Select Bibliography of the Religious History of Modern Britain
Church of England
New Religious Movements
Recent Publications on the 1851 Religious Census of England and Wales
Contemporary Regional Studies of Religion as Social Capital in England and Wales
Church of England Clergy Visitation Returns of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Primary Sources: Editions of Returns
Primary Sources: Editions of Specula
Secondary Sources: Visitation Process
Secondary Sources: Use of Returns
Abraham Hume’s Contribution to Religious Statistics and Sociology
Local Censuses of Church Attendance in Great Britain, 1881-82
Newman Demographic Survey and Pastoral Research Centre
John Highet’s Contribution to Scottish Religious Statistics
Local Censuses of Church Attendance in Great Britain, 1901-12
The Newman Demographic Survey originated on 15 October 1953 as an agency of the Newman Association of Great Britain, with the intention of applying the social sciences in general and statistics in particular to the mission of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Its driving-force was Anthony Ernest Charles Winchcombe Spencer, who became its founder honorary secretary and, from 1959, its paid director. For the first five years it functioned entirely through the voluntary labours of Catholic lay graduates and professionals with an interest in statistics and social research, and it had 200 of them on its books at one stage.
Then, in the summer of 1958, the first salaried staff member was appointed when the Survey secured a commission from the Catholic Education Council to research the future supply of Roman Catholic teachers. Further consultancies followed, from Catholic dioceses and organizations, and by the end of 1962 the Survey had 13.5 full-time equivalent staff. Even so, and despite a continuing dependence on volunteers, it was rarely far from insolvency, while the external contracts inevitably skewed the Survey’s original priorities.
The Survey’s principal successes were in establishing on a secure and consistent footing the collection and analysis of recurrent statistics relating to Roman Catholic population, pastoral activities, schools, pupils, teachers, and higher education students. By 1959 an annual census of Catholic schools had been initiated, and all dioceses were using a common form to return their demographic and pastoral statistics, which were centrally validated and tabulated. A census of Catholic clergy and religious in England and Wales was completed in 1961, and a parish census service was launched early in 1962, following a successful pilot in Aberystwyth. A fuller assessment of the Survey’s achievements, in the eyes of Spencer, is provided in:
‘The Newman Demographic Survey, 1953-62: Nine Years of Progress’, Wiseman Review, Vol. 236, 1962, pp. 139-54.
‘The Newman Demographic Survey, 1953-1964: Reflection on the Birth, Life and Death of a Catholic Institute for Socio-Religious Research’, Social Compass, Vol. 11, No. 3-4, 1964, pp. 31-40.
‘The Newman Demographic Survey’, A Use of Gifts: The Newman Association, 1942-1992, London: Newman Association, 1992, pp. 34-7.
A detailed overview of the Survey’s research may be found in Annotated Bibliography of Newman Demographic Survey Reports & Papers, 1954-1964, ed. Anthony Ernest Charles Winchcombe Spencer (Taunton: Russell-Spencer, 2006).
During its ten and a half years’ existence the Survey was required to restrict access to most of its reports and papers, but early in 2005 the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales agreed to declassify all of them. Since then a good number of the reports have been formally published for the first time by Russell-Spencer Ltd, usually with a new foreword or personal postscript. Copies have been lodged with the six legal deposit libraries, and may also be bought by individuals.
The remainder of that part of the Survey’s archives and databank, which were inherited by the Pastoral Research Centre but are not yet in a sufficiently complete or polished state to render them suitable for publication, may be consulted (by prior arrangement) at the Pastoral Research Centre, Stone House, Hele, Tanuton, Somerset, TA4 1AJ.
In addition to these then unpublished reports and papers, some limited findings and commentaries by the Survey’s staff were put into the public domain. Spencer’s own publications from these years included:
‘The Newman Demographic Survey: How and Why’, The Tablet, 29 October 1955.
‘Youth and Religion’, New Life, Vol. 14, 1958, pp. 1-59.
‘More Catholic Marriages: An Increasing Proportion of the Annual Total’, The Tablet, 14 March 1959.
‘Irish Catholics in England: The Recent Immigration Figures’, The Tablet, 22 August 1959.
‘Studying the Faithful: From Head-Counting to Psycho-Sociology’, The Tablet, 18 September 1959.
‘Counting England’s Catholics’, Hibernia, 16 October 1959.
‘The Newman Demographic Survey’, Catholic Gazette, 18 October 1959.
‘Anglican Conversions: The Claims of the Church of England’s Year Book’, The Tablet, 16 January 1960.
‘The Post-War Growth in the Catholic Child Population of England and Wales’, Catholic Education: A Handbook, 1960/61, London: Catholic Education Council for England and Wales, 1960, pp. 18-29.
‘Numbering the People: No Question About Religion’, The Tablet, 22 April 1961.
‘Pastoral Care and Religious Sociology’, Clergy Review, Vol. 48, 1963, pp. 475-97.
The Survey’s existence had depended to a significant extent upon the backing of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. This had been quickly obtained after the Survey’s inauguration, but was withdrawn on 11 December 1963, following a dispute over a conference paper given by Spencer on Catholic education, of which the Catholic Education Council disapproved.
The Survey, which was by that time a company limited by guarantee, was accordingly forced into liquidation on 29 February 1964. From 1 March, the Survey’s work was split into two halves. The Catholic Education Council assumed responsibility for the pastoral, population and educational statistics services. Spencer was appointed research lecturer at Cavendish Square Graduate College of the Holy Child nuns and took with him the Survey’s programmes of work on evangelization, religious vocations, parishioner records and censuses, support for the Third World and investigations in the sociology of religion in general. These were rebranded as the Pastoral Research Centre. The Survey’s staff, library, archives and databank were split along similar lines between the Council and the College.
During his time at the College, Spencer extended his research into Roman Catholicism to Scotland and New Zealand, as well as England and Wales. He continued to draw upon the earlier work of the Newman Demographic Survey but also conducted new research through the Pastoral Research Centre, including – for a short while – further parish censuses. Additionally, he set up, in September 1965, Socio-Religious Research Services. This institution launched an ecumenical census service; however, this seems to have been short-lived, with Bishop’s Stortford the only place to have been surveyed.
Spencer’s publications from this period include:
‘Bemerkungen zu einer statistischen Definition der Zugehörigkeit zu Kirche’, Die Zugehörigkeit zur Kirche: Bericht über die 7. Internationale Konferenz für Religionssoziologie in Königstein/Taunus vom 30. Juni bis 2. Juli 1962, eds Walter Menges and Norbert Greinacher, Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, 1964.
‘Vers une definition statistique de l’appartenance à l’Église’, L’appartenance religieuse: Conférence Internationale de Sociologie Religieuse, Königstein, 1962, Bruxelles: Éditions du CEP, 1965.
‘How Effective are Catholic Schools?’, Slant, Vol. 1, No. 4, Spring 1965, pp. 9-13.
‘The Demography and Sociography of the Roman Catholic Community of England and Wales’, The Committed Church, eds Laurence Bright and Simon Clements, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1966, pp. 60-85.
‘The Structure and Organisation of the Catholic Church in England’, Uses of Sociology, eds James Dermot Halloran and Joan Brothers, London: Sheed and Ward, 1966, pp. 91-125.
‘Catholicism and Communication’, Social Compass, Vol. 14, 1967, pp. 67-71.
Report on the Parish Register Statistics of the Catholic Church in Scotland, 1966, Harrow: Pastoral Research Centre, 1967.
‘Statistics, Ecclesiastical’, New Catholic Encyclopedia, 15 vol., New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967, Vol. 13, pp. 672-6.
‘An Evaluation of Roman Catholic Educational Policy in England and Wales, 1900-1960’, Religious Education: Drift or Decision?, ed. Philip Jebb, London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1968, pp. 165-221.
‘Religious Census of Bishop’s Stortford’, A Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain, ed. David Alfred Martin, London: SCM Press, 1968, pp. 135-45.
Report on the Parish Register, Religious Practice & Population Statistics of the Catholic Church in Scotland, 1967, Harrow: Pastoral Research Centre, 1969.
‘The Future of the Episcopal and Papal Roles’, IDOC International, North American Edition, No. 3, May 1970, pp. 63-84.
Unfortunately, Cavendish Square Graduate College closed in 1969, and Spencer began teaching sociology at Queen’s University Belfast in 1970. For much of his time there, he turned, not unnaturally, to research into religion and conflict resolution in an Irish context. Moreover, the Pastoral Research Centre’s library, archives and databank were in store from 1990 to 2000. His publications on Catholicism in England and Wales were accordingly more limited in number, but included:
The Future of Catholic Education in England and Wales: A Report, Watford: Catholic Renewal Movement, 1971.
‘The Catholic Community as a British Melting Pot’, New Community, Vol. 2, 1973, pp. 125-31.
‘Demography of Catholicism’, The Month, Vol. 236, 1975, pp. 100-5.
‘Alienation in English Catholicism, 1958-1972’, Proceedings of the Second Annual Conference, Sociological Association of Ireland, Dublin, 4-5 April 1975, eds Anthony Ernest Charles Winchcombe Spencer and Patrick Augustine O’Dwyer, Belfast: Department of Social Studies, Queen’s University of Belfast, 1976, pp. 115-34.
‘Catholics in Britain and Ireland: Regional Contrasts’, Demography of Immigrants and Minority Groups in the United Kingdom: Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Symposium of the Eugenics Society, London, 1981, ed. David Anwyll Coleman, London: Academic Press, 1982, pp. 213-43.
Following his retirement, Spencer eventually relocated to England, where he was able to rearrange the Pastoral Research Centre’s library, archives and databank at Taunton in 2002. This has facilitated a renewed programme of research and publishing based upon the declassified reports of the Newman Demographic Survey and the resources of the Pastoral Research Centre.
An especially important milestone has been the collation, from a variety of sources, of a Digest of Statistics of the Catholic Community of England & Wales, 1958-2005, Volume 1: Population and Vital Statistics, Pastoral Services, Evangelisation and Education, ed. Anthony Ernest Charles Winchcombe Spencer (Taunton: Russell-Spencer, 2007).
A second volume is planned, to cover overseas mission and evangelization, higher education, social welfare, social action, other personnel, other finance, other Catholic organizations, and the Catholic mass media.
In an effort to reenergize the Catholic Church’s central statistical efforts, which appear to have collapsed somewhat since the reorganization which resulted in the creation of the Catholic Education Service in 1991 and the subsequent devolution of most of the pastoral and demographic statistical responsibility to dioceses, Spencer submitted two unpublished reports to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in autumn 2003. These were briefly considered by them in February 2004 but not acted upon. In the face of the Conference’s apparent unwillingness to make improvements, Spencer prepared a more detailed critique, which was put into the public domain as well as being sent to the Conference: Facts and Figures for the Twenty-First Century: An Assessment of the Statistics of the Catholic Community of England and Wales at the Start of the Century (Taunton: Russell-Spencer, 2006). As yet, there are few signs that Spencer’s recommendations (including the proposal to set up a modestly-sized central statistical unit for the Church) are likely to be taken up by the bishops.
Sincere thanks are expressed to Tony Spencer for his help in the preparation of this appendix.
Forward to Appendix 8: John Highet’s Contribution to Scottish Religious Statistics