The 19th-century Return of Owners of Land for England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales has been made available online.
Family Relatives have made the information available online at their website, and have issued the following news release:
“A record of who owned land in Britain and Ireland was created over a hundred years ago by the Victorians as a response to the great outcry about what was described as the monopoly of land. The wildest and most reckless exaggerations and mis-statements of fact were uttered about the number of individuals who were actual owners of the soil.
“In the House of Lords it had been said that according to the Census of 1861 in the United Kingdom, there were no more than 30,000 landowners and although this estimate arose from a misreading of the figures, its accuracy had never been disputed. The true status was a matter of conjecture but it was believed to have been nearer 300,000 landowners.
“In these circumstances a comprehensive ‘Return’ was called for and termed the ‘Doomsday Book’. It was published in 1873 almost a thousand years after William the Conqueror commissioned the original Domesday Book in 1086.
“These fascinating returns provide the name and address of every owner and their holding in acres, rods and poles, with the estimated yearly rental valuation of all holdings over 1 acre. Interestingly, lease holders at the commencement of their term were considered as owners also. However, those at the end of their term were not so considered.
“As a result, over 320,000 landowners of one acre or more can be searched online representing 1% of the entire population of the United Kingdom. The number of owners with less than one acre was nearly 850,000. London, the ‘Great Metropolis’, was excluded from the Returns as was waste land if it yielded no profit.
“Among the landowning aristocracy were the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry who owned 432,373 acres in the Scottish Highlands and the Duke of Norfolk with 44,638 acres mostly around Arundel Castle in Sussex. The Prince of Wales’s estate at Sandringham is listed with 6,724 acres, as are Charles Dickens and Alfred Tennyson with more modest holdings.
“The Victorians with their conviction for detail and orderliness even counted asylums, hospitals, colleges, school trustees, railway companies, navigation companies, sewer commissioners, War department, water works and river commissioners as a vital part of their record keeping.
“The database is available to search online and is organised under each county, with name and address for every landowner. The collection together with 650 million historic records is available online to all members and visitors by way of an annual subscription.”
Some of the returns are also accessible on other websites. For instance, you can view the Welsh returns free of charge at the Online Genealogical Research Engine (OGRE). You can also buy the Scottish and Irish returns there in PDF format for US$6 each.
UK Genealogy Archives have a free searchable index of the returns for the English counties:
and the Welsh counties:
- Brecknockshire (Breconshire);