Using c.1830s Townland Valuation
[Townlands in Rural Areas: Gorteade]

The purpose of this paper is to show how the 1830s Townland Valuation can be useful to researchers in both Family and Local History. The example used here concentrates on the townland of Gorteade near the village of Upperlands in South Derry [see map].

The Townland Valuation of the 1830s was primarily a valuation of land. Initially, only buildings with an annual value of £3 or more were to be included. From 1838 this threshold was raised to £5. These criteria meant that most buildings in rural areas were excluded. However, because Co. Londonderry was valued in the early 1830s, and the £3 rather than the £5 restriction applied, some houses in townlands were included initially only to be stroked out later. By contrast, many buildings in towns had an annual valuation in excess of £5 so there are usually lists of occupants' names in most of the streets in each town within the county.

Below is a copy of a page below from the VAL/1/B/534A book for the townland of Gorteade in the parish of Maghera.

As well as providing us with names, the Townland Valuation tells us something about the houses and outbuildings that our ancestors lived in at that time. The above page shows the dimensions of each building - length [frontage], breadth [depth] and height are given in feet and inches. Note that the details relating to the roof and wall materials plus the general age and condition of each building are given in code. The code was a combination of numbers and letters. The numbers referred to the construction of the building, particularly the walls and roof. The letters were used to describe the condition and age of the building e.g. a house coded as 1B in the valuation had stone walls and a slated roof and was of medium age, slightly decayed, but in good repair. New slated houses were coded 1A. Note that the buildings in this example above are mostly coded as 2C. For a full explanation of the code - click here.

Accompanying these Valuation Books are maps [scale 6 inches to the mile] which are catalogued in PRONI as VAL/1A/5. The 5 signifies that the map belongs to Co. Londonderry. The map that is relevant to the example above comes in two sheets - VAL/1/A/5/32 and 33. Note that the red numbers on the map are the final set of numbers shown on the Valuation page. John Mitchell's No. 6 was exacluded because its value fell below £3. It actually say "won't come in - out" in the amount column. Those that "came in" are numbered red on the map and in the Valuation page. Finally a valuation of £5 was necessary from 1838 - hence the large X on the page. For comparison you might want to see the valuation of the houses in the Griffith's Valuation of 1859 - click here. Here you will find that only one house in the townland in 1859 was valued at £5 or more - that of Rev. Robert Torrens [£10]. This was house No. 3 on this 1833 map occupied then by a James McKeown.

The number of storeys in a house can be worked out from the height given. It looks as if Robert Kane's house was probably a storey and a half with a frontage which was some fifteen feet less than the low thatched house of Charles Patterson. Kane' house was situated at a crossroads on the main road from Maghera to Kilrea and was an inn. The photo below shows the inn at a later date when clearly it had been considerably refurbished. [My thanks to the late Joe Doherty of Gorteade for this photo.]

James McKeown's house is on the site of the modern-day 'Gorteade Cottage', the ancestral home of Charles Thompson, the Secretary of the U.S. Continental Congress during the American War of Independence. Note that its valuation exceeds £5 and would have been the only house to be included in the final valuation list once the threshold for inclusion was raised to £5 in 1838.

As mentioned above, John Mitchell's house was initially included in the valuation but once its valuation was set at £2.18.0, it failed to met the £3 threshold in operation before 1838 and was, therefore, excluded. Note the words "won't come in" and "out" written below the valuation of this property.

Unfortunately, the Townland valuation does not provide a list of landholders for the entire townland. Instead we have to rely on two other sources of similar date - the 1828 Tithe Applotment Book for Gorteade and the 1831 Census for the townland. I have not included copies of the original pages, instead the names, etc. are in tabular form. Note that the names are in the order that they appear in the original document. In some instances you might be able to match names across the three documents and, even, with the later c.1860 Griffith's Valuation list.

Copyright 2015 W. Macafee.