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Saturday, 10 March, 2001, 00:02 GMT
Census data stranger than fiction
Coronation Street
Coronation Street: home to a real E Sharples
A 200th anniversary study of Britain's census data has thrown up some uncanny links between fiction and reality.

In 1871 London boasted a real life Albert Square - but it was a haunt of "prostitutes, sailors and brothel keepers" that makes the soap square look positively genteel.

In 1861 Mrs E. Sharples was a cotton mill worker living at 2 Coronation Street in Manchester.

There was a Rover's Return beerhouse, too - but in a different part of Manchester.

I don't think the show's creator Tony Warren had any of this in mind when he was writing the first shows in 1960

Granada spokesman
A Granada spokesman described the discovery as "an amazing co-incidence.

"I don't think the show's creator Tony Warren had any of this in mind when he was writing the first shows in 1960," he said.

London's Albert Square - long-demolished - was close to the Shadwell basin in East London.

The census of 1871 shows that about 60 of the residents were "fallen women" and five of its 16 houses were actually brothels.

'Rough neighbourhood'

There was no Queen Vic pub - but there was a Victoria Lodge which was home to eight prostitutes and a couple of sailors.

Genealogist Audrey Collins, who carried out the research for census-takers the Office of National Statistics, described the place a "a bit of a rough neighbourhood".

Phil Mitchell
Phil Mitchell: getting off lightly?

"Phil Mitchell may not have been shot in the 19th century Albert Square but I think he stood a good chance of being stabbed."

Researchers from the ONS are making preparations for the latest ten-yearly census, due to start on 29 April.

The first British census took place in 1801, in part because of concerns about demographer Thomas Malthus' theories, which suggested that Britain's population might outstrip its food supply.

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