The Social Character of the Estate: The Censuses of 1841 and 1871

Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1977.

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, 'The Social Character of the Estate: The Censuses of 1841 and 1871', in Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History), (London, 1977) pp. 93-98. British History Online [accessed 23 May 2024].

. "The Social Character of the Estate: The Censuses of 1841 and 1871", in Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History), (London, 1977) 93-98. British History Online, accessed May 23, 2024,

. "The Social Character of the Estate: The Censuses of 1841 and 1871", Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History), (London, 1977). 93-98. British History Online. Web. 23 May 2024,

The Censuses of 1841 and 1871

The vast amount of information about the demographic structure of the Grosvenor estate which is contained in the enumerators' books of the decennial censuses from 1841 onwards falls largely outside the scope of this volume, and only a brief analysis of those of 1841 and 1871 (the latter being the most recent for which the schedules are at present open to public inspection) can be attempted here. (fn. 4)

The results of this analysis are presented in the Table on page 94. At the outset it must be emphasised that the inter-censual comparisons made there should be treated with caution because the criteria upon which the censuses of 1841 and 1871 were taken differed in several important respects. But despite these differences, which are discussed below, some tentative evaluations can be made.

Firstly, the figures show that between 1841 and 1871 the total number of residents on the estate fell by 13 per cent. Almost all of this decline evidently occurred between 1841 and 1851, when the population of Mayfair as a whole, and of that other fashionable area, St. James's Square, also fell by a similar amount. (fn. 5) As will appear later, it seems that this decline was principally amongst the residents of independent means and their servants, rather than amongst those engaged in trade or non-domestic service; and it may be conjectured that some, at any rate, of this decline was due to the rival attractions of Belgravia, Kensington and Tyburnia.

Secondly, the figures show that only a very small proportion of the residents on the estate (some 5 to 10 per cent) belonged to the titled or leisured classes. The social cachet of a good address there might still, in Victorian times, be as highly prized as ever; but even in this citadel of the beau monde such residents were far outnumbered by the rest of the population.

The number of residents of title and leisure recorded in the census of 1841 is, however, more than double that recorded in the count of 1871, and this disparity requires examination. Some decline in their numbers evidently did take place, but it was probably not as great as the figures suggest, and the discrepancy can be largely explained by differences inherent in the two counts.

The first of these differences arose from the precise dates in 1841 and 1871 when the censuses were taken. That of 1841 was taken on 6–7 June, when Parliament was in session and the London Season was near its height, whereas that of 1871 was taken on 2–3 April, when both Houses had risen for the Easter recess, and many residents of wealth and fashion were therefore absent from their London homes: less than half the peers who are listed in Boyle's Court Guide as having addresses within the Grosvenor estate in Mayfair were actually resident there on the night of the census of 1871. In 1841 some eighty inhabited houses were not in substantially normal occupation (i.e. were occupied only by servants or caretakers), about forty of them in the principal streets, whereas in 1871 the number of such houses was 175, about one hundred of them being in streets where the titled and leisured classes generally lived. Furthermore, in 1841 the number of such occupants who may have been absent from their homes on the night of the census was in part counterbalanced by others who had taken houses for the Season, such as the Duke of Rutland, who was living at General Thomas Grosvenor's house, No. 50 Grosvenor Square, with two members of his family (and eleven servants).

A second important difference arises from the differing treatment of residents of independent means, which has resulted in a far larger number of such persons appearing in 1841 (906) than in 1871 (300). This divergence may be partly explained by the very catholic interpretation placed on the term 'independent' by the enumerators in 1841. They were instructed that 'Men, or widows, or single women having no profession or calling, but living on their means, may be inserted as independent', (fn. 6) but sometimes they extended this definition to embrace almost anyone with no occupation, including the wives and children of tradesmen. As far as possible the latter have been excluded in counting the number of 'independents' for the purposes of the Table, but some exaggeration in the total number of such persons is, nevertheless, probably inevitable. On the other hand there are numerous instances in both the 1841 and 1871 counts in which a householder's profession or occupation is not given, and, particularly in the latter year, many of the persons concerned are likely to have been untitled householders of leisure.

The Censuses of 1841 and 1871

These differences in the time of year and in the methods of classification of the two counts point to the conclusion that in 1841 the number of titled and leisured residents was slightly overstated and in 1871 certainly understated. But despite these qualifications there is little doubt that there was indeed an overall decline between 1841 and 1871 in the number of such persons living on the estate. In Park Street, where many 'independents' lived in 1841, the number of residents occupying exactly the same number of inhabited houses dropped from 932 to 786 between the two censuses, and this pattern was repeated in other streets of 'middling' character. It is in such streets that persons living off moderate incomes, many of them women, would have lodged, and it may be that one of the factors in the general decrease in the population of the estate after 1841 was the migration of such people to the newly developing suburbs of Paddington and Kensington.

A similar decline in the number of M.P.'s listed in Boyle's Court Guide with addresses on the estate from 68 in 1840 to 49 in 1872 can no doubt be attributed to the same cause, but there was no corresponding diminution in the number of peers, who were perhaps more reluctant to leave such a long-established centre of fashion.

The residents who worked for financial reward comprised slightly over half the total population in both 1841 (53.99 per cent) and 1871 (56.8 per cent). (fn. 1) Very few of them were professional men, but the number of lawyers, physicians and surgeons had increased by 1871, while the number of army officers had fallen. 'City' men of business and commerce—bankers, stockbrokers and merchants— who at the turn of the century were to settle in the area in some numbers, were still very few.

In an area such as Mayfair most of the working population were engaged in supplying the wants of the relatively small number of wealthy residents, and by far the largest of these wants was, of course, for service, both domestic and out-door. In the census of 1841 grooms and coachmen (who were very numerous in this carriage-owning area) were generally classified as servants, and altogether servants amounted to over a third of the entire population (34 per cent) and to 64 per cent of all the working residents. Some 44 per cent of them were male.

By 1871 the total number of domestic servants, coachmen and grooms had fallen by nearly a quarter, but they still amounted to 30 per cent of the entire population and to 54 per cent of the working residents. Some 36 per cent of them were male. The domestic servants were now classified separately from the coachmen and grooms, and they alone numbered 3,898, equivalent to 26.3 per cent of the whole population and to 46.3 per cent of the working residents. Some 26 per cent of them were male.

Between 1841 and 1871 there was thus a substantial fall in the total number of servants, and in the proportion of male servants.

The census of 1871 demonstrates the extent to which the demand for domestic service was concentrated in a comparatively few very wealthy households. Some 63 per cent of all the households on the estate had no domestic servant, and thirteen per cent had one each; a further thirteen per cent had two or three servants, and only eleven per cent (303 households) had four or more. Expressed in a different way, some three hundred households with four or more servants employed almost 70 per cent of all the domestics on the estate in 1871. (fn. 2)

Comparable figures for 1841 cannot be calculated because of the difficulty of identifying separate households.

About three quarters of the three hundred houses with large domestic staffs in 1871 were in Grosvenor Square, Park Lane, Brook Street, Grosvenor Street, Upper Brook Street and Upper Grosvenor Street, and a similar concentration had no doubt existed in 1841. In Grosvenor Square in 1841 over 76 per cent of the residents listed in the census were domestic servants, (fn. 3) while in 1871 (when a greater proportion of householders and their families were absent on the night of the census) servants accounted for over 80 per cent of the inhabitants of the square. In those 43 houses which were in normal occupation at the time of the count in 1841, the average size of each household was 16.7, of whom 12.9 were servants. Twenty-six of these 43 houses had 12 or more servants, the largest number being at No. 44, where a staff of 23 attended to the Earl of Harrowby and four members of his family.

In 1871 the average size of household in the 29 houses in Grosvenor Square which were in normal occupation had declined to 13.8, of whom 10.8 were servants. The largest domestic establishment was at No. 41, the house of Sir Henry Meux, baronet, of the brewing family, where there were 21 servants. The largest complement of all, in either census, was at Dudley House, Park Lane, in 1871, where the Earl and Countess of Dudley, their infant son, a nephew and two nieces, were attended by 28 domestic servants, two coachmen and seven stable 'helpers'.

In 1841 domestic servants accounted for between 67 and 72 per cent of all the residents in Upper Brook Street, the western part of Grosvenor Street, and Upper Grosvenor Street. In the houses where normal occupancy existed on the night of the census the average size of each household was 10.9 in Upper Brook Street and 10.7 in Upper Grosvenor Street, and the average number of servants was 7.3. Households in the western part of Grosvenor Street averaged 12.8, of whom 9 were servants. In 1871 these figures had fallen only slightly, 66 per cent of the residents in these streets still being servants, and the average number of servants in each house being about seven. In the western half of Brook Street some 62 per cent of the residents were servants in both 1841 and 1871, but their numbers in the houses in normal occupation fell from an average of 7.0 to slightly below 5.7.

In addition to the domestic servants there were also the coachmen and grooms, of whom there were over six hundred living on the estate in 1871. Many of the great houses in Grosvenor Square and the streets leading off it had their own coach-houses and stables in the mews on to which they backed, but in the censuses the residents in the mews were almost always classified separately from their employers, and the precise number of stable staff belonging to any particular house cannot easily be found, even in the census of 1871, and in that of 1841 never: the previously mentioned case of Dudley House provides a rare exception, and the Marquess of Westminster's stables are known to have been near Grosvenor House in Reeves Mews, where in 1871 lived the head coachman and his family, an assistant coachman, a groom and two servants. The census of 1871 shows that in the yards and mews behind the principal streets, in such places as Adams Mews (now Row), Blackburne's Mews, Three Kings Yard and Wood's Mews, almost all the male working residents by then in fact worked with horses, the public-house keepers, of whom there were often one in each mews, being the most notable exceptions. A few farriers, jobmasters, ostlers, carmen, coachsmiths and such like could be found there, but by far the most numerous occupations were those of coachman and groom. In Three Kings Yard, for instance, ten of the twelve householders were coachmen or grooms, the other two being a female domestic servant and the keeper of the public house at the corner of Davies Street. The latter and one footman were the only men not working in the stables. The entire population of this busy little working community lurking inconspicuously behind the fashionable mansions of Brook Street, Grosvenor Street and Grosvenor Square upon which it was so totally dependent and yet from which it was socially so totally divided, amounted to sixty-five persons.

Apart from demand for personal service, both indoors and outdoors, wealthy residents' other great want, sufficiently extensive to reflect itself in the general pattern of employment on the estate, was in the field of dress and fashion. But while demand for domestic service declined between 1841 and 1871, demand for services providing for personal adornment was increasing. The Table above shows that whereas in 1841 1,060 residents had work dependent on dress and fashion, a figure equivalent to 11.5 per cent of the working population of the estate, by 1871 the corresponding figures were 1,348 residents, amounting to 16 per cent of the working population. During this period the number of dressmakers rose from 310 to 507, and of tailors from 205 to 269, but laundresses remained constant at 116 and 113. The remainder included such trades as milliner, draper, hosier, hatter, haberdasher, bootmaker, dyer, waistcoat-maker, hairdresser, lace merchant and lace cleaner. Apart from domestic service these trades provided in toto by far the largest source of local employment for women.

Unlike many of the servants, coachmen and grooms, the residents engaged in these trades were scattered over many parts of the estate, with particular concentrations in the poorer areas immediately to the south of Oxford Street and in what are now Grosvenor Hill and Bourdon Street. Many of the women were the wives or daughters of householders engaged in quite different trades, and the needlewomen and laundresses in particular probably often worked at home, the sooty grime of London and the absence as yet of a constant water supply providing the latter with continuous and arduous work. There were, however, half a dozen employers of large, generally resident, staffs of needlewomen or shop assistants. In 1871 three of these—a dressmaker (whose staff of eleven lived elsewhere), a lace merchant and a linen-draper—were in South Audley Street, and there was one each in Mount Street (court dressmaker) and the eastern parts of Brook Street (milliner) and Grosvenor Street (silk mercer). The biggest of these establishments was that of Smith, Durrant, Mayhew and Loder, at Nos. 58–60 (consec.) South Audley Street, where Francis Loder, living in 1871 with his wife and two infant sons, employed a male staff of six assistants, four porters, two clerks and two apprentices, and a female staff of sixteen assistants, plus a female domestic staff of seven—all living in.

The demands of wealthy residents on the estate may also have been at least partly responsible for the number of local workers engaged in the coachbuilding trades. This demand was of course very small in comparison with those for personal service and the dress trades, the total number of workers in the trades of coachbuilder, painter, trimmer, smith, plater and springmaker being only 74 in 1841 and 81 in 1871. A large proportion of them lived in the area immediately south of Oxford Street, where they had been established for many years. This concentration may well, indeed, have originated in the low rents charged here at the time of the original development of the estate, for coachbuilding always required a considerable amount of space; but the close proximity of numerous wealthy customers was no doubt also an advantage, just as it is to-day for the motor-car dealers of Berkeley Square and Berkeley Street.

Few of the numerous other trades practised on the estate appear to have been notably directed towards the requirements of the rich residents upon which the occupations so far discussed did chiefly depend. Some of the firms (mainly shops) in which the 521 residents engaged in 1871 in the food and drink trades worked no doubt catered for expensive local tastes, and the poulterer John Baily, who employed sixteen men at his shop in Mount Street, was in later years known to the Duke of Westminster himself. But the relatively even distribution of the food and drink trade workers throughout all but the most exclusive residential parts of the estate suggests that most business was of a very local nature. In the High Victorian world of 1871 the 56 publicans living on the estate, at all events, are not likely to have been greatly dependent upon the custom of upper-class residents. Some of the 73 lodging-house keepers may, on the other hand, to judge from their numbers in such partly fashionable streets as Green Street, Park Street and Mount Street, have found much of their custom amongst persons of rank who had no town house of their own. It is a testimony to the accuracy of Anthony Trollope's observation that when, in Framley Parsonage, Archdeacon Grantly and his wife had occasion to come up to London they took lodgings in Mount Street, which in fact contained in 1871 the highest number of lodging houses of any street on the Grosvenor estate.

Although over half of all the residents on the estate worked in trade or service, there can have been little outward reflection of this in the streets, which were, of course, overwhelmingly residential in character except in such 'shopping' streets as Mount Street and Oxford Street. Dress and fashion, and domestic service, the two principal sources of employment in the area, were unobtrusive trades, and the noise made by the 'machinists' who are occasionally recorded in the census cannot have been so generally heard as in the industrialised quarters of London. Conditions in the two primarily labouring-class areas, immediately south of Oxford Street and in the south-eastern corner of the estate, must certainly have provided a striking contrast with those of the neighbouring Brook Street and Grosvenor Street, but even there the smell of horses must have been far more notable than the clatter of machinery.

The census of 1871 presents a detailed picture of the social composition of the estate as it existed about a decade before the commencement of widespread rebuilding in the early 1880's under the first Duke of Westminster's superintendence. This picture was made about a century after the completion of the original building development, and it shows very clearly how relatively little change had taken place during that period.

Aristocrats and gentlemen still lived mainly in Grosvenor Square and the four streets extending east and west from it. Norfolk (now Dunraven) Street, and the south ends of Park Street and South Audley Street were still fashionable, and Park Lane had come into its own in the early nineteenth century. Nor does the basic pattern of the seasonal movements of the fashionable world seem to have changed greatly since the mid eighteenth century, although November and December had probably become quieter because Parliament now seldom sat in those months.

The public houses in Upper Grosvenor Street and Upper Brook Street no longer existed, but such fashionable streets had become popular with physicians, of whom in 1871 there were three in the former and six in the latter. Rich businessmen were also beginning to appear in small numbers in the best streets—Joseph Baxendale, for instance, the senior partner in the firm of Pickford and Company, the carriers, which had some two thousand employees, lived at No. 78 Brook Street; and in addition to Sir Henry Meux in Grosvenor Square itself there were at least four brewers, those three of them (Sir Thomas Buxton, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks and Octavius Coope) who lived in Upper Brook Street each having a retinue of servants ranging between twelve and nineteen in number.

In both Grosvenor Street and Brook Street the number of tradesmen had declined since 1790, and members of the medical profession had settled there in large numbers. In Grosvenor Street in 1871 18 houses were occupied by physicians and surgeons and another five by four dentists and an oculist—equivalent to 31 per cent of all the houses in the street within the estate; and in Brook Street there were also 18 houses similarly occupied, plus another two by dentists, making 44 per cent of all the houses there within the estate. Another five houses in Brook Street were now occupied by two private hotels, Lillyman's at No. 43 and Claridge's at Nos. 49–55 (odd). Both these establishments had originated in the early nineteenth century, the former as Kirkham's, the latter as Wake's and Mivart's, and both belonged to that select class of hotel where 'no guests were received who were not known to the landlord either personally or through fit credentials . . .An unknown and unaccredited stranger could, by the mere chance latch-key of wealth, no more obtain access to such hotels as these than he could make himself to-day [1920] a member of some exclusive club by placing the amount of the entrance fee in the hands of the hall porter.' (fn. 7) At Claridge's, on the night of the census in 1871, the thirty-nine visitors were attended by sixty-six living-in servants—a number that probably included both personal domestics and the hotel staff.

In Mount Street, despite the presence of one peer, two M.P.'s and two foreign nobles, the commercial element of the population may have increased slightly since the mid eighteenth century, some 75 per cent of the householders being engaged in trade or domestic service. In North Audley Street, too, there seems to have been a small increase, for here all but four of the householders in 1871 were in trade, the exceptions being two widows, a surgeon and a schoolmistress; but in South Audley Street no perceptible change had taken place, some 65 per cent of the householders being tradesmen, and most of the 'independents' being still at the south end. Most of the tradesmen in these streets kept few domestic servants, the average number in the commercial households of North Audley Street, for instance, being only slightly over one each. In Mount Street, it may be noted, the residence of several butlers (described as head of household) with their families shows that at any rate senior domestics did not always live at their place of employment; but elsewhere on the estate (in Davies Street and Binney Street) there are instances of households consisting of butlers' wives and children without a husband or father, who was presumably 'living in' at his employer's house.

The parts of the estate on which substantial social change first took place were in the poorer areas occupied by the labouring classes. The two main such areas were immediately south of Oxford Street chiefly east of North Audley Street, and in the south-eastern extremity of the estate in the mews now known as Grosvenor Hill, Bourdon Street and Place, Broadbent Street and Jones Street. Both these areas had been relatively poorly occupied since the time of the original building development, and both were greatly altered in the second half of the nineteenth century by the building of blocks of model lodging houses. But whereas in the area immediately south of Oxford Street the first such block (Clarendon Buildings in Balderton Street) was still in course of erection at the time of the census of 1871 and had not yet been occupied, in the south-eastern corner of the estate several blocks had already been completed; and the effect of this innovation can therefore be compared, at any rate for the years between 1841 and 1871.

The two censuses show that in the twenty-nine fourstorey houses with basements in Robert Street (now Weighhouse Street), parallel with Oxford Street, there was no significant change in the total numbers of residents. In 1841 there were 526 and in 1871, 512, the latter figure being about ten per cent more than the population of the whole of Grosvenor Square. The average number of residents per house was thus 18.1 and 17.65 respectively. Many of the inhabitants were coachmen, tailors, porters, labourers, building tradesmen, needlewomen and charwomen. In 1871 each of the twenty-nine houses in this street contained an average of 4.9 separate households; and the average number of residents in each household was 3.6 (compared with 13.8 for the houses in Grosvenor Square in normal occupation on the night of the census). Comparable figures for households in 1841 are not available.

But in the south-eastern mews area the building of several blocks of model lodging houses in the 1850's and 1860's greatly increased the overall population of this little working-class territory. In 1841 there were 805 residents in the 76 dwellings there, and in 1871 857 in 81 dwellings, the average number per dwelling remaining constant at 10.6. But by 1871 the new model lodging houses contained 287 extra residents; the total population of this densely packed little enclave, only some two and a half acres in extent, was thus 1,144, equivalent to nearly eight per cent of the population of the entire hundred-acre estate.

Despite such wide variety of social circumstances, Grosvenor Square and the principal streets had to a notable extent retained for over a century the original social cachet of their first development. This was not always the case in originally fashionable areas. Covent Garden Piazza, built in the 1630's to attract 'Persons of the greatest Distinction' had lost much of its social prestige within two generations, the growth of the adjacent market being partly responsible. (fn. 8) Its later seventeenth-century successors, Golden Square, containing 'such houses as might accommodate Gentry', Soho Square, said in 1720 to be 'well inhabited by Nobility and Gentry', and Leicester Square, had all suffered a considerable social decline within two or at most three generations. (fn. 9) On the Earl of Burlington's estate (Cork Street and Savile Row area), where building had begun at about the same time as on the Grosvenor estate, the process took a little longer, but substantial change had nevertheless taken place by 1850. (fn. 10) On the other hand, Berkeley Square, Cavendish Square, Portman Square and above all St. James's Square (built as long ago as the 1660's and 70's) had retained their original social character largely unchanged. These varying fortunes suggest that favourable topographical situation and the absence of adverse social influences from surrounding areas were of more importance in preserving the original social quality of an estate than either the terms of land tenure at the time of first building or the watchful management of a ground landlord intent on maintaining the value of his property.


  • 1. Excluding residents of the titled and leisured classes, the balance of the population consisted of the wives and children of the residents working in the professions, trade or service, students and all other untitled persons who left the 'occupation' column of the census schedule blank.
  • 2. These figures for servants may be compared with those for the Queen's Gate area of South Kensington in Survey of London, volume XXXVIII, 1975, p. 322.
  • 3. As has already been mentioned, the census of 1841 does not differentiate between domestic servants and coachmen and grooms, but the census of 1871, which does make this differentiation, contains hardly any coachmen or grooms resident in Grosvenor Square or other principal streets. It has therefore been assumed that in the census of 1841 the servants recorded at such addresses were indoor domestics and not stable staff, who were, of course, listed, also as 'servants', in large numbers in the nearby mews.
  • 4. The enumerators' books for 1841 are in P.R.O., HO 107/733/4–6, 8, 16, and HO 107/734/5–6, 8 9. Those for 1871 are in P.R.O., RG 10/92–95, 97–99, 101–102.
  • 5. R. Price-Williams, 'The Population of London 1801 81', in Journal of the Statistical Society, vol. 48, 1885, p. 389.
  • 6. P.P., 1843, XXII, Abstract of the Answers and Returns: Enumeration Abstract, p. 3n.
  • 7. W. H. Mallock, Memoirs of Life and Literature, 1920, p. 71.
  • 8. Survey of London, vol. XXXVI, 1970, p. 82.
  • 9. Ibid., vol. XXXI, 1963, p. 143; vol. XXXIII, 1966, p. 45; vol. XXXIV, 1966, pp. 424, 428–30.
  • 10. Ibid., vol. XXXII, 1963, pp. 442, 453, 454.