Kingston Local History Project

Kingston Local History Project has created a comprehensive database detailing major aspects of Kingston's economic and social evolution during the second half of the nineteenth century. The core of the database is the complete census enumerators' returns for each census year 1851-1901. However, as this data only provides a 'snapshot' of Kingston society every ten years the database has been enriched by adding details from other sources - especially registration sources such as parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials and the municipal burial records.

The project offers for analysis one of the most comprehensive local databases in the country, containing over 200,000 records from the census returns for 1851-1891 and registration records from 1850-1914. Although there is no active research currently being undertaken on the KLHP in the Centre for the Historical Record, the Kingston Life Cycles database is available for researchers.

Research aims

  • To provide a detailed longitudinal study of Kingston's socio-economic profile after 1850 and show how this profile changed during a period of significant change in the country as a whole;
  • To use the techniques of record linkage developed by Peter Tilley and Juliet Warren in the Centre to build the life cycles of thousands of individuals living, working and dying in Kingston thereby recreating the essence of what it was actually like to be part of this community in the nineteenth century;
  • In bringing together a variety of sources to trace through multiple life cycles - many "from baptism to grave" - significant research questions can be addressed covering the individual, the family and the community.

These questions deal with:

  • The structures of the community being analysed - including occupational, household, family and social structures and how these changed over time;
  • The flows within the community, including inward and outward migration, levels of persistence, and occupational, social and residential mobility. Life cycle analysis, in particular, is deepening our understanding of the movements - geographic, economic and social - taking place in Victorian society.

Occupational structure

By applying the Booth-Armstrong codes to our occupational data in the second half of the 19th century we can show that the local economy was characterised by:

  • The relative and absolute decline of agriculture, mining, quarrying and brickmaking;
  • The relative - but not absolute - decline of manufacturing;
  • The relative stability but absolute growth of building, and industrial services such as banking, insurance and accounts;
  • The relative and absolute growth in the importance of dealing and retailing; domestic service; transport; and public service and professional sectors;
  • Male employment was remarkably balanced with no sector of the local economy employing more than 20% of the male workforce, whereas the female occupational structure was very different and dominated by one sector - domestic service.
  • Click here to view Kingston's occupational structure in 1871

From an economy which, before the coming of the railways, was based on agriculture, a number of local industries including brewing, malting, milling and brickmaking, and on acting as a market for the surrounding area, Kingston was clearly changing into what the most recent historian of the town has described as "...the economic focus of Surrey and its own suburbs.... (gaining) that dual function - London commuter town and regional economic centre - which it has maintained ever since." [S.Butters, The Book of Kingston (1995), p.101].


Mortality in Kingston between 1850 and 1911 is another area of research being actively pursued by the Project, having developed a comprehensive database of all burials in Kingston after 1850 from local authority and parish burial records. Analysis of this data is allowing us to examine some of the factors - including spatial, social and household factors - that influenced mortality in Kingston before 1911. Findings indicate that:

Centre for the Historical Record