The 2nd Domesday of the UK republished

mark at mark at
Fri Dec 14 13:09:48 GMT 2012

Report on the occasion of the first facsimile reproduction of the 
Domesday and the presentation of the 4 volumes to the president of the 
Royal Historical Society, House of Lords, 4th December 2012:

On Tuesday 4th December 2012, a panel discussion and reception on the 
occasion of the publication of the facsimile edition and database of 
the Second Domesday of the United Kingdom of 1872 convened by Lord 
Laird of Artigarvan was held in Committee Room G of the House of Lords 
(in the written agenda for this event the following was cited: that 
this issue was "originally commissioned following a debate in this 
House on 19th February 1872").
The discussion included contributions from Kevin Cahill, author of 
'Who Owns Britain' and 'Who Owns the World', and chairman of Global & 
Western Publishing, publishers of the Second Domesday, Professor Peter 
Mandler PhD. President of the Royal Historical Society, Fiona 
O'Cleirigh, editorial director of Global & Western Publishing, and Ian 
Sheldon FRSA, designer and creator of the Second Domesday Database, 
and consultant at Hyperborea Ltd.
After an entertaining and comedic introduction from Lord Laird,  Fiona 
O'Cleirigh began with a summation of the origins of Second Domesday, a 
background to how it came into existence in the first place. The 
actual name of the 2nd Domesday was 'The Return of Owners of Land, 
1873'. Fiona discussed how the 2nd Domesday presented the first 
complete picture of the distribution of landed property in the United 
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland since the Domesday Book of 1086. 
She gave a background as to the origins of why the document was 
produced in the first place, in that it came about as a result of a 
desire of the Victorian governing landed classes, many of whom sat in 
the House of Lords, to counter the rising public clamour, encouraged 
by some parts of the press, raised about what was called the "monopoly 
of land". Claim were being made in regard to the findings of the 1861 
Census that in the United Kingdom there were not more than 30,000 
landowners; and though it had been repeatedly shown that this estimate 
arose from a misreading of the figures contained in the Census 
returns, the statement was continually reproduced, just as though its 
accuracy had never been disputed. The most notable voice at the time 
was MP John Bright who raised the issue in the House of Commopns, 
citing the extrapolation of evidence from the 1861 census. Fiona cited 
how the landed classes who dominated the House of Commons and more 
particualrly at the time the House of Lords moved to rebut these 
allegations by providing reliable and independent data to refute the 
attacks. The question was put in the House of Lords on 19 February 
1872 by Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (1826–1893) to the Lord 
Privy Seal "Whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government 
to take any steps for ascertaining the number of proprietors of land 
and houses in the United Kingdom, with the quantity of land owned by 
each proprietor". In 1872 Local Government Boards were ordered to 
compile a list of owners of land from ratings records. One return was 
prepared for England and Wales, excluding the Metropolis, and separate 
ones were prepared for Scotland in 1874, and Ireland in 1876. The 
Return shows the holding, in acres, roods and poles, and estimated 
yearly rental, of all holdings over 1 acre. All the statements and 
information contained in the Return, with the exception of the 
addresses of the owners, were derived from rating valuation lists for 
making assessments under the Poor Law, already held by every parish.

Upon publication, whilst the assertions there that not more than 
30,000 landowners in the UK were safely rebutted, the landowners 
inadvertantly scored an own-goal with the publication.  Their survey 
showed that in the England and Wales (excluding the Metropolis) 
return, just 710 people owned 5000 acres or more, and these 710 owned 
over 25% of the total land area of England and Wales. The return 
recorded that 269,547 people owned more than an acre of land and 
703,289 owned less than one acre, out of a population at the time of 

The Returns are the longest parliamentary paper ever published and 
covered all 4 countries of the then United Kingdom: England, Scotland, 
Wales and Ireland.

Fiona mentioned that the original clamour on the issue of land 
monopoly has to be seen in the context of a rising awareness of 
perceived inequality and injustice at the time.

Kevin Cahill then spoke about the republication of the The Return of 
Owners of Land, 1873 and the creation of a database of all the 
records.  Kevin mentioned at the start that in doing his research for 
his book 'Who Owns Britain' he initially found it very difficult to 
get a hold of a copy of The Return of Owners of Land, 1873.  He 
commented along the lines that it was as if the document had been 
airbrushed out of history.  No copy could initially be found at the 
House of Lords library (eventually it surfaced) and the Royal 
Agricultural Society claimed to have never heard of the document (they 
subsequently were found to be in possession of 2 copies). Kevin then 
went on to explore why the document - which he describes as the third 
of 3 great British historical documents after Domesday in 1086 and the 
Magna Carta. Kevin highlighted how there is no mention anywhere in the 
title ('the Return of the Owners of Land') or the 16 explanatory pages 
of the Crown's feudal claim. Kevin put emphasis of the words 'return' 
and 'owner' in the title, as indicating that the landowners may have 
been in actual fact using the opportunity of this publication to 
assert their ownership title on their land, which they were in most 
cases the descendent inheritors of the original Norman barons of 1066. 
Kevin asserted that Pariament may have been in actual fact casting 
doubt on the ancient claim of the monarchy to own all the physical 
land of the United Kingdom, a claim he argues was reintroduced to 
England by William the Conqueror between 1066 and his death in 1087, 
having been a concept first established in the British Isles with the 
Roman Empire.

Kevin then went on to give a summary of what happened next.  In short, 
the document slowly faded out of existence.  The impetus for land 
reform and land value taxation by MP Lloyd George and his Liberal 
government between 1916 and 1922 may have been informed by the land 
ownership pattern as revealed in 1873 and the legacy of political 
intetest on the issue as a result of substantial press interest around 
the subject at the time. However, returning to the issue of ownership 
title, kevin drew attention to the significance of a little-known 
development in 1925 - a piece of legilation carried through the House 
of Lords called the Law of Property Act, which established in law that 
the Crown was transformed as the absolute owner of all land in England 
and Wales, and that all other hold merely an interest in an estate in 
land ('fee simple', generally known as 'freehold', or an interest in 
an estate for a term of years generally known as 'leasehold'). The 
modern Land Registry created out of the Land Registration Act  of 1925 
incorporated none of the statistics from The Return of Owners of Land, 
1873. Instead, from a blank piece of paper, from the date of it's 
foundation onwards, the UK Land Registry has recorded only 
transactions in land.  This means that land inherited under title 
remains unrecorded in the Land Registry, whilst registration of 
transactions in estates in land was rolled out over 65 years (ending 
in 1990), as compared to the 4 years it took to record the The Return 
of Owners of Land, 1873.

Ian Sheldon followed with a short summing up of the creation of the 
Second Domesday database, and a short speech by  President of the 
Royal Historical Society - Professor Peter Mandler, followed by the 
formal presentation of the 2nd Domesday to the President of the Royal 
Historical Society. there followed a question and answer session with 
the panel and an enlightening ensuing discussion, with a few useful 
and interesting contributions from the floor, such as the point that 
Sweden has a full land registry which is also fully publicly 
accessible. On the suggestion from the floor that what is needed is a 
public clamour to expose the land monopoly of this country (by 
myself!), Lord Laird made the interesting point in response that of 
all the issues that he has received correspondence on, land ownership 
is one he has never even received a letter about.  All interesting 


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