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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 2

The New Domesday Book

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The New Domesday Book.

The modern Domesday Book, as the Parliamentary

The New Domesday Book.

Return, giving the list and acreage of the Landowners of the United Kingdom, has been happily termed, enabled the country for the first time since the Domesday of the Conqueror, to form an estimate of the ownership and distribution of its landed property.
Compared indeed with the original, it is very deficient in details. It is so framed as to give very little local information as to the ownership of land in particular parishes or districts, or the number of tenants of the various owners, or as to the nature of the ownerships. It does not distinguish between leaseholders, copyholders, and owners in fee; it omits all reference to the owners of land let on long lease; it does not distinguish what is mere house property from landed property; it does not page 10

The New Domesday Book.

enable us to estimate how many members still exist of the class formerly so numerous, the yeomen of England, cultivating their own lands, or how many can be considered as forming a class of peasant proprietors; it is admittedly inaccurate in many of its details.
These inaccuracies, however, do not, it is believed, disturb the general results; and faulty though it may be in many respects, it is still most valuable; it enables us to compare the numbers of landowners of different classes in the three kingdoms with the number of owners in other countries. At first sight indeed the aggregate is apt to mislead. It appears to indicate a much larger number of proprietors than was supposed to exist. A gross total of 1,153,816 landowners is given for the United Kingdom : of these, however, no less than 552,438 are entered as owners or lessees of less than one acre of land, with an aggregate of 188,000 acres only, valued at 36,300,000l. per annum. It is obvious that with rare exceptions these must be owners, and most of them leaseholders, of mere house properties. From the 301,378 entries of owners of above one acre, further reductions must be made in respect of duplicate entries, holders of glebes, corporations, and charities. A careful examination of the Return has shown that, after making these deductions, there are page 11 certainly not more than 166,000 owners of

The New Domesday Book.

land, as distinguished from houses, in England and Wales; 21,000 in Ireland;1 and 8,000 in Scotland.

It may be safely stated then that the number of landowners of the United Kingdom is under 200,000. How then is the land divided among these owners?

A careful analysis has shown that 955 persons own between them 29,743,000 acres out of the 72,000,000 acres accounted for, exclusive of manors, woods, forests, property let on long lease, property within the metropolis, and house property generally; giving an average to each of nearly 30,000 acres, consisting of estates situate generally in two or more counties. A further analysis has shown that about 4,000 persons, in the next rank of landowners own between them about 20,000,000 acres, with an average of 5,000 acres each; that 10,000 persons own between 500 and 2000 acres, with an aggregate of 10,000,000 acres; that 50,000 persons own between 50 and 500 acres with an aggregate of 9,000,000 acres; and that 130,000 own between one acre and fifty acres with an aggregate of 1,750,000 acres. These figures however rather page 12

The New Domesday Book.

understate than overstate the proportion of land held by large owners as compared with small owners. An addition should be made to the acreage of the former, in respect of woods and manors which are not accounted for in the return, and which probably amount to nearly 4,000,000 acres. Making an addition on this account, it may be safely said that 15,000 persons own between them 64,000,000 acres out of a total 761/3 millions; of the remainder about 1,500,000 acres are held in mortmain, by the Crown, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and other Church Corporations, the Universities, Public Schools, Hospitals and Charities.

It will be seen, however, from the above figures, that the distribution of land is very different in the three countries. In Scotland more than half the country consists of mountain and moor, of little agricultural value, and held in immense blocks. The remaining half is owned by a very small number of persons; peasant proprietors do not exist there. One person only out of every 400 owns land; and one in twenty-eight owns a house.

In Ireland the proportion of landowners would have been about the same as in Scotland, but for recent legislation promoting the purchase of land by tenants, which has added about 5,000 to the number of small owners, or nearly 30 per cent, of the previous number; with this addition, one page 13 person in 257 owns land, and one in 120 owns a

The New Domesday Book.


In England and Wales the number of owners of land is proportionally larger than in the other countries. There are parts of the country, such as Cumberland and Westmoreland, where the class of yeomen has not altogether died out. There are considerable numbers of owners of small properties in the neighbourhood of towns, which would be more properly classed as owners of villas. In Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire there are a certain number of owners of small holdings. With these exceptions there cannot be said to exist a class of yeomen farmers or of peasant proprietors. One person out of 130 is probably an owner of land, and, omitting London, one person in twenty-six is probably the owner of a house.

1 Including about 5,000 holdings bought by their tenants under the Bright clauses of the Church Disestablishment Act (1869) and the Irish Land Act (1870).