Time Detectives – who lived here?

As part of the Watercress Beds to One-Way Streets project we have done extensive research about the development of the streets and houses in the project area – there is lots of information on the Places hotspots and Themes pages about this. And, just as importantly, we wanted to find out who came to live here.


A particularly good way of gaining information about a lot of people is by examining census returns. For this resource, we have traced the inhabitants of a stretch of Chelmsford Road through three census returns, those of 1891, 1901 and 1911.

When undertaking the research for this project we wanted to know who moved into the thousands of new houses that were built over only a few years at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The population of Walthamstow had been just over 11,000 in 1871 – by 1911 it was more than ten times as many, and the fastest growth in the Queen’s Road area happened during the 1890s.

That time is now, of course, beyond living memory. There are some local residents whose grandparents were among those incomers, and from them we have pictures, letters and passed-on anecdotes about those particular people. There are also newspaper reports, advertisements and official reports about the area.

Examining census returns offers us another good way of gaining information about a lot of people.  A national census has been taken every ten years since 1801 – the first three were essentially just head counts, but starting in 1841, the aim was to gather personal information about everyone in the country, including their whereabouts on the chosen day. Census returns are made publicly available after one hundred years, so the most recent information currently available dates from 1911.

All the census returns up to and including 1911 are now available to everyone, both online and in local museums.

Click on the links below to download this Teachers Resource and some sample census returns from Chelmsford Road.


Time Detectives – Who lived here?

Chelmsford Road Census Returns 1891, 1901 & 1911


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