on the analyses that we prepared on urban areas and area classifications from the 1981-2001 censuses.  Though he could be most acerbic at times, Chris’s contribution to the modern British census was immense." 

Barry Leventhal, CGG chair, added: “Chris was always supportive and positive about users’ needs – he opened up use of the census for people such as market researchers and other commercial users.  He helped the research industry to obtain census output on life stages from the 1991 Census, and approximate social grade from 2001.  Both are now well established as variables derived from the census.

"Chris was an active member of the CGG for over 25 years, until ill health started to overtake him last year.  Up until then, Chris would always give me his valuable comments on any question or issue, before anyone else!”

Peter Sleight said: “I first met Chris in the early 1980s, when Gurmukh Singh and I had just launched PinPoint Analysis, and we met with Chris to discuss PinPoint’s acquisition of Census data. Chris was extremely helpful.

I came to know Chris much better a decade later. Having just left PinPoint, I was exploring the possibility of putting together a consortium of Census agencies. Again, Chris was very helpful; he was very supportive of the idea, actually ‘swimming against the tide’, in terms of the views of a number of his colleagues at that time. With Chris’ help, we formed the Association of Census Agencies, and negotiated an agreement with OPCS. Chris represented OPCS, and we came to a mutually beneficial arrangement. I always found Chris to be very constructive, and open to new ideas. Chris and I formed a very good relationship, both personal and professional, over subsequent years. 

"Goodbye old friend – we’ll all miss you.”