National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Valuation Rolls Before 1855

Valuation Rolls Before 1855

Local and central government gathered information about the ownership and tenancy of land and houses in order to raise property taxes. Before 1855, only a very few records of such taxes survive. There were several poll and hearth taxes levied at the end of the 17th century and from 1667 there was a Land Tax. The surviving records of this land tax are held at the National Records of Scotland (NRS) in the Exchequer series (NRS reference E106). They record the value of land for each county down to parish level, together with the names of the proprietors. Remember that until well into the 20th century very few Scots owned landed property. These records therefore relate to only a tiny proportion of the populace (perhaps as little as 3 per cent of the population in the 18th century) and they rarely list either tenants or occupiers. This national land tax was also levied on the royal burghs but the collection records do not list burgh inhabitants.

Rolls submitted to the Scottish Exchequer (NRS reference E106) are now available online on the ScotlandsPlaces website. Other land tax rolls can be found among Commissioners of Supply records in local archives.

Loretta Timperley used the land tax records to publish 'A Directory of Scottish Landownership in 1770' (Scottish Record Society, Edinburgh, 1976). This shows all the named landowners for that year together with the names and values of their properties, in so far as these can be gleaned from the record. This publication is available in the NRS search rooms and also in good reference libraries. It gives an accurate sense of the type of information available from the original record.

Some local land valuations may also be found in heritors' records (NRS reference HR) and among private Gifts and Deposits of family papers (NRS reference GD) held in the NRS.

Other records showing landownership

The records of the Inland Revenue Valuation Office provide a snapshot of landownership in Scotland in 1911-1912. Their staff surveyed every property, recording the names of owners, tenants and occupiers, charges on the land, valuations and other particulars. Each property's boundaries and assessment number were marked on specially printed Ordnance Survey maps. The field books and maps resulting from this work are held by the NRS (NRS reference IRS51-88 and IRS101-133). More information on using these records is given in Cecil Sinclair's, ‘Tracing Scottish Local History’, pages 28-9.