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Durham University

Special Collections

Land Tax Assessments

What Land Tax records are available?

Assessments for land tax, from the Palatinate of Durham. Land Tax was introduced in 1692, and used to prove eligibility for voting at parliamentary elections from 1780 to 1832. It could be redeemed (bought out) by landowners from 1798 so that records become less complete from then, and especially after 1832, with redemption becoming compulsory from 1949. It was abolished in 1963.

Where and when: geographical coverage and dates

The Land Tax assessments relate to the Palatinate of Durham (County Durham, Craikeshire in Yorkshire and North Durham in Northumberland), see below for details.

These records date ca.1760 until 1949, though most Land Tax was redeemed in the early 20th century so that the assessments date chiefly from the 19th century.

What family history information will I find within Land Tax assessments?

Land Tax assessments list owners and/or occupiers within each township, with an assessment of their land tax payable. They can be useful for showing when your ancestors have lived in or owned property within a particular place, but the assessments do not give a reliable record of value, property descriptions are at best very sparse (completely lacking before 1826, but with more details on location after 1900) and the lists of owners/occupiers are not always complete. Before 1780, the assessments provide a single list of names with owners and occupiers undifferentiated, thereafter the owners/occupiers are in separate columns, but the two lists are sometimes switched around.

Where is the catalogue and does it include names?

The collection level description for the Land Tax Records includes a summary of the collection and link to the detailed catalogue of assessments. The online catalogue lists assessments by ward, township and date, but does not index them or include any names from the records.

However, the duplicate Land Tax assessments held at Durham County Record Office (DCRO, see below) have been transcribed, with lists of names for those that survive within that series. A search under catalogue reference Q/D within the DCRO online catalogue search screen will locate these lists.

Are the Land Tax assessments available online?

Most of the pre-1832 Land Tax Assessments have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, and digitised copies of these (black and white) microfilms are now available online from their familysearch website (entries on that page showing a camera rather than a film-reel icon are available as digital images). Note that each digitised microfilm contains images for many different records, and that the titles on the catalogue page are not always clear. Note also when using the images on familysearch that:

  • The images have not been indexed, so will not be found by carrying out a surname search on familysearch. They are only available for browsing on that site.
  • You will have to sign in to access the images. If you do not have an account on familysearch, you will first need to set one up. This is free of charge.
  • familysearch is an external site and is the responsibility of the Genealogical Society of Utah, not of Durham University.

The later (post-1831) Land Tax Assessments have not been imaged.

Details of geographical coverage for Land Tax records

The Land Tax Assessments relate to the County Palatine of Durham. In most cases, duplicate assessments for the period ca.1760-1830 were lodged with the Clerk of the Peace (to prove eligibility for voting at elections), and survive within the Quarter Sessions records held at the Durham County Record Office (catalogue reference Q/D/L). The County Palatine comprised the following areas:

  • County Durham north of the Tees (including Darlington, Hartlepool, Stockton, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland boroughs)
  • Crayke parish (also known as Craike, or Craikeshire) in North Yorkshire (until 1836)
  • Bedlington parish in Northumberland (Bedlington, Cambois, Choppington, Netherton, East Sleekburn and West Sleekburn townships, also known as Bedlingtonshire, until 1836)
  • Norham and Islandshire in Northumberland (Ancroft, Cornhill, Holy Island, Kyloe, Norham and Tweedmouth townships, until 1836)

In 1836, the detached parts of the County Palatine were transferred to Yorkshire and Northumberland counties, so later Crayke land tax assessments should be found at North Yorkshire County Record Office and later Bedlington, Norham and Islandshire assessments at Northumberland Archives.

For further information

For the townships included within each ward of County Durham, see the online catalogues on the Durham County Record Office website (carry out a catalogue search for reference Q/D to locate these).

An article by Mark Pearsall for the magazine of the Friends of The National Archives (Vol. 22 No.3, December 2011) discusses the land tax in more detail, and H.G. Hunt, "Short guides to records: 16. Land Tax Assessments," in History, Vol.52 (1967), p.283-286 (reprinted in L.M. Munby (ed), Short guides to records (Historical Association, 1972)) includes a guide to the land tax assessments. J. Gibson and D. Mills, Land tax assessments (Federation of Family History Societies, 1987), or J. Gibson, M. Medlycott and D. Mills, Land and window tax assessments (Federation of Family History Societies, 1998) includes details of surviving assessments by county.