The Henley Census Group began with a meeting at the Christ Church Centre, Henley-on-Thames on 17th April 2007 to introduce the Henley History Project part of the England's Past for Everyone Project. The EPE project was supported from 2005 to 2010 by a £3.3 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, alongside match funding from other national and local partners and managed by a central support team based at the Victoria County History's central office at the University of London.
At the meeting volunteers were invited by Dr Simon Townley to become involved through building recording, photography and documentary work, in particular transcribing wills and census records.
The research by VCH, outside contributors and volunteers was intended to feed into three strands:
- a well illustrated paperback history of Henley due out in 2009.
- a fuller VCH volume on Henley and surrounding parishes in 2010-11.
- an interactive website featuring volunteers' work as well as that of VCH.
The group transcribing census records, included:
- Antonia Wellesley-Davies
- Dorothy Simmons
- Graham Jones
- Janice Jones
- Jill Kendal
- Mary Barrett
- Mary Hooper
During 2009, the available material relating to wills and census entries was added to the VCH/EPE website in the form of pdf files together with narratives written by volunteers and VCH researchers which could be explored for items of interest. When this Henley Census website was created, links to pages of special interest were included, but these have been broken with the passing of time and the ending of Heritage Lottery funding. At 6th September, 2016 the Explore VCH/EPE website can be found here. A more helpful site can be found , and then click on menu item VCH Explore. Prepare to be disappointed. Diligent searching discovers some interesting items such as the will of John Hathaway, Coachman of Henley on Thames and http://www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/explore/items/henley-censuses but the links do not appear to work. Also the website is littered with claims to copyright by the University of London.
The excellent paperback Henley-on-Thames: Town, Trade and River written by Dr Simon Townley was published by Phillimore & Co. Ltd. towards the end of 2009 and launched at an evening reception at the River & Rowing Museum, Henley on 24 November 2009 . The book tells Henley's story from its origins as a medieval inland port shipping grain, malted barley, firewood and other materials to London, through to its modern role as a small tourist and service centre, famous for its annual Royal Regatta. Chapters on the river trade describe the changing life of the Thames and of the town's buildings some, of which have been firmly dated for the first time, thanks to a programme of tree-ring dating undertaken as part of EPE. Behind the relatively modern facades can be found many timber framed mediaeval buildings.
Following publication of this paperback and the end of Heritage Lottery Fund support for the Henley project see epe newsletter Simon Townley moved on to work on the next Victoria County History volume. There was some disappointment that the very considerable efforts of Group members should produce so little of ongoing benefit to local historians, despite the suggestion, very early in the project, that a census database was clearly a desirable outcome. Three members of the Group ceased contributing, but Dorothy, Graham, Janice and Jill decided to continue. Pippa Hare joined briefly, and the transcription of the census records for years 1841 - 1901 was finally completed. The objective of making these available as a fully searchable database was also realised. Some articles, based on partial data were prepared for a meeting at the Chantry House in May 2010. Later, the 1911 census entries were added.
This website is the result. It is complete in the sense that it includes all data items for all census returns for a defined area in and around Henley for a defined number of years.
The so-called "red book", Oxfordshire XVI - Henley-on-Thames and Environs</a> edited by Simon Townley, was published on 21st July 2011.