Introduction to the Valuation
In 1828, Lincoln obtained a private Act of Parliament, setting up new Commissioners for Paving, Lighting, Watching and Improving the City. They took over responsibility for the Watch from commissioners acting under an Act of 1792. They had powers to require property owners to pave the footpaths along their frontage or to do the work on their behalf and reclaim the cost; this was intended as a sanction, but because the commissioners were so efficient it seems to have become the norm. For street lighting, the watch and any improvements, they were empowered to levy a rate, at up to double the rate that could be levied under the 1792 Act. This was controversial: people welcomed street lighting but they didn't want to pay for it.
One of the Commissioners' first acts was to commission a new valuation of the city, from Edward Betham, Lincoln's leading valuer, and EJ Willson, better known as an antiquary. This revaluation had the effect on increasing the Commissioners' income almost fourfold compared to the 1792 arrangements. This too was controversial, and there were a lot of appeals.
The rules they were working to were laid down under the Act. Any plot that was in its entirety more than 100 yards from any of the included streets was exempt. These are referred to in the valuation as 'Lands not in charge'. Houses worth less than £6 per annum were exempt. There were special rules for churchyards and for the Corporation's public buildings. Rates were payable by the occupier, but if this proved impossible the Commissioners could claim from the proprietor. That is why the valuers listed both the occupier and the proprietor of each plot. This is useful for the historian, who must nevertheless remember that historical utility was not what the valuers were aiming for. Ownership could be complicated with freeholders granting leases in exchange for a premium; the lessees might grant sub-leases, who might then rent out the property. The valuers did not usually record such complexities: the question they probably asked was 'Who receives the rent?'.
The valuation was printed in 1833 and placed on public sale*. This printed version included the results of the first lot of appeals but as addenda rather than as changes to the original valuation. This may be because its use by other bodies (like parishes) was anticipated: an appeal granted by the Lighting & Paving Commissioners was something another body might or might not choose to accept. Whether other bodies did indeed use the 1828 valuation as a basis for their own rates is something that needs further research.
There was no map of Lincoln in existence that was detailed enough to show each individual plot. The valuers needed to make sure they included every rateable property and it needed to be clear to everyone that they had done so. Accordingly they divided each parish into blocks - we have used the term precincts here - and they worked round each precinct in a regular manner. Often there are sufficiently many landmarks recognisable in the valuation to enable any individual property to be located approximately. Our ultimate aim is to provide a plan of each precinct showing all the plots and cross-referencing them to the entries in the valuation. We need volunteers to take on this challenge for areas they happen to be interested in. For precincts covered by volumes in the Survey of Ancient Houses series, the task should be fairly easy using the lease plans reproduced in those books. For other precincts the task will be more of a challenge, requiring work in archives and libraries (when that is possible again). But we hope it will be seen as more rewarding than a crossword-puzzle!
In transcribing the names of proprietors from the original, they were converted to the form usual in an index. That makes it possible to sort the list by proprietor. The valuers were inconsistent in the form of names used: the task of deciding whether 'Alderman P Cartledge' is the same man as 'Page Cartledge' is a lot easier if all the Cartledge entries come together. Readers with a particular interest in the exact sequence of words used in the original should have no difficulty in locating an original copy in Lincoln Central Library, Lincolnshire Archives, or elsewhere. The published list is not without typographical errors, some of which have been silently corrected in the course of transcribing. In happier times these would have been checked against the manuscript version of the Valuation at LAO - LCL 5008; at the time this was published such comparison was not possible.
The transcribed list can be found in the pull-down menu as 'The Valuation as a Spreadsheet'. Having it available in this form made it possible to calculate various statistics for each area:
- average house value (see "An Estate Agent's Map")
- the percentage of houses in multiple occupation
- the percentage of industrial property.
This depended on some rough and ready definitions of what constituted an 'ordinary' house. Many of the valuation entries include a dwelling-house along with various buildings. The point at which a property changes from being an 'ordinary' house to being mixed property used for trade or industry is not an easy one to determine. Because of the very large number of properties, the categorisation was made on the basis of the Description entry, without taking context into account. In a large precinct, the errors one way will tend to balance the errors the other way. In a small precinct, a single mis-categorisation may alter the statistics significantly. This needs to be borne in mind when using the maps: they are drawn to show the general trends, not as a definitive account of every precinct.
It ought to be noted that, to avoid wild variations of percentages caused by extremely small precincts, some of the smallest ones were merged for the production of these statistical maps.
The other activity that was made easy by having a spreadsheet was to sort the results by proprietor and hence to establish who were the major proprietors in Lincoln. A mere list of names is uninformative, so short accounts have been written of all those with property to the (annual) value of £100 or more. Again, this must be used with caution. Some apparently wealthy individuals had based their property acquisition on borrowings that went beyond what was prudent. From this list to the bankruptcy courts was for some but a small step.
* The printer, Edward Bell Drury at The Stonebow, announced in September 1833 the forthcoming publication of the compiled Valuation for the City. Subscribers would pay 4 shillings for the complete work, but individual parish valuations would be available for 6d each (Stamford Mercury 6/9/1833, p3). It remains unclear how the valuation results were disseminated to property owners and occupiers after completion of each parish valuation in order for appeals to be registered with the Commissioners. Appeals were heard at meetings held between July 1829 and December 1830.