This Return is intended to show, with respect to England and Wales (exclusive of the Metropolis),
1. The number and names of owners of land of one acre and upwards, whether
built upon or not, in each County, with the estimated acreage and annual
gross estimated rental of the property belonging to each owner.
2. The number of owners of land, whether built upon or not, of less than one
acre, with the estimated aggregate acreage and the aggregate gross estimated
rental of the lands of such owners.
3. The estimated extent of commons and waste lands in each County.
The circumstances under which the Return was called for will be best
explained by a reference to the following discussion which took place in the
House of Lords on the 19th of February 1872:
THE EARL OF DERBY asked the Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Halifax) whether it
was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to take any steps for
ascertaining accurately the number of proprietors of land and houses in
the United Kingdom, with the quantity of land owned by each proprietor.
He should not trouble the House at any length, because he understood that
the suggestion he had ventured to put into his question was acquiesced in,
and would be acted upon by the Government. They all knew that out-of-doors
there was from time to time a great outcry raised about what was called the
monopoly of land, and, in support of that cry, the wildest and most reckless
exaggerations and mis-statements of fact were uttered as to the number of
persons who were the actual owners of the soil. It had been said again and
again that, according to the Census of 1861, there were in the United Kingdom
not more than 30,000 landowners; and though it had been repeatedly shown
that this estimate arose from a misreading of the figures contained in the
Census returns, the statement was continually reproduced, just as though its
accuracy had never been disputed. The real state of the case was at present
a matter of conjecture, but he believed, for his own part, that 300,000
would be nearer the truth, than the estimate which fixed the landowners of
the United Kingdom at a tenth of that number. He entirely disbelieved the
truth of the popular notion that small estates were undergoing a gradual
process of absorption in the larger ones. It was true that the class of
peasant proprietors formerly to be found in the rural districts was tending
to disappear-for the very good reason that such proprietors could, as a
general rule, obtain from 40 to 50 years' purchase for their holdings, and
thereby vastly increase their incomes. In the place of that class, however,
there was rapidly growing up a new class of small owners, who, dwelling in
or near towns or railway stations, were able to buy small freeholds. He
believed this new class would fully replace, and perhaps more than replace,
the diminution in the other class to which he had referred. He apprehended
that through the agency of the Local Government Board it would be easy to
obtain statistical information, which would be conclusive in regard to this
The returns ought to include the name of every owner and the extent of his
property in acres. He did not wish to have included in the Return the exact
dimensions of very minute holdings; that could be met by giving the aggregate
extent of holdings not exceeding an acre each, the number of separate owners
being stated, but not the extent of each holding.
THE DUKE of RICHMOND thought this was a subject the importance of which could
scarcely be overrated, and trusted that Her Majesty's Government would be
able to furnish the Return asked for by his noble friend. This, he thought,
might easily be done through the agency of the Local Government Board. A vast
amount of ignorance existed in regard to the question, and it was surely time
that such ignorance was dispelled by means of documents possessing all the
weight of Parliamentary Returns, and whose accuracy could not be disputed.
There ought to be no alarm raised by such a Return as was asked for, because
the rental need not be inserted in it, although even that was given in
Scotland. In order to show the great errors into which the public might be
led, be would mention a fact brought under his notice by the noble Marquess
sitting near him (the Marquess of Salisbury). According to the Census of 1861,
the number of landed proprietors in Hertfordshire was only 245. The noble
Marquess, however, doubted the accuracy of this statement, and after taking
the trouble to investigate the matter for himself, he found that the number
of landed proprietors in the county of Hertford at that time, according to
the rate-book, was 8,833.
VISCOUNT HALIFAX said that his attention had been called, as had that of his
noble friend opposite (the Earl of Derby), to the extraordinary statements
made in certain newspapers, and at some public meetings, respecting the
wonderfully small number of landed proprietors in this country. The fact was
that very few persons were returned in the Census under the designation of
"owners of land." He had looked over pages of the Census returns. The
owners of land appeared under various designations - "gentlemen, merchants,
shopkeepers, farmers, &c." Very few were returned as "landowners." For
statistical purposes, he thought that we ought to know the number of owners
of land in the United Kingdom, and there would be no difficulty in obtaining
this information. He held in his hand the valuation list of a parish, giving
the name of every owner, a description of the land, the estimated area, and
the estimated rental. Such returns existed for every parish in England, and
from them a return for all England might be compiled. He quite agreed with
his noble friend, that it might not be desirable to give the rental, although
he might remark that this was done in Scotland. He had in his hand the
valuation roll of the county of Edinburgh, which contained the rental of
every owner in that county. He believed that in Scotland no objection had
ever been taken to publishing the amount of rental. The Government considered
it most desirable that the return should be prepared, and what he proposed to
do was to give a nominal list of every owner of land to the extent of one
acre or upwards in every county of England, together with the quantity of
land which each owner had in the county. In regard to owners of less than
one acre, he thought it would be sufficient to state their number in each
county, without specifying their names. The same process would be gone
through in Scotland and Ireland.
THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY urged that the 999 years leaseholds ought to be
included in the Returns.
VISCOUNT HALIFAX said that there would be great difficulty in ascertaining
the precise tenure under which property was held. He quite agreed with the
noble Marquess that owners of property held for 999 years, and of land under
similar tenures, should appear as owners, and he thought it might be done.
The valuation lists, however, to which he had referred only gave information
as to the ownership of land and the quantity owned. In his opinion the best
plan would be to treat as owner the person immediately above the occupying
THE EARL of FEVERSHAM suggested that the Returns should give a description
of the land, stating whether it was in cultivation, woodland, or moor.
VISCOUNT HALIFAX remarked that the Government could not undertake to state
the description of the land. An attempt to do this would lead to inextricable
The Government having, as was intimated by Lord Halifax, determined on such a
Return being made, it has since been prepared by the Local Government Board,
and after considerable but unavoidable delay is now completed and presented
to both Houses of Parliament.
In order that the nature and character of the Return, and of the information
contained in it, may be correctly appreciated, attention should be given to
the following preliminary statement, containing an account of the public
documents from which the Return is compiled, of the course pursued in its
preparation, of the difficulties which have been met with, and how far they
have been overcome, and, finally, of the actual value of the results which
have been obtained.
All the statements and information contained in this Return, with the
exception of the addresses of the owners, are derived from the valuation
lists, which are made out for the purposes of rating, in every parish.
A short time prior to the year 1836 the Poor Law Commissioners had issued
an order directing that the poor rate should contain certain particulars,
but the Parochial Assessment Act of 1836 [6 & & Will.4.c.96.] contains the
first statutory provision which requires the poor rate to be made out in a
The present valuation lists are, however, prepared under the provisions of
the Union Assessment Committee Act of 1862 [25 & 26 Vict.c.103 s.11.], which
was introduced by the Right Hon. C. P. Villiers, the then President of the
late Poor Law Board. This Act provides for the appointment of an Assessment
Committee by the Guardians of every Union for the investigation and supervision
of the valuation of the several rateable properties in each parish within the
Union for the purpose of assessment, and as a preliminary step to such
investigation and supervision the overseers of every parish were required to
make out a list of all the rateable properties in each parish, with the
annual values thereof, in the following form, viz. :
Name Name Description Name or Gross
of of of Situation Estimated Estimated Rateable
Occupier Owner Property of Property Extent Rental Value
There are now valuation lists in this form for every parish, except in the
case of a few single parishes under separate Boards of Guardians, to which
the Union Assessment Committee Act does not apply, but in which the Poor Rate
contains generally the required information.
As the valuation lists of the several parishes are deposited with the clerks
of the Unions, application was made to those officers to prepare and furnish
the particulars for the present Return, so far as regarded the parishes in
their respective Unions, corrected as far as practicable from information
within their reach, or which might be obtained from the parochial officers,
with the addition of the addresses of the owners. Similar applications were
made to the clerks to the guardians of single parishes not under the Union
Assessment Committee Act.
The Return comprises the whole of England and Wales, exclusive of the
Metropolis; and some estimate may be formed of the labour involved in its
compilation when it is borne in mind that the information had to be supplied
in respect of nearly 15,000 parishes containing about 5,000,000 separate
The instructions were issued to the clerks to the guardians in September 1872,
but upwards of two years elapsed before the last return was received.
The first examination of the returns disclosed nearly 250,000 defects, and
these have since had to be cleared up, as far as practicable, by
correspondence and other means of inquiry. In many instances the clerks were
unable to furnish the additional particulars required, and in those cases,
amounting to several thousands, applications were addressed to the overseers
of the separate parishes in order to obtain from them the necessary
It is obvious, from a mere inspection of the form prescribed by the Union
Assessment Committee Act, that if the several parish lists were correctly
made out, a Return of owners of land in each county in England and Wales,
and of the estimated area, and the gross estimated rental of the property of
each owner in the county, would be simply a consolidation for each county of
the information contained in the valuation lists and rate books for the
parishes in the county. It was found, however, that the parish lists were
defective, especially as regards the names of owners, and notwithstanding
all the pains which have been taken, it is to be feared that many
inaccuracies will be found in some of the details of the Return.
It will be convenient to refer separately to the three heads of information
as regards owners of land of an acre and upwards.
These heads are
1. The names and addresses of the owners.
2. The estimated extent of the land of each owner.
3. The gross estimated rental of the property appearing under the name of
I. NAMES AND ADDRESSES OF OWNERS.
The greatest difficulty was found as to these columns.
The parish lists are prepared only for the purposes of rating, and the
material columns for the purpose of the assessments are those which contain
the names of the occupiers and the statements of the gross estimated rental
and rateable value of the property in each separate occupation. The latter
statements are essential to show the basis upon which the rate is to be
assessed and the sums to be paid, whilst the insertion of the names of the
occupiers is required to point out the persons who are liable for the several
With regard to the column as to the names of the owners, however, it must be
observed that although the prescribed form both of the poor rates and the
valuation lists indicates that the name of the owner of the property in each
separate occupation should be inserted in it, the overseers who prepare the
lists are not empowered, as in the case of the valuation lists prepared
under the Valuation (Metropolis) Act, 1869 [32 & 33 Vict.c.67.s.55], to
require any return of the names of the owners to be made to them, either by
the occupiers or any other persons, and probably neither the valuation lists
nor the rates would be invalidated if the names of the owners were omitted
Nor is it easy, with the various tenures of property in this country, to lay
down a precise rule as to what constitutes ownership.
Persons, for instance, holding property under very long leases may fairly be
considered as owner -; but then the question immediately arises, what length
of lease is sufficient for this purpose.
There could be no question, as was said in the House of Lords, as to lessees
for 999 years; and indeed lessees for shorter terms than that might properly
be considered as owners.
A more difficult question arose as to lessees for 99 years, the common term
of building leases, and also as to some other cases.
It was said on the one hand, that the holder of a building lease for 99 years,
with occupying tenants under him, especially at the commencement of his term,
might fairly be considered as an owner; on the other that the holder of such
a lease, when his term had nearly expired, could not be so considered. In
some parts of England lands are frequently held on leases for lives
constantly renewed, though without any right of renewal, and the lessees are
generally treated as owners, though liable to be turned out on the expiration
of the lives. Other cases of doubtful ownership might easily be suggested,
and it became clear that only an arbitrary line could be drawn.
After much consideration it was determined that lessees for terms exceeding
99 years, or with a right of perpetual renewal, should be considered as
owners, but that lessees for terms of shorter duration, or for lives, without
a right of renewal, should not be so considered.
Instructions were issued to the Union Clerks to frame their Returns in
accordance with this rule; but notwithstanding this direction, it is
extremely probable that in several instances where properties have been held
for long periods on beneficial leases or for lives, as is the case in some
parts of England, the names of the lessees have been entered in the Return
as owners, as neither the clerks nor the overseers would have had any reason
to suppose that they were not the owners in fee.
In some of the Rating Acts the term "owner" means either the immediate lessor
of the premises, or the person receiving the rent of the same for the use of
any corporation or any public company, or of any landlord or lessee who shall
be a minor or married woman, "or insane, or for the use of any person for
whom he is acting as agent." It is obvious that such persons are not really
the owners of the property, and directions were therefore given, that
whenever it was within the knowledge of the clerk or the overseers that the
names of trustees, receivers, or other persons not beneficially interested in
the property were entered in the owners column, the names of the actual
owners, if ascertainable, should be substituted. In the case of joint owners
it is probable that in many cases one name only will have been returned as
owner, though the clerks were directed, whenever the name and address of each
owner could be ascertained, to insert them. Moreover, the act does not
require any periodical revision of the valuation lists as under the
Metropolis Valuation Act of 1869, and a mere change of ownership would not
render the preparation of a supplemental valuation list, or the revision of
an existing list necessary. In some cases it was found that the names of
owners who had died several years ago had been retained. In one instance
where a property had been sold in lots, it appeared that the names of the
new owners had not been inserted in the valuation list, and the single name
of the former owner was still in the list. In order to obviate the difficulty
from this source, the clerks were directed, when they were aware that changes
in ownership had taken place, to substitute the names of the present owners
in the Returns, and to apply to the overseers or rate collectors to assist
in revising the Returns before their final completion.
Although the foregoing remarks refer chiefly to the Owners column in the
Valuation Lists, it should be stated that this column has been found to be
filled up with still less accuracy in the rate books in those parishes where
the Union Assessment Committee Act is not in force. This observation applies
to several important towns, where, owing to the large number of separate
occupations, and the fact that the rents are paid in numerous cases to
lessees, trustees, or agents, the difficulties of ascertaining the names of
the owners or ground landlords may be said to be almost insurmountable.
When the necessary particulars relating to all the Unions in each county had
been received by the Local Government Board, it became the duty, of that
Department to arrange and consolidate the separate parish and union returns
into one Return for the whole county, and in doing this a further difficulty
In order to make a correct county Return, the name of each owner ought to
appear only once, and all the property belonging to him within the county
should be included under his name.
When, however, the same name appeared more than once in the several Union
lists, the Board in London could not determine whether there were two or
more persons with the same name, or whether the name of the same person was
For the purpose as far as possible of identifying the owners, it had been
required that their names and addresses, when the latter could be ascertained,
should be given in full and as accurately as possible.
Where the same name with the same address occurred more than once in the
returns, it might be assumed as probable that the entries referred to the
same person, but when the same name occurred with a different address, it
was probable, though by no means certain, that different persons were
intended. In all these cases it became necessary to communicate with the
clerks of the several Unions in which the name appeared, to ascertain if it
referred to the same or different persons; thus, for example, the name of
John Smith might appear in a county 12 times, and in as many different
Unions, and inquiry had to be made in each Union to ascertain whether the
name indicated one and the same person, or whether they were 12 separate
persons of that name.
A reference to some of the Welsh counties, where there are large numbers of
owners of the same Christian and surnames, e.g., the county of Cardigan,
where the name David Davies occurs above 53 times, and John Jones above 70
times, will show the labour involved in this branch of the inquiry, and it
may be added that, independently of other inquiries, upwards of 300,000
separate applications had to be sent to the clerks in order to clear up
questions in reference to duplicate entries.
In some cases it has been found impracticable to discover the addresses of
the owners, and whenever there is a single entry in the address column within
brackets it must be understood to show the parish in which the property is
situate and not the residence of the owner; where there are two entries in
the address column, one of them in brackets, it indicates that it has been
ascertained that the two persons with the same address are two distinct
Where the owners appear to be corporate bodies, or to hold their lands in
virtue of a public office, the names are printed in italics; but the Return
must not be assumed to be complete in this respect, as there is reason to
believe that in many cases the name of an individual is entered instead of
the body or office which he represents, and this remark applies especially
to glebe lands.
Notwithstanding all the care that has been taken, there can be no doubt that
in several cases the name of the same person will appear more than once in
the county Return, but, on the other hand, there will be many cases in which
only one name will appear as owner, although the property is really in
II. ESTIMATED EXTENT.
The estimated extent of land in connection with each assessment is probably
taken, in most cases, either from some former rate or survey, or from the
account given by the occupying tenant of the acreage of his holding. Extreme
accuracy therefore could not be expected, and in many cases, especially in
those of small properties, the acreage was found to be omitted altogether.
Where the acreage was not entered in the Valuation Lists, the clerks were
requested to furnish the best estimate in their power; but there are
instances in which the Board have been unable to obtain any sufficient
information on this head, and in these cases the column is necessarily left
It will doubtless be observed that a small acreage frequently represents a
large rental, but this may arise either from the value of the land being
increased by houses or other buildings upon it, or by the value of coal
worked below its surface, or in some few cases by the absence of information
as to the extent of a portion of the property. Instances will also be
noticed of a large acreage being represented by a comparatively small
rental; and the explanation of most of these will be found in the fact that
a considerable portion of the land is of a mountainous, or similarly
III. GROSS ESTIMATED RENTAL.
The column in the Valuation Lists as to the gross estimated rental is
necessarily filled up with more care, as it is the basis upon which the
rateable value is determined. The amount appearing in the column of gross
estimated rental in this Return under the name of each owner is the
aggregate of the amounts appearing under his name in the various parochial
Lists of the county.
It must, however, always be borne in mind that the amount of the gross
estimated rental as shown in the parish Returns, and consequently in this
Return, is not the amount of the rent payable to the person under whose name
as owner it appears, but the amount of the entire rents which the occupying
tenants of the whole property would be presumed to pay to their immediate
In the case of purely agricultural land, the column "gross estimated rental"
is intended to show the rent at which the property might reasonably be
expected to let from year to year, the tenant undertaking to pay all usual
tenant's rates and taxes and tithe commutation rentcharge, if any, and, in
the case of agricultural land, the value contained in this column will
probably be found not to differ widely from the actual rental of the owner.
In the case of house or mineral property, the case is totally different, and
this column affords no criterion of the rents received by the owners. This
is very obvious in the case of land let on building leases. The rent received
by the owner is, generally speaking, a mere ground rent reserved from the
person to whom the land was originally let, of which no account is contained
in the valuation lists, whilst the rental shown in those lists is the
estimated amount of rent payable by the occupying tenant to the person from
whom he takes the house. The ground landlord may be in the receipt of a few
pounds, whilst the estimated rent of the occupying tenants, which
nevertheless appears in the rental column under the name of the ground
landlord, may be many thousand pounds.
There will be considerable discrepancies in the Return in respect of the
rental of the owners of house property, arising from the different modes in
which the Valuation Lists have been prepared, and which it has been found
quite impossible to correct.
In some cases all the property, of one ground landlord, with the amount of
the rent payable by the occupying tenants to their intermediate lessors,
will appear under the single name of the ground landlord, and a large rental
will appear under his name, very far indeed exceeding the amount which he
himself receives. There must be in the Return several such cases of which
the Local Government Board can have no knowledge; but five remarkable
instances may be referred to in the cases of Sir John St.Aubyn and
Sir L.Palk in Devonshire, Lord Calthorpe in Warwickshire, and the
Duke of Norfolk and Sir John William Ramsden in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
In other cases the names of the lessees will have been entered as owners, or
the lessees will have been included in the aggregate number of owners under
an acre, and in these cases the number of owners, according to the definition
of the word "owner" adopted in this Return, will have been unduly increased.
It is quite impossible, without considerable local knowledge, and a minute
investigation into the returns of town parishes, which would occupy a very
long time, to make the Return actually correct in this respect.
In like manner, where the land includes a coal mine which is leased to a
company, the gross rental which appears in the parish lists may represent
a sum considerably in excess of the sum which goes into the pockets of the
There are other matters in relation to the Return which require to be noticed.
Property which is not rated does not appear in the parish lists, and
consequently not in this Return.
At the time when the Return was prepared the following kinds of property were
1. Mines other than coal mines; and with respect to coal mines, it must be
observed that in those parishes where there are only underground workings,
and no surface occupation with the mine, the valuation lists do not indicate
the particular lands under which the workings are carried on, and
consequently do not show the enhanced value of the land to the owner.
2. Woods, except where they consist of or contain saleable underwood. No
notice is taken in the Return of any property of these descriptions.
Waste and Common Lands.
There is great uncertainty as to the lands under this heading. If they yield
no profit they are not rated, and are not included in the valuation lists,
and it is only where a parish map or survey has shown the extent of these
lands that the clerk to the guardians or the parish officers could be
expected to state the area accurately.
In other cases an estimate, more or less conjectural, of the actual extent
is all the information which could be obtained.
From the foregoing statement it will be seen that the present Return is
simply a compilation from public documents, existing in each parish
throughout England, corrected with such information as the union and
parochial officers might possess, and of which, in the discharge of their
public duty, it would be incumbent upon them to avail themselves whenever
they might be required to prepare fresh valuation lists. It can only be
considered as professing to furnish the names of the several persons who,
by common repute in each parish, are believed to be the owners of the
separate holdings in respect of which the occupiers are liable to be
assessed to the local rates. In some instances the names of the owners may
be found to be improperly given, in some the quantities of the land may be
erroneously stated, and in others the gross estimated rental may represent
very inaccurately the rent which is received by the reputed owner.
In several cases the name of the same person will be found to be entered
more than once in a county, owing to the difficulty of identification.
But, notwithstanding all the defects which have been adverted to, it is
hoped that the Return will be found fairly to answer the purpose for which
it is required, as showing with proximate accuracy the manner in which the
land of the country is distributed, the names of the reputed owners, and the
estimated extent and rental of the property held by each. In support of the
general accuracy of the Return it may be stated that the total acreage of
England, as given in the Census Report, from information furnished by the
Ordnance Survey Department, is 37,319,221, and the total acreage, as shown
by the present Return, is 34,538,158, being a difference of 2,781,063 acres.
In the latter, however, the metropolis is not included, and no account is
taken of those waste lands the area of which could not be ascertained, of
woods other than saleable underwoods, of rivers and roads, of Crown property
not let, and of churchyards and other lands not rateable. It will also be
remembered that there are several cases of owners whose names are given in
the Return, but the acreage of whose property is not specified. These
circumstances would appear to be sufficient to account for the discrepancy
between the acreage stated in the two Returns.
With respect to the gross estimated rental it may be stated that the total
amount of the gross estimated rental of rateable property of all kinds in
England and Wales, as shewn by the annual return made by the several
Assessment Committees and Parochial Authorities to the Local Government
Board for the year 1873, is £131,853,715, whilst the total of the gross,
estimated rentals of the properties included in the present Return is
£99,352,303. For the purpose of comparison it would be necessary to add
to the last-mentioned sum the gross estimated rental of the metropolis
amounting to £24,810,481, and of tithes amounting to (say)
The total would then stand thus:
Gross estimated rental as shown by the present Return - 99,352,303
Of the Metropolis - - - - - - 24,810,481
Tithes - - - - - - - - 5,000,000
Total - - - - - - - - 129,162,784
thus leaving a difference in gross estimated rental of £2,690,931, and
which may be accounted for by the omission from the present Return of the
following properties, viz., gas and water mains, tolls and dues from markets,
bridges, ferries, docks, harbours, piers, canals and inland navigation, coal
mines in parishes in which the surface workings are not situate, and Crown
property in respect of which no Parliamentary subvention is paid.
The experience now acquired will show what are the defects in the present
system of preparing the valuation lists in relation to the particulars
required by the present Return, and what amendments are required in the law
in order to ensure greater accuracy whenever it may be determined that
another Return should be made.
Appended to the Return is a general county summary showing:
(1) the total number of owners of one acre and upwards, and
(2) the total number of owners of less than an acre, with the aggregate
quantities and gross estimated rental of the lands belonging to each class.
The summary also shows the estimated extent of the commons and waste lands
throughout the whole country.
With reference to the number of owners it will be seen that the totals are
Number of owners of one acre and upwards - - 269,547
Number of owners below an acre - - - - 703,289
Total - - 972,836
It should, however, be observed that as regards the number of owners of an
acre and upwards, the Return only gives the totals of each county, and does
not show the net number of owners after deducting those who appear in more
counties than one; and with respect to the owners below an acre, no attempt
has been made to distinguish those who hold property either in more than one
county, or in more than one union, and consequently in estimating the net
number of owners of each class a deduction will have to be made.
In relation to the first class, an examination of a certain proportion of
the names has been made, and the result gives, as an approximate estimate,
about 6,000 owners as holding property in more than one county.
As regards the second class a similar estimate cannot be given, as the names
of the owners are not included in the Return.
The tabulation and detailed examination of this very voluminous and
complicated Return have devolved upon Mr Thomas Harries of this Department,
and in justice to him it should be added that he has discharged the duty
with great care, attention, and zeal.
Local Government Board, 22nd July 1875.
As the term "Domesday Book" has been frequently applied to the present Return,
it may not be out of place to refer briefly to the celebrated Survey of the
Kingdom which was made by command of the Conqueror, in order to show the
different character of the two undertakings, and the different means resorted
to in their compilation. In the year 1085 serious apprehensions appear to
have been entertained of an invasion of the kingdom by the Danes, and the
difficulty which the King then experienced in putting the country into a
satisfactory state of defence led him to form the notion of having a general
survey made of the whole kingdom, so, as Sir Martin Wright observes,
"to discover" the quantity of every man's fee, and to fix his homage," or,
in other words, to ascertain the quantity of land held by each person, and
the quota of military aid which he was bound to furnish in proportion to the
extent of his holding.
To secure accuracy of results, Commissioners or King's Justiciaries
(Legati Regis) were appointed with ample powers to ascertain "upon the oath
of the several Sheriffs, Lords of Manors, Presbyters, Reeves, Bailiffs, or
Villains, according to "the nature of the place, what was the name of the
place, who held it in the time of the Confessor, who was the present
holder, how many hides of land there were in the manor, how many carrucates
in demesne, how many homagers, how many villains, how many cotarii, how many
servi, what freemen, how many tenants in socage, what quantity of wood, how
much meadow and pasture, what mills and fish-ponds, how much added or taken
away, what was the the gross value in King Edward's time, what the present
value, and how much each free-man or socman had or has."
All this was to be estimated.
1st, as the estate was held in the time of the Confessor; 2ndly, as it was
bestowed by the King himself; and, 3rdly, as its value stood at the time of
All these particulars were ascertained for each county, the Commissioners
sending in Returns (breviates) for each county separately, and from these
Returns Domesday Book, or the General Register for the whole kingdom, was
It will be seen, therefore, that the object of the Conqueror's survey was
to ascertain the amount of military service and other assistance upon which
he could depend; and that for this purpose he instituted an inquiry of a
very searching and inquisitorial character into the nature and extent of
the landed possessions of his subjects, sending special Commissioners into
every locality, with power to summon the inhabitants and compel them to make
a full disclosure of their property on oath.
Notwithstanding, however, these stringent measures for insuring accuracy,
there is no doubt that the Commissioners did not always obtain or furnish
correct information, and that sometimes, as in the case of the present Return,
the statements of what we should now designate as the "Gross Estimated Rental,"
and the "Estimated Extent," are not altogether reliable. Ingulph, the
historian of Croyland, in referring to the survey of the possessions of that
abbey, expressly says, "Isti (taxatores) penes nostrum monasterium benevoli
et amantes non ad verum pretium nee ad verum spatium nostrum monasterium
librabant, misericorditer praecaventes in futurum exactionibus et aliis
oneribus, piisima nobis benevolentia providentes." - Oxford edition, p.79.
With respect to the result of this inquiry, so far as it discloses the number
of landowners existing at that time, it must be observed that although the
Domesday Book may be considered as a fair record of the number of persons
having a direct interest in land, it is almost impossible, owing to the
different designations under which they are classified, to distinguish those
who may properly be considered as owners from those who were in the possession
of land as mere occupiers only.
The following estimate, which is extracted from the work of Sir H. Ellis, may
perhaps be taken as showing approximately the number of persons who can
properly be regarded as having claim to be considered as holders of land upon
some legally recognized tenure:
Tenants in capite, or persons holding directly from the Crown - - - - 1,400
Subfeudatarii, or under-tenants holding their estates from some mesne Lord - - 7,871
Liberi homines, or freeholders under the Lord of a manor, usually by military service 12,400
Sochemanni or Socmen, holding on some fixed and determined rent service - - - 23,072
Homines, or feudatory tenants holding on homage - - - - - - - 1,300
Cotarii and Coscets, or cottagers holding small parcels of land - - - - 7,000
Presbyteri, or clergy - - - - - - - - - - - 1,000
Radmanni, a species of tenants in socage - - - - - - - - 370
Milites, or persons holding under mesne Lords in respect of military service - - 140
Aloarii, or absolute hereditary owners - - - - - - - - 12
Other owners, viz., Angli and Anglici, Beures or Coliberti, Censarii or Censores, &e.- - 248
Total of recorded landholders - - - - - - - 54,813
The Burgenses, or Burgesses, who were returned as 7,968, are not included in
the above list, as it is impossible to distinguish those who held lands in
their individual from those who held in a corporate capacity, and many of
them were evidently not owners in any sense of the term.
Moreover the Villeins, of whom there were 108,407, are omitted, because it
is quite certain that, when they occupied small portions of land, they did
so on sufferance only. In fact they were regarded as mere chattels, which
could be bought or sold, and they were not allowed by law to acquire any
property, either in land or in goods.
It should be added that the present counties of Northumberland, Cumberland,
Westmoreland, and Durham were not included in the survey.
Summary of Returns of Landowners for DERBYSHIRE
379,394 Population in 1871
78,309 Inhabited houses in 1871
331 Number of Parishes
12,874 Number of Owners below an acre
6,992 Number of Owners of 1 acre and upwards
19,866 Total number of Owners
620,955 Extent of lands
£1,764,689 Gross Estimated Rental
11,656 Estimated Extent of Commons or Waste Lands