TitleLayer Breton and the 1911 Census - Centenary Chronicles 54
AbstractLayer Breton and the 1911 Census

Birch, Layer Breton & Layer Marney Local History

Centenary Chronicles - No. 54.

Published in Parish News - May 2009

The increasing interest in family history may have led to release of some of the details in the 1911 census being available well in advance of the date originally planned. Instead of having to wait until 2012 transcripts of the major contents became available, over the internet, early this year. Some items, such as details of personal frailties, of a physical and mental health nature, will remain hidden until 2012.

The released details available are transcriptions of the original forms and thus we are faced with the problem of interpretations made by transcribers. Entering "Layer Marney" in the search facility I found the parish had shrunk to about half the size it was in 1901! This seemed impossible until it was found that one address was in Layers Marney. What a difference an "s" made. Changing the entry in the search facility and up popped the rest of the village. Fortunately a different transcriber must have dealt with Layer Breton.

Comparing the 1911 figures with those for 1881 we find that Layer Breton had one less household (1911 = 57) but the number of people had fallen from 293 to 250 and of those 131 were born in the village. For Layer Marney the number of households had increased from 48 in 1881 to 50 thirty years later. The population had fallen by 8 reducing the overcrowding from 5.37 people per house to exactly 5. Both parishes had the same number of residents - 250 in 1911. Of those living in Layer Marney only 98 of the 250 had been born in the village. Closer examination shows that this was mainly due to the fact that The Towers was occupied in 1911 whereas it had not been in 1881. The occupants were the widowed Mrs de Zoete with a household of a cook, 3 housemaids, a kitchen maid, scullery maid, a footman and two nurses. The household was completed by three of Mrs de Zoete's grandchildren. Other employees were living in estate cottages.

The oldest inhabitant in the two villages was 92 year old John Brunwin Ely living in Bundock House with his son-in-law Norman Smith, and family. Bundock House was on the left hand side of Shatters Road at the junction with Layer Breton Hill. Altogether there were seventeen people, of the 500 in the two parishes, who were over 70 years old. "Old Age Pensioner" appeared as a description, for the first time in 1911 thanks to the recently introduced Lloyd George system. Agriculture still provided employment for the majority of men. Other new categories, such as "Motor Engineer" and "Telegraph Messenger" reflected new technology.

In Layer Breton there were two journalists, one the father of Margery Allingham then aged 6 but later to become a well known authoress. The other was a visitor to the Allinghams at The Rectory. At The Lodge lived Thomas Simpson a "Painter, Artist in Water Colour" who had exhibited at the Royal Academy paintings of the Arun and also Walberswick.

If anyone knows where Town Road, Layer Breton was we would like to know. We assume it is a misreading of Lower Road. If that is correct then the residence of Charles Taylor, his wife and family of 5 sons and 4 daughters must have been a lively establishment. The two youngest sons and all the daughters were of school age when the census was taken and they must have made the long tramp to Birch school, and back, in summer and winter alike. In the days long before school transport we wonder what adventures they found to delay them on the way.

Layer Marney had a school at that time with two teachers residing in the village. One had been born in Chelsea and the other at Buxton, Norfolk. Some shown as scholars were to die in the First World War and the census provides clues as to why men are commemorated on more than one War Memorial. Horace Burmby is such an example. Aged 35 in 1911, living and employed in Layer Marney his place of birth is given as Birch. Horace is named on both local War Memorials and is buried in Layer Marney Churchyard having died at Aldershot just after enlistment in 1918.

There were 11 farmers in the two parishes at that time, a figure which had not changed much over the previous 60 years, but the next 60 was to be totally different. The proportion of the male population employed in agriculture was to fall dramatically with the introduction of tractors and mechanisation. Other changes in technology were to bring about new trades and increase the accessibility of jobs further afield. One major change was to be the employment opportunities for women. "Domestic servants" was the main occupation given for women in 1911 with at least 26 employed in the two parishes. Homeworking was an important factor in family income and included people giving their occupation as "tailoress". Does anyone, however, know of a "Boat Trouser Tailoress" nowadays? Sub post mistresses, teachers and nurses are still to be found but in 1911 opportunities outside the domestic circle were available to people residing outside towns.

Each census provides a great deal of information but also leads to frustration on occasion. We were contacted recently by someone trying to resolve a problem arising from the 1881 and 1891 census returns for Birch. In 1881 the entry for Beehive Cottage, Maldon Road, Birch shows John and Martha Hutton and with them two boarders, the Drury sisters from London. Both were very young and we know they both attended Birch School, one starting in 1874 aged just under 4, and Maud Mary in 1877 at the age of 5. Maud was to continue after the normal leaving age as a Pupil Teacher. She eventually left, according to an entry in the School Log Book on 16th December 1892, "Miss Drury severed her connection with the school today".

The questions which arise, from the little we know of the Drury sisters, are - how and why did they come to live in Birch; when did the older girl leave; what were the circumstances which caused Maud to leave, apparently, very promptly?

PublishedMay 2009
SourceMersea Museum / Breton Heath