Census Day, 1881

by Christine Henderson


It was my duty to collect information for the census that took place on the 3rd of April 1881. My allocated streets were close by Lancaster Castle. My visit to one household in particular, one of the larger houses on Castle Hill, has stayed in my memory. Another resident had told me that I would find a household in deep mourning, so it was with a certain misgiving that I knocked on the door. It was opened by the parlour maid, Eliza Fryson, who asked me to wait in the hall while she informed her mistress. After a few minutes I was shown into the front parlour, where the ladies of the house, the Misses Anne and Isabella Pedder, were seated. When I saw how alike they were, I had a sudden memory of coming to this house ten years ago, for the 1871 census. For the ladies were twins, both unmarried, and at that time living with their brother, who was the Vicar of St. John’s Church in Lancaster, and had just been appointed an honorary Canon of Manchester Cathedral.

Both ladies, who must have been in their late sixties by now, were dressed in severe black, and spoke in hushed voices. I had heard from a neighbour that their brother, Canon Edward Pedder, had died towards the end of the previous month. Apparently he had been unwell for some time, and had announced his intended resignation by a letter to his parishioners while he was staying at Arnside in October 1880. He returned to Lancaster soon afterwards, but from then on did not leave his room. One Monday in the following March, at about half-past-four in the afternoon, he took his last breath.

So you can imagine my surprise when Miss Anne Pedder said that her brother had gone out for a few minutes, and would be returning shortly. She would prefer it if I asked him the necessary questions concerning the census. Then she explained that their other brother, Mr. Thomas Pedder, was still staying at the house after coming to attend the funeral, as was another member of the Pedder family, the Rev. John Pedder.

While we were waiting for Mr. Thomas to return, Miss Anne showed me a report in the Blackburn Standard of 26th March 1881. It stated that at a special service the previous Thursday night, the Vicar of Lancaster described Canon Pedder as belonging to a class of clergymen who it seemed were every year becoming rarer and more difficult to find. He was tolerant, strictly moderate in his opinions, not given to many changes; never speaking uncharitably of others, and never provoking others to speak uncharitably of him.



Note: Although the Pedders’ house is numbered 15 in the 1881 census, it was not the present number 15 on Castle Hill, which is now the Cottage Museum.


Factual information taken from nineteenth century census records and newspaper articles.

Leave a Reply