The 1851 Census and immigration
The 1851 census can help us to identify parishes inhabited by first-generation immigrants. In 1851, nearly half of Bristol's 137,000 residents, some 45 per cent, are estimated to have come from outside the city boundaries. Even if they only came from the neighbouring county, historians class them as immigrants.
The census returns tell us their place of birth and enables us to see that, as in the late 20th century, immigrants to Bristol were often more widely distributed throughout the city than popularly supposed. Outside the old city area of Bristol, new suburbs like Bedminster were rapidly springing into existence. Still partly rural, its largely working-class population is noticeably less ethnically diverse than either Bristol as a whole or the quayside parishes of the old city. The 1851 census affords us a valuable snapshot of where people were born, where in the city they settled, with whom they lived and, to some extent, what they did for a living.