House History Research for Tatham


A Guide to Some Possible Sources

Existing House Histories

Before you start! Local historians, notably Emmeline Garnett, have produced a number of house histories for individual owners. It is worth checking whether she has done one for your property, as there are all sorts of reasons why an existing history might not have been left for you in the property.


The best documentary source for changes in ownership are your house deeds or the summary lists produced by solicitors for the purpose of buying and selling. These often show property boundaries, and detail who is responsible for what e.g. boundary rights They may also contain clauses relating to manorial rights (e.g. to dig for coal) or property obligation. If you don't possess them, ask your solicitor or bank/building society about their whereabouts. They are vital if there are disagreements about the boundaries etc. shown in the Land Registry title. Bear in mind that owners did not necessarily live in the property; until comparatively recently the vast majority of property was rented out.

Private Collections, Photos and Miscellaneous

Many documents are still in private hands, including house photos, sale catalogues.

Tatham History website

Some important sources have been transcribed or digitised and can be viewed/searched by word on this website.

  1. Census 1841-1901 for Wray, Botton, Roeburndale, Hornby, Farleton, Melling, Wrayton, Wennington and for 1841-1911 for Tatham. These list every occupant in every property on census night, their ages, occupation, place of birth etc. Smaller properties can be difficult to identify accurately if there are no house numbers or names. Digital originals can be viewed on Ancestry and FindMyPast family history websites for a charge, or free in Lancaster City Library if you have a library card.
  2. Tithe maps and schedules. These were produced in the 1830s and 1840s to 'commute' tithe payments on land made to the Anglican church, into money payments based on the value of the crops or stock a piece of land could sustain. The originals are in Lancashire Archives, Preston. They show the owner, occupant, use, size, use of the land and any names of specific fields. This website contains transcriptions of all the same areas as the census, and properties and their occupants are shown on maps. There is also a detailed image of the Tatham Tithe map.
  3.  Land Tax records. Between 1780 and 1832 land owners had to pay a land tax to central government. The website contains a summary of the owners and occupiers of every property listed. Originals in Lancashire Archives.
  4.  Register of individuals 1939. On 4th June 1939 the government collected the personal details and occupation of every civilian in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to allow the issue of identity cards and the organisation of rationing on the eve of World War Two. The records collected for Tatham are available at the National Archive (reference RG 101/49461), or they can be searched on-line by subscribers to Findmypast, or at any library. This website contains a transcript of residents of Tatham. Records for people born after 1917 are officially closed unless they are known to have died.
  5.  Hearth Tax returns. The hearth tax was levied between 1662 and 1689 on each householder according to the number of hearths in his/her occupation. The Hearth Tax Online website has a brief history of the tax, and of what we can learn from Hearth Tax returns; and links to more detailed considerations of both topics. The information for Tatham has been transcribed and collated from original documents held at the Lancashire Archives in Preston.
  6.  Tatham Fells Church Monumental Inscriptions. Details of individuals are reproduced. Additional information (e.g. place, occupation) has been added when known.

We also have a selection of photos of farms, individuals etc.

Web resources

a) Parish Registers

Prior to the introduction of the census, the main source of our understanding of population derives from parish registers. These are a record of baptisms, marriages and burials in Anglican churches. They were first ordered to be kept by Thomas Cromwell in 1538, but fewer than 500 registers exist for these early years. Some of the registers St James and for Tatham Fells have been transcribed and published, both in book form by Lancashire Parish Register Society and on the Lancashire Parish Clerk website:

  • Baptisms & Marriages 1558-1812, Burials 1558-1811 (St James)
  • Baptisms, Marriages & Burials 1813-1837 (St James)
  • Marriages 1746-1754, Baptisms & Burials 1745-1837 (Tatham Fells).

b) Old Maps

i. National Library of Scotland: Ordnance Survey Maps of Great Britain, 1842-1952

A well-designed, easy-to-use website, giving free access to very high quality reproductions of the following OS map series:

  • Six-Inch, England and Wales - 1842-1952 - 37,390 sheets
  •  1:25,000 maps of Great Britain - 1937-1961 - 2,027 sheets
  •  One-Inch Revised new series, England and Wales, 1892-1908 - 691 sheets
  •  One-Inch New Popular edition, England and Wales, 1945-1947 - 114 sheets
  •  One-Inch Seventh Series, Great Britain, 1952-1961 - 190 sheets. More originals in Lancaster City Library.

ii. Lancashire County Council Environment Directorate Old Maps website

This is a comprehensive resource, and probably lists every map ever made of Lancashire, including the following, which are among the earliest:

  • John Speed 1610
  • Yates 1786
  • Greenwood 1818
  • Hennet 1829

iii. Lancashire MARIO (Maps and Related Information Online)

This user-friendly facility is primarily intended as a means of providing up-to-date geographically based information about the county, but also provides some old mapping, including

  • OS First Edition six-inch (1:10,000) from c. 1840
  •  OS First Edition 24-inch (1:2,500) from c. 1890
  • Air photos from the 1960s

c) National Heritage List for England (NHLE)

The only official, up to date register of all nationally protected historic buildings and sites.

d) Old Newspapers online

Lancashire County Library provide free-online access to library card holders to a variety of old newspapers, including Lancaster Gazette, Westmorland Gazette, and Kendal Mercury. Click here for instructions on accessing the Lancaster Gazette - similar applies to the other publications.

You can also subscribe through the British Library website or FindMyPast to a wider selection of papers. The papers are searchable by word. Adverts for properties for sale or to rent are particularly useful, but you may also find details of individuals.

e) Wills & Probate since 1858

You can search for wills/probate, but you need to know the approximate date of death of the individual you are looking for. A successful search gives brief details; there is a charge if you want to order a copy of the original.

f) Free BMD

 Search for individuals' year of birth, marriage and death. Covers from 1837 to relatively recently.


The online catalogue for Lancashire Archives. This does not contain any original documents, but is a detailed catalogue of original sources which you can view at Preston. These include:

  1. Wills and Inventories pre 1858
    Many wills of people with some property have survived for the area. Some early ones contain inventories of the individual's possessions at death. The majority were proved at the Archdeaconry of Richmond (Chester Diocese) and are held at Lancashire Archive at Preston; there is a published index to them. People like Lawrence Dowbiggin of Ivah (1654) and Giles Bleasdale (1833), who held property in more than one diocese, had their wills proved at Canterbury, and their wills are in the National Archives at Kew. There is an online index on The National Archives website. Digital copies can be obtained for a small charge.
  2.  Enclosure Award and Stints
    Enclosure is a term for the conversion of land held in common by owners in the parish into individual property rights. In most parishes this involved the creation of new fields from open land. In Tatham it involved the allocation of grazing 'stints' or rights on Lythe Fell and Burn Moor. The Act was passed in 1858, lists all the owners, and includes a map of the fell. The original can be viewed in Lancashire Archives. Stintholders' meetings have been held since 1858, and minute books and records of stints survive from 1885.
  3.  Miscellaneous - details of properties (e.g. sale details) can often be found in solicitor and estate records. Search for the property details on the catalogue.

Trade Directories

These were commercial publications dating back to late 18th century, and were effectively the precursor of 20th century telephone directories. They briefly describe the parish and list more prominent residents. Many originals are in Lancaster Central Library. A few are online.

National Farm Survey 1941-43

A detailed government survey of farms with maps showing their boundaries. The originals are in the National Archives. The Society plans to publish a list of all the owners and occupiers of farms in due course.

Inland Revenue District Valuation, 1910-14 (The "New Domesday")

This was a unique survey of every property, with details of owners, occupiers and the properties. Every property is numbered and shown on large scale maps. All the originals are in the National Archives. Maps are also held at Lancashire Archives, together with a basic list of owners/occupiers (catalogued under Finance Act 1910). The Society plans to publish a list of all the owners and occupiers in due course.

Electoral Registers

Lancaster Library has a good collection on the shelves. 1921-31 can also be searched on FindMyPast (subscription needed)

Rate Books

The parish is fortunate in still having a full run of Rate Books from 1876-1923. These list the owner and occupier of every property twice a year and detail what rates need to be paid. The committee has transcribed a sample of the books, and plans to make the transcriptions available on this website.

Physical Evidence - the building

Some properties have date stones and those for this area have been surveyed and published by Emmeline Garnett in her book The Dated Buildings of South Lonsdale (Centre for North West Regional Studies, Lancaster University, 2nd revised edition, 2007). Note that some date stones have been moved from their original locations!

Architectural details - windows, stone work, timber construction etc. can provide valuable clues as to the building's development over time.

MW 2019
Page created 24-5-2019. Latest update 25-5-2019
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