Sources for house history

When starting your house history you may need to search in many different documents and maps. You may find it easier to find out about the various owners and occupiers than about the building structure or exact construction date. To find out when it was built you need to work backwards and identify when a house disappears from maps or other records

Sources you can use

CensusOS MapsTithe mapsEnclosure maps Building control plansSale ParticularsLand Tax

Census Returns

Census Returns are probably the most useful of all sources for family history in that it is the only resource that brings together a whole household, often including extended family. The ages and places of birth can lead you to an individual’s birth certificate and/or baptism entry.

Census returns also enable local historians to obtain a complete record of the inhabitants of a place, and its occupational and social structure.

A census has been taken in England and Wales every ten years since 1801, with the exception of 1941, on account of war.

The information required on the census has increased over the years.

  • names of individuals
  • ages (on the 1841 census ages of people over 15 were rounded down to the nearest 5 years)
  • occupations
  • place of birth (the 1841 census merely indicates whether or not they were born in the same county)
  • head of the household and their relationship to others (from 1851)

Ordnance Survey Maps

The origin of the Ordnance Survey lies in the appointment of a Trigonometrical Survey in 1791, to provide a complete cartographical survey of the country for military purposes.
The first edition 1 inch OS maps for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were published in 1810-1811 and 1811-1817. We hold reproductions of these in The Old Series Ordnance Survey Maps of England and Wales vol. III : South Central England (Harry Margary, 1981).

County Series

From the mid 19th century, the Ordnance Survey began to compile County Series maps at 6 inches and 25 inches to the mile. These maps were known as the County Series. Hampshire Record Office has a large, though incomplete, collection of County Series maps for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and a few others for adjacent counties.

Editions were produced as follows:

  • 1st edition, c1870
  • 2nd edition, c1896
  • 3rd edition, c1910

After the First World War, the Ordnance Survey tended to focus on areas of rapid change, so between 1921 and 1939 some areas have more maps than others. Many towns were also mapped at an even larger scale of 50 inches to the mile. We hold some of these, including a full set of Winchester, c1870.

National Grid Series

After 1945, all Ordnance Survey maps formed part of one National Grid, rather than using separate references for each county.

The scales range from 6 inches, 25 inches and 50 inches. As revisions were made when necessary rather than after a certain time, we may hold more maps for urban areas than we do for rural areas. We hold a large, though incomplete, collection of National Grid maps for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight dating from c1945 to c1980.

Hampshire Tithe maps

Tithes were the tenth part of a person's produce which was paid in kind annually to the church. Tithe maps were made following the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 which provided for the commutation of tithes into a money payment. The maps accompanied an award or schedule.

The maps provide a survey of each parish in Hampshire on a large scale prior to the first edition of the Ordnance Survey maps.

The accompanying award gives details for each individual property including a description, the name of the owner and occupier, its acreage and its cultivation.

Often, buildings are coloured pink to indicate dwellings, or grey to indicate outhouses and other buildings.

Some properties, shown and numbered on the map, are not included on the award. There could be a variety of reasons for this, the main one being that the land was owned by the tithe owner. There are significant gaps in the Christchurch tithe award for this reason.

There is a tithe map and award for every parish in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight except Beaulieu, Binstead (IOW), Chilworth, Corhampton, North Baddesley, Portsmouth, St. Lawrence (IOW), Woodcott and the town areas of Southampton and Winchester.

In many parishes, the original statement in the tithe award has been changed subsequently by a document known as an altered tithe apportionment, which was usually accompanied by a map. Many parish collections also include altered apportionments. Most of these duplicate the diocesan series but some supplement the main series. Sometimes certificates of redemption of tithe rent charge are also accompanied by a map.

Hampshire Enclosure maps

Enclosure of the common fields has gone on from an early date. Generally early enclosures were made by private agreement between the landowners and even when the agreement was formally written down there was usually no accompanying map. However from the mid eighteenth century, enclosure by Act of Parliament became common. The Act appointed Commissioners to allot the common land in a parish to the principal landowners in as fair a way as possible. Their decisions were embodied in an enclosure award for the parish or the affected part of the parish, and a map was drawn up to accompany the text. In rare instances, a pre-enclosure map was also made so that the situation before and after enclosure could be compared.

Together, the enclosure map and award provide a wealth of detail about land use, settlement patterns, ownership and tenure, field names and boundaries, rights of way, roads and footpaths, and responsibilities for public places.

Unlike the tithe survey, there are a considerable number of parishes in Hampshire which were not covered by enclosure. This could arise if the parish (or a sizeable part of it) was enclosed by private agreement at an early date or if it was never enclosed. Sometimes too the Enclosure Commissioners did not authorise a new map but used and adapted an existing estate map. Sometimes the Tithe Commissioners dealt with enclosure and vice versa. A Guide to Enclosure in Hampshire, 1700-1900 (John Chapman and Sylvia Seeliger, 1997), part of the Hampshire Record Series, gives a comprehensive survey of the evidence for enclosure, parish by parish.

Building Control Plans

If a house was built or extended after 1895 (1850s in Aldershot and Fareham, 1870s in Basingstoke and Winchester), a building control plan should have been submitted to the district or borough council to enable it to check that the building was structurally sound with adequate light, ventilation and drainage.

Plans had to be submitted for approval before work could start, and cover structural work, not services.

Estate agents’ brochures or sale particulars

Sale particulars contain details of property and land for sale. They can date from the eighteenth century, but from the late nineteenth century, they often provide detailed descriptions of buildings and land, sometimes including plans and photographs. Some sale particulars give details of the owner’s right to sell, or information about their bankruptcy or death.

Sale particulars are sometimes endorsed with the name of the purchaser and the amount paid. Sale particulars can survive for large estates as well as individual houses. Sale particulars of large estates can give details of individual fields and cottages. Sale particulars of houses can include descriptions of each room. Modern sale particulars of large estates can include information on the history of the estate.

Land tax assessments

The land tax was a national tax levied on landowners from the 1690s. The returns for parishes record the names of owners and occupiers and the sum for which they were assessed. They are a valuable source for tracing changes in ownership and occupation of a property and for information about the personal wealth of inhabitants.

In 1780, payment of land tax on freehold property annually established voting qualifications and copies of the assessments were kept by the Clerks of the Peace.