Tips of the Trade: the Lloyd George Domesday

We’ll be posting regular news items that focus on particular aspects of our work, including documents that are often obscure but tremendously useful to understanding the history of the built environment and wider aspects of community heritage. Whilst we’re not going to be giving away all our secrets – as if we’d do that! – we thought it would be useful to share with you some of the tips of the trade relating to the sources we work with.

First up is the Lloyd George Domesday, or to give its more formal title the Valuation Office survey created after the 1910 Finance Act. Basically, it’s a property tax which was aimed at raising revenue for the Inland Revenue; the records are now at The National Archives, Kew – and are a hidden gem for property historians, mainly because they combine maps and field books to give intricate detail about the state of the built environment on the eve of the First World War. No piece of ratable land or property was exempt (though the records for some areas were never completed due to the intensification of hostilities after 1914, and others were destroyed by enemy bombing during the Second World War).

It can be a bit tricky to locate property, as you have to consult various index maps to locate the precise Ordnance Survey sheet, and then convert that into a reference to order out the appropriate map that contains the hereditament numbers, which in turn correspond to an entry in the field books; and these can only be located once you’ve identified the exact valuation district and income tax parish… Although there’s now a postcode finder for the maps, it can still be a fiddly and time-consuming process and adds to the general obscurity of the records.

However, once you’ve got the right field book you’ll find out the names of the owners, occupiers, extent of the land or property, its market and ratable value, dates of former sales, a brief description and even a sketch map of outbuildings – making it a good way of examining site use and the location of former structures which may not now stand. From a two-up, two-down in Blackburn to a stately home standing in acres of farmland, most properties are included. Furthermore, the date of the survey allows you to link into a range of other key datasets, thus giving a unique window into the social and historical context of the time.

We’ve got a search of these records down to a fine art, and they play a key role in our search for information about heritage sites and properties across the country.