Find your ancestors in England & Wales, Return of Owners of Land 1873

What can these records tell me?

Known as the ‘Modern Domesday’, the Return of Owners of Land was the first comprehensive and complete picture of land ownership and distribution across England & Wales, Scotland, and Ireland since 1086.

You can find in the records -

  • Name
  • Address (will be the owner’s home address, rather than the address of the land in that county)
  • Where your ancestor owned land
  • Size of land own in that county (measured in acres, rods, and perches)
  • Value of land (gross estimated rental value)

Discover more about these records

Following the Second Reform Bill and the election of the Liberal party under William Gladstone, more questions were being asked by politicians and the electorate over the unfair distribution and use of land in the UK including the rise in rent prices resulting in the increased wealth of landowners. John Bright, MP for Birmingham, argued that, fewer than 150 men owned half the land in England.

The assertions made by the Liberal government and MPs were challenged by the landowners including Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby, who demanded that, instead of throwing around wild speculations, a comprehensive survey be carried out of the UK to ascertain the number of landowners, as well as the amount of land owned and its value.

This was agreed by the government, and in 1872, instructions were delivered to local parishes as to how to carry out the return. Local officials used parish records and valuation lists for tax and poor rates to compile the returns for each county. In England and Wales, London was excluded from this survey. Once returns were made they were returned to the government and published – England & Wales in 1875, Scotland in 1874, and Ireland in 1876.

The Returns were sold to the public and, despite being published for political reasons, became sought after reading for society. Subsequent editions were published with corrections and edits.