Five and a half people adds up to a crowded house

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John Kay, Chairman of Ringmer Parish Council, writes: ‘The changes in the population of Lewes are even more remarkable than you imply in ‘People and Places’ in a recent County Yarns.

In 1851 the population of the seven parishes that make up modern Lewes was about 9,800, and it had been growing rapidly since the late 18th century.

You can still see today the many small cottages that were built in this period of population boom.

In 1846 the railway arrived in Lewes, with the consequence that the period of rapid population increase came to a dramatic halt, from which it has never recovered.

This is an unusual, and as far as I know unexplained, response.

A simple interpretation is that in Lewes, unlike in most other towns, people used the new railways to leave!

You are quite right that Lewes has shown a remarkably slow rate of population growth since 1931.

Once one of the largest towns in the county, it has been eclipsed not only by Brighton and Hastings, but also by Eastbourne, Worthing, Crawley, East Grinstead, Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill, Seaford, Hailsham, Peacehaven and a host of smaller places.

Some of these hardly existed when the census records began in 1801.

Many of these fast-growing towns owe their very existence to the railway.

I should add that Ringmer has not seen quite the level of growth you report.

I believe its population in 1931 was 1,607, not 350.

Ringmer has always been a large rural community - it was nearly 1,339 in 1841.’

David Arnold comments: I’m sure John will know more about the population of Ringmer than I do.

I based the figure of 350 on a count of the Ringmer houses listed in the Blue Book for 1938.

But then I forgot that more than one person would be living in most of the houses!

If we allow for an average of four per house my tally still comes out short of John’s figure.

Maybe the Blue Book isn’t as exhaustive a record as it appears to be?

John also made the interesting point that in the 1841 census, there were found to be an average of 5.5 people per house, today it’s less than half that.

As it happens, my own 
family has recently contributed to Ringmer’s continuing growth.

My daughter Helen together with husband Stuart Mouland and little Jessica and Sienna have moved into a nice house right in the heart of the village.

Stu, by the way, is a self-employed roofer.

You could say he enjoys a day out on the tiles.