Book Reviews

Return of Owners of Land 1873, Sussex. Sussex Family History Group; ISBN 0 9513580 5 7. Card Covers 36pp A5. £2.25 from SFHG.

The Returns of Owners of Land 1873, were originally published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office from 1875 onwards, and contained names, residences, acreages and annual rentals of all those who owned one acre or more of land. The returns included all property whether or not it had buildings on it and thus included quite modest holdings of agricultural land, as well as the larger residential and other properties. This useful reference book is a replica of the original volume held in the Brighton Reference Library, and contains 4839 personal and 220 institutional landholders. As such, it is a valuable reference source, though, as Frank Leeson points out in the introduction, there were nearly three times as many owners of land of less than one acre. These individual holdings averaged just over one quarter of an acre and would have included many of the Lin(d)field households who owned only the land upon which their modest houses were built.

In fact only three Lin(d)field entries appear, all of the “D” spelling, the largest landowner being George Lindfield of Horsham with 229 acres. If only a similar return was available for the small landowners and tenants!

East Sussex Land Tax 1785; Roger Davey. Sussex Record Society, ISBN 085445 038 6. Hardback 255 x 180 mm. 345pp. £24 from SRS.

Long before the current controversy over Poll Tax and the Council Tax, governments were raising money by taxation, often in order to pay for military campaigns. Most of these taxes were based in some way upon the ownership of property. The Land Tax is generally considered to date from an Act of Parliament of 1692, and was originally to be levied at a rate of four shillings in the pound on personal estate, offices and land. It survived, with various changes, for the next two and a half centuries, until it was finally abolished in 1963. The assessments from 1780 to 1832 were preserved as they formed the basis for the electoral registers. In this book, Roger Davey describes the history of the Land Tax and gives a considerable amount of background on how, and by whom, it was administered. The introduction also contains a very useful bibliography on the subject.

The book contains the detailed Land Tax assessments for the year 1785, and as such forms a directory of land ownership in East Sussex for that year. The records are arranged by parish, and each record gives the owners and occupiers, together with a name or description of the property and the amount of rental. The latter figure is not however the actual rent in that year, but represents the value assigned at the original assessment in 1692/3. Even so, it gives a good idea of the relative value of the properties named, and allows us to obtain some idea of the size of some of the houses.

There are a dozen or so Lin(d)field entries, either as owners or occupiers, and the information in the book has added useful detail to some of the records in the database.

Surrey Super Index to Parish Records; MS No 4. West Surrey FHS, ISSN 0952-4576. 2 microfiche plus 6pp A5. £2 from WSFHS

The “Superindex” is, as Cliff Webb describes it in his introduction, “an index of indexes”, and has been arranged to provide a key to the occurrence of a given surname in as many Surrey sources as possible. The coverage so far has concentrated on pre-1840 baptism and burial registers (though with some marriages included). The superindex is only to surnames, and is only intended as a quick reference guide to allow researchers to determine which sources are worth further checking.

The format is very simple, each surname being followed by a reference showing which transcript and index it appears in. These references each consist of a two or three letter code followed by a number which together indicate the parish and the date covered by the index. These codes are listed in hard copy form in the booklet which accompanies the microfiche. The coverage only extends to the non- Metropolitan areas of Surrey, and has virtually no entries for that area which was absorbed into the county of London in 1888. Whilst it contains only ten Lin(d)field entries at present, the WSFHS hope to update the Superindex every other year as more indexes are added to their database. For anyone trying to track down ancestors who have moved around a lot, and of course for anyone engaged in a one-name study, this approach to indexing can obviously save hours of searching. I look forward to similar publications from other family history societies.

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