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SUMMARY When directing the first English census John Rickman was intent not only on discovering the size of the population in 1801 but also on tracing past trends both nationally and for individual counties. He returned to the latter investigation on several later occasions, notably in the 1830s. There have been many subsequent attempts to improve upon his national estimates, but his estimates of county totals have continued to be used extensively, either unchanged or slightly modified. Rickman was aware that his estimates were subject to wide margins of error. For the later eighteenth century it is possible to produce new estimates which are probably substantially more accurate, taking advantage of the fact that after Hardwicke’s Act (1753) the registration of marriages in Anglican parish registers, unlike that of baptisms and burials, was virtually complete. They show that the contrast between population growth rates in ‘industrial’ counties and those in which agriculture continued to predominate were significantly more marked than suggested by Rickman’s estimates. The same exercise that produces county estimates also yields hundredal totals, which will in future allow a more refined account of relative growth and stagnation to be made.