How to look for records of... Land use, value and ownership: Valuation Office Survey 1910-1915

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1. Why use this guide?

If you want to know something about the value, use, extent or ownership of a property or piece of land in England or Wales around the beginning of the 20th century, this guide should be of use.

This is a guide to finding records of the Valuation Office Survey which was carried out between 1910 and 1915. The survey provided a unique snapshot of land and property in the Edwardian era, assessing its worth, how it was used and by whom and in so doing inadvertently painting a picture of society itself.

Contact The National Records of Scotland for records of the Valuation Office in Scotland and The National Archives of Ireland for records of the Valuation Office in Ireland.

There are no records of the Valuation Office Survey available to see online, although our online map finder will help you to identify and order Valuation Office Survey maps.

2. The Valuation Office and the survey

The survey took place as a result of the 1909-1910 Finance Act which provided for the levy and collection of a duty on land in the United Kingdom based on any increased value of the land as a result of public money spent on communal infrastructure – a so-called ‘increment value duty’.

The Valuation Office was set up by the Inland Revenue in 1910 for England and Wales (and in 1911 for Scotland) to carry out the work of the survey.

118 valuation districts were established in England and Wales, each in the charge of a district valuer and each comprised a number of income tax divisions. It was by these valuation districts and income tax divisions that the work of the survey was organised and carried out.

3. The records and their content

The two main types of Valuation Office Survey records are marked-up Ordnance Survey maps, always referred to as ‘plans’, and the accompanying ‘field books’. The plans act as an index to the field books. The field books provide the bulk of the information collected about properties during the survey. Generally, you need to consult the plans for a place first before you can find the respective field book.

3.1 Plans (maps)

The plans are printed Ordnance Survey map sheets, annotated by the Valuation Office surveyors, and act as an index to the field books. The surveyors marked the plans with plot numbers, referred to as assessment numbers.

A colour plan for the town of Connah's Quay and the surrounding land, with plots of land numbered in red handwriting, in the valuation district of Wrexham, in the county of Flintshire (catalogue reference IR 131/10/85).

A plan for the town of Connah’s Quay and the surrounding land, in the valuation district of Wrexham, in the county of Flintshire (catalogue reference IR 131/10/85).

Two sets of plans were created. One set, those that were used as working documents in the course of the original valuation, are, where they survive, held at local archives. The other set of plans were created after the valuation was completed and these are held at The National Archives. See section 4 for advice on how to find plans.

3.2 Field books

The final record of the Valuation Office Survey, compiled after the survey was completed, was written in small bound volumes called field books. The amount of information entered in the field books varies considerably.

Field books usually include:

  • the names of owner and occupier
  • the owner’s interest (freehold, copyhold, etc.)
  • details of tenancy (term and rent)
  • the area covered by the property
  • figures entered for the purpose of valuation (i.e. market value)

They sometimes include:

  • the date of erection of buildings
  • number of rooms
  • state of repair
  • liability for rates, insurance and repairs
  • date(s) of previous sale(s)
  • a sketch-plan of the property
Pages from a large, bound volume with printed fields filled in with handwriting - these are the first two pages of a field book entry for land occupied by a boot and shoe factory in Chesham, Buckinghamshire (catalogue reference IR 58/39367).

The first two pages of a field book entry for land occupied by a boot and shoe factory in Chesham, Buckinghamshire (catalogue reference IR 58/39367).

See section 5 for advice on how to find field books.

3.3 Valuation books

Valuation books (also known as ‘Domesday books’) were the first major record created by the Valuation Office at the start of the survey. They are distinct from the field books, which were the final record compiled after the survey was completed, and which usually contain more information. See section 6 for advice on how to find valuation books.

3.4 Survey forms

In the course of the survey a number of forms were used to collect information. Some of them were sent to land and property owners for completion. See section 7 for advice on how to find examples of surviving forms.

4. How to find plans (maps)

To find and see a plan you will need to identify its document reference. The easiest way to find a reference is to use our online map finder but if an area is not covered by the map finder you can use county index maps held in The National Archives reading rooms instead.

The plans work as an index to the field books but you may need to consult more than one plan to identify the correct field book.

4.1 Using the online map finder

Follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Go to our online Valuation Office map finder
  • Step 2: Search for the place you are interested in using the map finder – this will provide an image of an Ordnance Survey map with a grid superimposed over it
  • Step 3: Click on the rectangle of the grid which covers the place you are looking for – this will provide a catalogue reference (an IR number – the full range of these numbers is shown in the table in section 4.3)
  • Step 4: Click on the catalogue reference – this will transfer you to our catalogue
  • Step 5: Once in our catalogue, click on the title of the plan to view the full catalogue description and the ordering and viewing options
  • Step 6: Order the original plan (if you are on site, in our building) or a copy of the plan (if you are off site)
  • Step 7: Once you have the plan in front of you, look for the handwritten assessment number (or ‘hereditament number’) of the individual property or parcel of land, usually marked in red ink, and the income tax parish which should be marked in the margin of the plan – with this information you can now search for the respective field book (see section 5)
A cross section of the plan shown in section 3.1. The assessment numbers are marked in red handwritten script.

A cross section of the plan shown in section 3.1. The assessment numbers are marked in red handwritten script.

4.2 Using original county index maps

If an area is not covered by the online map finder, you can use county index maps to identify individual sheet numbers at the 1:10,560 and 1:2,500 scales. These index maps are available at The National Archives building in Kew. You may need to seek staff guidance on how to convert the numbers identified on a county index map into a full catalogue reference for a plan.

4.3 Valuation Office regions and their catalogue references

Since 1910, regions, districts and other divisions of the Valuation Office have been reorganised on a number of occasions. Plans have been transferred from closed district valuation offices to new ones. The plans are arranged according to the Valuation Office regions as they were in 1988. You may, therefore, need to examine plans in more than one series before identifying the appropriate plot(s).

The full range of catalogue references for Valuation Office Survey plans:

Regions Catalogue references
London region  IR 121/1-11
South-Eastern region  IR 124/1-9
Western region  IR 125/1-11
Central region  IR 126/1-10
East Anglia region  IR 127/1-9
Western region  IR 128/1-10
West Midland region  IR 129/1-9
East Midland region  IR 130/1-9
Wales region  IR 131/1-11
Liverpool region  IR 132/1-8
Manchester region  IR 133/1-8
Yorkshire region  IR 134/1-10
Northern region  IR 135/1-9

4.4 Missing and alternative plans

Records for some areas do not survive, largely as a result of the bombing of the Valuation Offices during the Second World War. Areas known to be affected include:

  • Basildon
  • Chelmsford
  • Liverpool
  • Birkenhead and most of the Wirral
  • Coventry
  • Portsmouth
  • Southampton
  • Chichester
  • Winchester

Where plans do not survive, use our catalogue to search in local record offices for surviving working plans (see section 3.1), valuation books and related material.

5. How to find field books

The key to finding a field book is to first find the respective plan for a place to ascertain the assessment number and income tax parish (see section 4). The field books are arranged alphabetically by valuation district and, within districts, by income tax parish.

Many income tax parishes were made up of a number of civil parishes, but were usually named after the place with the name nearest the beginning of the alphabet. If you cannot find the place you want in our catalogue, look for other local places, especially those beginning with a letter near the beginning of the alphabet.

There is no place or street index to the field books.

5.1 Using our catalogue to find a field book

Once you know the assessment number and income tax parish, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Use our catalogue to search IR 58 by the name of the income tax parish – this will usually produce multiple results for IR 58 documents
  • Step 2: Use the drop-down menu on the search results page to sort the results by ‘Reference’ (the default display for search results is by ‘Relevance’)
  • Step 3: Once sorted by reference, scan down through the results to find the assessment number range which covers the assessment number you are looking for
  • Step 4: Click on the title of the field book to view the full catalogue description and the ordering and viewing options
  • Step 5: Order the original field book (if you are on site, in our building) or a copy (if you are off site)

5.2 Missing field books

Records for some areas do not survive, largely as a result of the bombing of the Valuation Offices during the Second World War. Areas known to be affected include:

  • Basildon
  • Chelmsford
  • Liverpool
  • Birkenhead and most of the Wirral
  • Coventry
  • Portsmouth
  • Southampton
  • Chichester
  • Winchester

6. How to find valuation books

A number of valuation books for the City of London and City of Westminster are held at The National Archives. For other areas you will need to search in local archives for surviving valuation books.

Search for City of London and City of Westminster valuation books by browsing through record series IR 91.

7. How to find survey forms

Survey forms were not systematically retained by the Valuation Office but we hold some examples among the records of other government departments who themselves provided information for the survey about land they occupied. Copies of forms have, in some instances, also been retained by landowners for their own use and are sometimes found among estate records, solicitors’ papers and at local archives.

The forms include:

Type of form What was form used for? Where to find examples of forms
Form 4-Land This form was originally filled in by the landowners and the information later transferred to the field books. Some field books may contain nothing more than a note to ‘see Form 4’. Example of forms filled out by the Admiralty are in ADM 116/1279, Forestry Commission are in F 6/16, Rhymney Railway Company are in RAIL 1057/1714.
Form 37-Land Form 37-Land contains the statement of provisional valuation made on the completion of the survey which was retained by the district valuation office. None held at The National Archives. Surviving sets of Form 37-Land are held at local record offices or remain in district valuation offices.
Form 36-Land A copy of Form 37-Land was sent to the landowner. A few examples of Form 36-Land are in RAIL 1057/1714.

A set of blank forms is preserved as ‘Various Specimen Forms’ in IR 9/62-64.

8. Records on the work of the Valuation Office

Some records on the work of the Valuation Office include:

  • a number of files about the Valuation Office itself, including some instructions to valuers in IR 40
  • a set of papers about the land tax proposals and discussions prior to the 1909 budget in IR 73/6
  • draft notes about the organisation of the Land Valuation Department drawn up in June 1910 in IR 74/146
  • reports on the progress of the original valuation in IR 74/148
  • a copy of the report of a Committee appointed to inquire into the organisation of the Valuation Office in 1920 in IR 75/114
  • an account of the Office’s history and functions was compiled in 1920; a copy is in IR 74/218
  • lists of addresses of district valuation offices showing the changing distribution of offices between 1913 and 1919 in IR 40/2878
  • a number of Treasury files in T 1, T 170, T 171 and T 172 contain papers on the work of the Valuation Office. Papers explaining the mathematics of increment value duty calculations, and copies of the rules made by the Inland Revenue Commissioners are in T 1/11209 and T 170/4
  • Inland Revenue memoranda in T 171/28 and T 39
  • reports of the Inland Revenue Solicitor in IR 99/29B-42

Records which relate to specific cases:

  • press cuttings about individual legal cases, c.1914, are in IR 83/54
  • other memoranda about court cases are in T 171/39
  • a few petitions, including special cases and awards, are in E 186
  • papers relating to one celebrated test case, Lady Emily Frances Smyth v Commissioners of Inland Revenue, are in IR 40/2502
  • papers on the case, Commissioners of Inland Revenue v Lumsden, are in T 172/100
  • records of the Land Value Reference Committee set up under the Act to regulate procedure in appeals against assessment are in LT 5. They include registers of appeals and a few sample case files

9. The Finance (1909-1910) Act and its legacy

The Valuation Office Survey was initiated by the Finance (1909-1910) Act (10 Edw. VII, c.8 section 26(1)) which provided for the levy and collection of a duty on the increment value of all land in the United Kingdom.

The main object of the Act was to tax that part of the capital appreciation of real property which was attributable to the site itself, i.e. excluding that arising from crops, buildings and improvements paid for by the owners. In this way, private owners were required to surrender to the State part of the increase in the site value of their land which resulted from the expenditure of public money on communal developments such as roads or public services.

Increment value duty, as this levy was called, was based on the difference between the amount of two valuations.  The site value as at 30 April 1909 constituted the ‘datum line’ for the purposes of increment value duty.  A second site value was to be taken on the occasion of any subsequent sale or grant of a lease, or transfer or interest in a piece of land, or the subsequent death of a land owner, to determine any potential payment of increment value duty.   The assessment of the site value on subsequent occasions was a recurring operation which formed part of the role of the Valuation Office until increment value duty was repealed by the 1920 Finance Act (10 and 11 Geo. V, c.18).

Although the 1910 land value tax was abolished following the 1920 Finance Act, the Valuation Office remained. Its modern-day successor is the Valuation Office Agency.

10. Further reading

Most of the following recommended publications are available in The National Archives Library.

Geraldine Beech and Rose Mitchell, Maps for Family and Local History (2004)

Brian Short, Land and Society in Edwardian Britain (2005)

Brian Short and Mick Reed, An Edwardian Land Survey: the Finance (1909-10) Act 1910 Records (Journal of the Society of Archivists, 8(1), pp. 82-3, and 8(2), 1986, pp. 95-103)

Brian Short and Mick Reed, Landownership and Society in Edwardian England and Wales: The Finance (1909-10) Act 1910 Records (University of Sussex, 1987)

Brian Short and Mick Reed and Bill Cauldwell, The County of Sussex in 1910: Sources for a New Analysis, (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 125, 1987, pp. 199-224)

 

Guide reference: Domestic Records Information 46