The Valuation Office survey, often known as the Lloyd George Domesday, was created after the 1910 Finance Act and was a property tax which was aimed at raising funds for the Inland Revenue; the records are now at The National Archives, Kew – and are a hidden gem for property historians, mainly because they combine maps and field books to give intricate detail about the state of the built environment on the eve of the First World War. No piece of rateable land or property was exempt (though the records for some areas were never completed due to the intensification of hostilities after 1914, and others were destroyed by enemy bombing during the Second World War).
To locate a property you first need to identify the Ordnance Survey sheet that was a used as a key to the main survey documents, the field books. The National Archives has created a website where you can search for the right OS map (http://labs.nationalarchives.gov.uk/wordpress/index.php/2010/04/valuation-office-map-finder) – though for London you still have to use the old index maps in the map reading room. Once you have the TNA reference you’ll need to order the map at the archive. Each property is labeled with a hereditament number, which corresponds to an entry in the field books. The country was divided into valuation districts and income tax parishes. There are guides on the shelf in the reading room to help you determine which is the right one and once identified, you can order the appropriate field book from that district.
Once you’ve got the right field book you’ll find out the names of the owners, occupiers, extent of the land or property, its market and ratable value, dates of former sales, a brief description and even a sketch map of outbuildings – making it a good way of examining site use and the location of former structures which may not now stand. From a two-up, two-down in Preston to a stately home standing in acres of farmland, most properties are included. Furthermore, the date of the survey allows you to link into a range of other key datasets, such as the 1911 census, thus giving a unique window into the social and historical context of the time.