NEWS9 August 2021

ONS publishes digitised historical census data

News UK

UK – The Office for National Statistics has published the small area statistics tables from the 1961 England and Wales census in digital form.

A car, pedestrian crossing the road, red London bus and advertising billboards in London's Piccadilly Circus in the 1960s

The census in 1961 was the first to use computers, but only bound volumes and microfilm copies of printouts remained.

As part of a wider ONS project to digitise historical census statistics in partnership with the University of Salford Pattern Recognition and Image Analysis Research Lab (PRImA), 2,800 volunteers made 5.5m classifications to convert scans of the small area statistics into digital tables.

The data, including interactive maps, is now available to access via the ONS website.

The ONS has published an article exploring the ways in which life changed in England and Wales between 1961 and 2011.  

Pete Benton, census director of operations, said: "As well as providing a fascinating trip down memory lane and insights into our history, this new information shows just how useful census information was – and still is to this day.

"The census informs where billions of pounds of public funding is spent on services; whether that’s the development of new towns like Milton Keynes and Northampton in the late 1960s or the demand for renewable energy in the future."