Griffith’s Valuation

Between 1847 and 1864, Richard Griffith was responsible for carrying out the Primary Valuation of Tenements (generally referred to a Griffith's Valuation because of his role in the project). The aim of the valuation was to produce a uniform guide to the relative value of land throughout the whole of Ireland in order to decide liability to pay the Poor rate (for the support of the poor and destitute within each Poor Law union). The project required Griffith and a team of valuers to determine the value of every piece of land and property in the country enabling every occupiers' tax due to be assessed. The information they collated covering all 32 counties was compiled into over 300 volumes and published over a period of 17 years.

Griffith's Valuation is arranged by the following:

  • County
  • Barony
  • Poor Law Union
  • Townland

Apart from townland address and occupier's name, the particulars given in the valuation records are:

  • Name of the person from whom the property was leased (immediate lessor)
  • Description of the property
  • Acreage of land (where the property includes land)
  • Valuation of buildings
  • Vof land

Explanation of terms

Below is a list of terms found within Griffith's Valuation 1847-1864 and Griffith's Survey Maps & Plans, 1847-1864:

AcreageLand in Griffith's valuation is measured by; statute acre, rood and perch. A statute acre contained 4840 square yards, a rood was ¼ of an acre of 1210 square yards and a perch was 1/40th of a rood containing 30 square yards
As LessorThe immediate lessor is the same as the occupier (lessee). In other words the occupier owns the land.
BaronyA territorial division of a county often based on medieval Gaelic lordships, and used as administrative units for taxation and other administrative purposes until the late 19th century. There are 331 baronies in Ireland. Some baronies overlap more than one county. Baronies are no longer used for local government.
CommonSome land in Ireland was still legally common land (or commons). These were generally medieval rights allowing common use of specific lands, usually waste ground. By the mid-nineteenth century most common land had been enclosed under parliamentary legislation, or had become the freehold property of squatters.
Cottier/LabourerA landless person renting and cultivating a small holding - known as cottier tenure. The land was let annually and in small portions directly to labourers with the rent fixed, who usually off-set their rent against a number of days working on the rentier's lands for free.
CountyThe principal unit of local government, created by the English between the Norman invasion and 1606. They often reflected older Gaelic territorial boundaries. There are 32 counties in total - 6 in Northern Ireland and 26 in the Republic of Ireland.
Free"Free" is quite different from "freehold". The Griffith's Valuation valuers were given the instruction that "persons who hold by right of possession, and recognize no landlord, their tenure shall be entered as free". Therefore a person whose tenure is described as "free" was not paying rent to anyone.
FreeholdFreehold tenure constituted absolute ownership of land.
Immediate LessorThe immediate lessor was the person or organisation the occupier (usually a leaseholder) held their land from usually by payment of rent. This could be the outright owner who held the freehold, or a middle man who held an estate by some form of leasehold and sub-let the premises to the actual occupier. If this term appears in the 'Immediate lessors" field, it means the same as "As Lessor", ie that the occupier owns the land.
In ChanceryLands were considered to be 'In Chancery' when they were under the control of the Law Courts and subject to their judgement. This might happen if the lands were in contention between two parties, or if the immediate lessor had died intestate, or there were other reasons for any of the courts to take control of the land.
In perpetuityFor ever
In feeLands held 'in fee' were freehold tenures, derived from a grant from the Crown.
LeaseThe frequent term of a lease was 21 or 31 years, known as a 'lease of years'. Alternatively land was leased for the life time of named individuals otherwise known as a 'lease of lives', eg. typically there were three named lives, including the tenant, his son and another named individual. The lease and rent agreement remained in force until the death of all three named persons. Some of the more prosperous tenants secured the right to get renewable leases for ever, or leases for several hundred years, which were essentially freehold in all but name. However over 80% of all tenancies in the mid nineteenth century were annually set, with no security and no formal lease.
OccupierThe individual or corporation who owns, leases or rents a holding (tenement) and who is financially responsible for the taxes levied on the holding. This will generally be the head of the household, in the case of a house. NOTE: Particularly in urban areas there may be several households living within a single house, and only one head-of-household (if any) will be named.
ParishA civil parish may contain anything from 5 to 30 townlands. Parishes appeared in the medieval period (12th century) and were originally an ecclesiastical administrative division over which a clergyman exercised jurisdiction. These medieval parishes were used as geographical units of local administration, otherwise known as civil parishes. The majority of 19th Century (or earlier) records are based on these, but they are no longer in administrative use today. Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland parishes are not the same as the civil parishes. While the majority of Church of Ireland parishes do correspond to the civil parish, most Roman Catholic parishes cover parts of more than one civil parish
Poor Law UnionThe poor law union was introduced in 1838 under the Poor Law Act. Between 1838 and 1852, workhouses were built throughout the country, each at the centre of an area known as a Poor Law Union (PLU). At first there were 130 PLUs covering the entire country, but these were expanded to 163 during the course of the Griffith Valuation. These workhouses were generally situated in a large market town and the Poor Law Union comprised this town and its catchment area, the result being that the Unions in many cases ignored the existing boundaries of parish and county.
Quality LotThe areas of the holding, distinguished, for valuation purposes, by the quality of the soil.
TenantAn individual who rents or leases a property and pays stated rent (in money, kind, or days worked for free) to a middleman or owner.
TenementAny taxable property (building structure and land) that is held or possessed for any time period (term), whether owned, rented or leased for not less than year to year. One person may hold several distinct tenements and several persons may hold one tenement (NOTE: Because much urban property was held under terms of less than one year, e.g. flats on a weekly rent, the occupiers of this property are not recorded in Griffiths).
TownlandThe smallest of the governmental administrative land districts, townlands are still in use today. The term townland probably derives from the Anglo-Saxon word 'toun' which means farmstead. The Gaelic equivalent is Baile, anglicised as Bally. There are more than 64,000 townlands in Ireland, varying in size from an acre or less to several thousand acres. They can be individual family farms or a group of farms; they also tend to be larger than towns, so that most towns and villages in Ireland are contained within a townland - often, though not always, with the same name. In a few cases, a townland may be contained within the boundaries of a town. Many townlands take their names from physical characteristics of an area such as ruins of churches and forts and from clan names. There are frequently several separate townlands with the same name: for example there are 56 Kilmores and 47 Dromores. So you usually will need to know at least the county, and preferably the parish, to identify a townland unambiguously.
UnionSee Poor Law Union