The number of Christians in Devon and Cornwall has fallen at the same time as a sharp rise in the proportion classifying themselves as having "no religion".
The changing face of the Westcountry over the past decade was detailed yesterday in the latest batch of figures to be released from the 2011 Census.
Tens of thousands of people declared their nationality as "Cornish" – including more than 2,000 Devon residents – and the house price spiral that has squeezed young people out of the housing market was confirmed by a sharp drop in the number of mortgage-holders.
Among the most striking of yesterday's revelations following the survey of the population of England and Wales, the country appears to have grown more secular since the last tally in 2001.
In line with the wider national trend, the number of people declaring themselves Christian – including Church of England, Catholic and all other Christian denominations – was 63.3% in Torbay, 61.5% in Devon county, 59.8% in Cornwall and 58.1% in Plymouth.
But the figures were higher ten years earlier.
The share of the Torbay population stating they were Christian in 2001 was 76.2% (meaning the 2011 figure is down 12.9 percentage points), Devon 74.8% (a fall of 13.3 percentage points), Cornwall 74.3% (tumbling 14.5 percentage points) and Plymouth 73.5% (a dip of 15.4 percentage points).
At the same time, the number of people declaring they had "no religion" was up 14.6 percentage points in Plymouth, rising 13.6 percentage points in Cornwall, up 12.6 percentage points in Torbay and up 12.3 percentage points in Devon county.
The figures on religion were seized upon by secular campaigners who had urged people to tick the "no religion" box when they filled out the Census.
Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said: "This is a really significant cultural shift.
"In spite of a biased question that positively encourages religious responses, to see such an increase in the non-religious and such a decrease in those reporting themselves as Christian is astounding."
Another significant shift in the region saw almost 84,000 people across the country have declared their nationality as Cornish – putting the Duchy in the same field as British, English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish.
Around 73,000 of them hail from Cornwall. Some 52,793 in Cornwall – or 9.9% – stated Cornish as their sole national identity, representing a 56% increase from 2001 where 33,896 people identified as Cornish (or 6.8%). The remaining declared a "dual-nationality", which was not an option available in 2001.
The Cornish diaspora is evident nationwide. In London, 1,215 people are at least part-Cornish, 277 believe Cornish to be their nationality in Yorkshire and the Humber, and the North East boasts 87 Cornish nationals – including one in Hartlepool and another in Gateshead. Across the river Tamar in Devon, just over 2,000 Devon residents declared themselves Cornish.
Dan Rogerson, Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall, said the real figure is likely to be higher as there is no tick-box for people responding to the Census to say they are "Cornish". Instead, they have to tick "other" and then write in their response.
Campaigners say measuring the strength of Cornish nationalism helps in the drive for greater powers being devolved to the area.
Cornwall Council launched a campaign ahead of the Census to raise awareness of Cornish ethnicity and national identity.
Paul Masters, assistant chief executive of Cornwall Council, added: "It was also to communicate the option to those who might be resistant to completing their forms as a result of not having a specific Cornish tick box."
The Westcountry's housing crisis has also been exposed by the Census figures. In the Devon county council area, 29.8% of households are borrowing money to buy a home according to the 2011 Census.
The figure stood at 35.2% ten years earlier. The 5.4 percentage points fall in Devon was similar to drops of 5.8% in Plymouth, 5.1% in Torbay and 4.5% in Cornwall.
The rise in home ownership has been unbroken for decades, but the surge in Westcountry house prices has squeezed many local people out of the property market and into renting.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: "These figures confirm that home ownership is slipping further and further out of reach, no matter how hard people work or save.
"Today's broken housing market isn't the result of the credit crunch or mortgage lending, but decades of under-investment in building the affordable homes we need."
95% ‘White’ 60% ‘Christian’, 11% unpaid carer
Jointly with the South East, the South West had the smallest proportion of “socially rented local authority” households (6%).
The South West had the highest proportion (35%) of households in England that owned their homes outright.
The South West had the highest proportion of people in England declaring their ethnicity as ‘White’ (at 95%) a 2% decrease since 2001, and smallest of all the regions.
The region had the lowest proportions of ‘Pakistani’, ‘Bangladeshi’ and ‘Chinese’ residents (all less than 1%).
In the South West there was a 12% decrease in the proportion of people who stated their religious affiliation as ‘Christian’, as with most regions of England and Wales between 2001 and 2011.
In 2011, 60% of residents in this region were Christian.
The South West had the lowest proportion of Muslims (1%) in England and Wales, the lowest proportion of Sikhs (0.1%), and the highest proportion of Buddhists (0.4%) in England and Wales.
In 2011 there were 405,000 foreign-born residents in the South West, 8% of the usual resident population.
In the South West 21% of people aged 16 or over had no recognised qualification – 6% lower than the proportion with a qualification of degree level or above.
The region had 18% of people whose activities were limited by a long-term health problem or disability. It also had 11% of its people providing unpaid care for someone with an illness or disability.
Key statistics from the 2011 Census
Here is a snapshot of some statistics from the 2011 Census for England and Wales released by the Office for National Statistics.
The total population was 56.1 million, a 7% increase on 2001 – 55% of the increase is due to migration.
80% of the total population were white British and 86% were white ethnic.
7.5 million people were born abroad, which is 2.9 million more than in 2001. Half of those arrived since 2001, and 95% were under 45 when they arrived.
The top countries of birth outside the UK were India and Pakistan – the same as in 2001 – as well as Poland, which was not in the top ten in 2001.
All religions, except for Christianity, increased from 2001, with Muslims going up by two percentage points to 1.5 million.
The number of Christians decreased 13 percentage points to 33.2 million in 2011 from 37.3 million in 2001. The number of people with no religious affiliation increased by ten percentage points from 15% (7.7 million) to 25% (14.1 million).
Christianity was the largest religion in the majority of local authorities except for Tower Hamlets, which had the highest proportion of Muslims at 34.5% – more than seven times the England and Wales average.
4% of households had no usual residents who spoke English as their main language and another 5% had at least one member who did not speak English.
64% (14.9 million) of households owned their own home, either with a mortgage or loan, or outright. 31% of people owned their home outright, which increased from 29% in 2011.
Renting went up by six percentage points from 2001, with 15% of people renting in 2011. More people were renting from private landlords than renting from the council.
Cars and vans available to households rose by 14% – almost double the increase in people. There were more cars and vans than number of households in every region except London.
Four out of five people said they were in good or very good health. Ten million people had a long-term limiting illness, which includes disabilities and age-related problems.
10% of the population provided unpaid care for someone with an illness or disability, which has not changed since 2001. Over two million people provided more than 20 hours of unpaid care per week.
27% of people had Level 4 or above qualifications, eg a Bachelor’s degree, while only 23% had no qualifications.
Married, civil partnered and one-person households accounted for 63% of all households. Nearly 2% lived in communal establishments.
The Census 2011 paints a picture of an increasingly ethnically diverse England and Wales, with a big jump in the population born outside the UK over the last decade.
The majority ethnic group was white, at 48.2 million, or 86%, down from 91% in 2001 and 94% in 1991.
Within this ethnic group, the white British category was the largest at 45.1 million, or 80.5% of the population, a fall compared to 87% in 2001.
Despite the decline in the proportion of white British, this group remained the majority ethnic group in all regions of England and Wales apart from London, where the proportion was 45% in 2011, down from 58% in 2001.
The statistics showed an increase of nearly 600,000 in the number of people classifying themselves as of mixed ethnicity, to more than 1.2 million in 2011.
The data also showed a large jump in the foreign-born population, to 7.5 million, 2.9 million more than in 2001.
Just over half of the foreign-born population arrived in the last 10 years, with 95% of the foreign-born people aged under 45 when they arrived in the UK.
London has the highest proportion of foreign-born people in its population at 37%, meaning that more than one in three people in the capital are foreign-born, with the North East the lowest proportion at 5%, or one in 20 people.
The most frequently stated countries of birth for the foreign-born population showed India and Pakistan were in the top three in both 2001 and 2011.
But two new countries emerged in the list of the top 10 countries of birth outside of the UK in 2011 – Poland, reflecting the migration of Polish people to the UK following the accession of Poland to the European Union (EU), and Nigeria, now number seven in the list, having failed to feature in 2001.
Big jump in foreign-born Britons as Census 2011 reveals ethnic diversity
The 2011 Census also reveals a handful of unusual trends. Here are some of its more unorthodox findings.
Around 177,000 people claim to be Jedi Knights though this number is down on the 2001 figure by more than a half.
Norwich sets itself apart as the capital of Godlessness with the highest proportion of people (42.5%) stating they have no religion.
Asked their religion, 6,242 people answered Heavy Metal.
Some 2,400 people identify with the likes of Tom Cruise and list their religion as Scientology.
The number of Poles living in England and Wales has seen a ten-fold increase from 58,000 in 2001 to 579,000 last year.
More than half of people living in Brent, north West London, were born abroad.