Explanation of the Return of Owners of Land, 1873, Page 3.


THERE COULD be no question, as was said in the House of Lords, as to lessees for 999 years ; and indeed lessees for shorter terms than that might properly be considered as owners.

    A more difficult question arose as to lessees for 99 years, the common term of building leases, and also as to some other cases.

    It was said on the one hand, that the holder of a building lease for 99 years, with occupying tenants under him, especially at the commencement of his term, might fairly be considered as an owner ; on the other that the holder of such a lease, when his term had nearly expired, could not be so considered.  In some parts of England lands are frequently held on leases for lives constantly renewed, though without any right of renewal, and the lessees are generally treated as owners, though liable to be turned out on the expiration of the lives.  Other cases of doubtful ownership might easily be suggested, and it became clear that only an arbitrary line could be drawn.


         After much consideration it was determined that lessees for terms exceeding 99 years, or with a right of perpetual renewal, should be considered as owners, but that lessees for terms of shorter duration, or for lives, without a right of renewal, should not be so considered.


Instructions were issued to the Union Clerks to frame their Returns in accordance with this rule ; but notwithstanding this direction, it is extremely probably that in several instances where properties have been held for long periods on beneficial leases or for lives, as is the case in some parts of England, the names of the lessees have been entered in the Return as owners, as neither the clerks nor the overseers would have had any reason to suppose that they were not the owners in fee.                   An Example of ‘Leases for Lives’


         In some of the Rating Acts the term “owner” means either the immediate lessor of the premises, or the person receiving the rent of the same “for the use of any corporation  or any public company, or of any landlord or lessee who shall be a minor or married woman, or any insane, or for the use of any person for whom he is acting as agent.”  It is obvious that such persons are not really the owners of the property, and directions were therefore given, that whenever it was within the knowledge of the clerk or the overseers that the names of trustees, receivers, or other persons not beneficially interested in the property were entered in the owners’ column, the names of the actual owners, if ascertainable, should be substituted.

         In the case of joint owners it is probable that in many cases one name only will have been returned as owner, though the clerks were directed, whenever the name and address of each owner could be ascertained, to insert them.


         Moreover, the Act does not require any periodical revision of the valuation lists as under the Metropolitan Valuation Act of 1869, and a mere change of ownership would not render the preparation of a supplemental valuation list, or the revision of an existing list necessary.  In some cases it was found that the names of owners who had died several years ago, had been retained.  In one instance where a property had been sold in lots, it appeared that the names of the new owners had not been inserted in the valuation list, and the single name of the former owner was still in the list.  In order to obviate the difficulty from this source, the clerks were directed, when they were aware that changes in ownership had taken place, to substitute the names of the present owners in the Returns, and to apply to the overseers or rate collectors to assist in revising the Returns before their final completion.

         Although the foregoing remarks refer chiefly to the Owners column in the Valuation Lists, it should be stated that this column has been found to be filled up with still less accuracy in the rate books in those parishes where the Union Assessment Committee Act is not in force.  This observation applies to several important towns, where, owing to the large number of separate occupations, and the fact that the rents are paid in numerous cases to lessees, trustees, or agents, the difficulties of ascertaining the names of the owners or ground landlords may be said to be almost insurmountable.


WHEN THE necessary particulars relating to all the Unions in each county had been received by the Local Government Board, it became the duty of that Department to arrange and consolidate the separate parish and union returns into one Return for the whole county, and in doing this a further difficulty arose.

         In order to make a correct county Return, the name of each owner ought to appear only once, and all the property belonging to him within the county should be included under his name.

         When, however, the same name appeared more than once in the several Union lists, the Board in London could not determine whether there were two or more persons with the same name or the same person was repeated.

         For the purpose as far as possible of identifying the owners, it had been required that their names and addresses, when the latter could be ascertained, should be given in full and as accurately as possible.

         Where the same name with the same address occurred more than once in the returns, it might be assumed as probable that the entries referred to the same person, but when the same name occurred with a different address, it was probable, though by no means certain, that different persons were intended.  In all these cases it became necessary to communicate with the clerks of the several different Unions in which the name appeared, to ascertain if it referred to the same or different persons ; thus, for example, the name of John Smith might appear in a county 12 times, and in as many different Unions, and inquiry had to be made in each Union to ascertain whether the name indicated one and the same person, or whether there were 12 separate persons of that name.


         A reference to some of the Welsh counties, where there are large numbers of owners of the same Christian and surnames, eg., the county of Cardigan, where the name David Davies occurs above 53 times, and John Jones above 70 times, will show the labour involved in this branch of the inquiry, and it may be added that, independently of other inquiries, upwards of 300,000 separate applications had to be sent to the clerks in order to clear up questions in reference to duplicate entries.


IN SOME cases it has been found impracticable to discover the addresses of the owners, and whenever there is a single entry in the address column within brackets it must be understood to show the parish in which the property is situate and not the residence of the owner ; where there are two entries in the address column, one of them in brackets, it indicates that it has been ascertained that the two persons with the same address are two distinct persons.

         Where the owners appear to be corporate bodies, or to hold their lands in virtue of a public office, the names are printed in italics ; but the Return must not be assumed to be complete in this respect, as there is reason to believe that in many cases the name of an individual is entered instead of the body or office which he represents, and this remark applies especially to glebe lands.

         Notwithstanding all the care that has been taken, there can be no doubt that in several cases the name of the same person will appear more than once in the county Return, but, on the other hand, there will be many cases in which only one name will appear as owner, although the property is really in several hands.


II. Estimated Extent.

         The estimated extent of land in connection with each assessment is probably taken, in most cases, either from some former rate or survey, or from the account given by the occupying tenant of the acreage of his holding.  Extreme accuracy therefore could not be expected, and in many cases, especially in those of small properties, the acreage was found to be omitted altogether.

         Where the acreage was not entered in the Valuation Lists, the clerks were requested to furnish the best estimate in their power ; but there are instances in which the Board have been unable to obtain any sufficient information on this head, and in these cases the column is necessarily left blank.

         It will doubtless be observed that a small acreage frequently represents a large rental, but this may arise either from the value of the land being increased by houses or other buildings upon it, or by the value of coal worked below its surface, or in some few cases by the absence of information as to the extent of a portion of the property.  Instances will also be noticed of a large acreage being represented by a comparatively small rental ;  and the explanation of most of these will be found in the fact that a considerable portion of the land is of a mountainous, or similarly unproductive character.

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