The first official Census of Population in England was taken in 1801 and a census has been taken every ten years since except for 1941. 2001 therefore is the year of the Census. The analysis, however, may take two or more years before it is published. Meanwhile, for the Village Millennium Book, is it possible to give some estimate of the number of people living in Wookey Hole with a broad breakdown into age groups, gender and a look back at recent changes?

In the case of the village, the most but not always totally accurate source of data is the Electoral Roll, ‘The Wookey Hole Polling District of the North and West Ward of the Parish of St. Cuthbert Out in the Somerset County Electoral Division of Mendip West’. Up to 1998 the ancient title was ‘The Out Parish of St. Cuthbert (part) North Ward (except Easton and Walcombe Tithings)’. The Rolls are presented annually just after St. Valentine’s Day, based on the information provided by all householders during the autumn of the previous year and pinned up on the notice board of the Parish Church.

All the entries are arranged alphabetically and are numbered. In 2001 the final entry, being numbered 489, should provide the information required. This Polling District however also includes outlying settlements which are generally not considered to be in Wookey Hole, principally Haybridge and the new housing estate adjoining Underwood Business Park on the Wells Road. The Roll also identifies young people who will reach the age of 18 during the coming Electoral Year but these cannot count if the objective is to find the population on a specific date i.e. St. Valentine’s Day. The 114 thereby excluded reduces the number of electors to 375. As the earlier counts did not include the 41 residents of the Wookey Hole Nursing Home (named in the Census as ‘Residents in Communal Establishments) for comparative purposes it would be wise to state that the Adult Population of Wookey Hole is 334 + 41.

Clearly this number omits everybody below the voting age. Fortunately, there is useful data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) for the Mendip District for mid-1999. This states that 25% of the District are 17 years of age or younger and that 75% are adults. Transferring these percentages from the District to the Village gives an estimate that there are 125 young people aged 0-17. However, the closure of the Village School in 1989 indicates that 125 is far to high a number for this age group.

The 41 residents of the Nursing Home almost certainly, given the size of the village, have created a population imbalance, giving a predictably higher proportion than the average for senior citizens. The Planning Policy Group of Somerset County Council (SCC) calculate that the proportion in 1991 of ‘residents in communal establishments’ in Mendip District to the total population was 1.4%, whilst the Electoral Roll data for Wookey Hole in 2001, admittedly ten years later but still very similar on 1991, gives a proportion of 8.5% which is six times greater.

For the reasons stated above the calculation giving the number of children in Wookey Hole must have a different database. Excluding the Nursing Home residents and using the SCC estimate for 1991 that 20.2% of the population of the Parish of St. Cuthbert Out were children, it is possible to calculate that there are 85 young people aged between 0 and 17 living in the village in 2001. Adding 85 to the total adult figure of 375 makes 460 the total number of people living in Wookey Hole in 2001.

Of the adult population of the village of 375 how many are 65+ ? The most recent statistic available from ONS for Mendip is that 17% of the population are over 65. For the reasons already given this must be too low for Wookey Hole. Excluding again from this calculation the 41 Nursing Home residents (460-41) the 17% would give 71 as the number of villagers living in their own homes. Adding back the 41 residents would make 112 as the number of people 65 and over living in Wookey Hole in 2001. If the ladies aged 60 to 64 were included to give the total OAP population instead of 65+ the 112 might increase to 122 (but this can only be regarded with caution).

The proportion of male adults to female is fairly easy to establish and comes directly from the 2001 Electoral Roll. This reads 155 males (46.4%) and 179 females (53.6); to which can be added 11 males and 30 females from the nursing home. The ONS figures for Mendip are 47.6% and 52.4% respectively which are not too dissimilar. Accordingly the same source states 52.8% for boys (85x52.8%=45) and 47.2% for girls (40). The total male population in Wookey Hole in 2001 would be 211 and that for females 249.

With Wookey Hole being bound in the north west by Ebbor cottages on the Easton Road, in the north east by Whitegate Cottage in Lower Milton, in the south east by Toomers Corner at the junction of Glencot Road and the Wells Road and in the south west by Hurstbatch, it is not difficult to count the number of dwellings. On St. Valentine’s Day 2001 the count produced exactly 200 houses, cottages, flats and homesteads. The number of villagers, excluding the 41 nursing home residents, divided by this number makes the occupancy ratio of Wookey Hole to be 2.09. This is certainly less than the estimated ratio (SCC) of 2.38 for the Parish of St. Cuthbert Out in 1996.

This leaves one item of general interest: the population trend over the last few years. Once again excluding the Nursing Home residents the population movement of those listed in the Electoral Rolls is as follows:-

In 1999, for example, the adult population of the Village, other than the residents of the Nursing Home, was 350. Of these 324 were living in Wookey Hole in 1998 and 26 were newcomers; 313 remained in the Village to at least 2000 and 37 departed. Of the 334 people in 2001, 175 or over half, were living in Wookey Hole in 1991, ten years earlier. There has been a slow but steady decline in the population over these ten years. It is quite possible, however, that in 2001 and 2002 this process will be reversed and that there will be a net increase in the number of people living in Wookey Hole.

It is interesting to relate the above analysis to an informal census taken in 1872 and then later in 1932. Each census is reprinted here in full.

J. Parsons