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Landlords and Tenants in Mid-Victorian Ireland$

W. E. Vaughan

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198203568

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203568.001.0001

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(p.251) Appendix 10 The Tenement Valuation

(p.251) Appendix 10 The Tenement Valuation

Landlords and Tenants in Mid-Victorian Ireland
Oxford University Press

The tenement valuation, carried out in the 1850s and 1860s under Sir Richard Griffith, estimated the valuation of every farm in the country as a basis for local taxation. Land and buildings were valued separately: land on its own came to £9.1 million, which did not change after the valuation was made; buildings connected with agricultural land were worth about £1 million by the 1870s. As new buildings were assessed, their valuation was added, which partly explains why different figures appear in different places. For the sake of clarity, however, when the valuation is referred to here, it means the valuation of land, excluding buildings. The agricultural prices used by Griffith were those collected in the three years 1849–51 and adjusted for the 1852 act.1 Griffith produced other figures in his Instructions: for the cost of production and for commodities that were not mentioned in the act. The calculations in the Instructions seem to represent the high points of the scale that the valuators were supposed to use.

Was £9.1 million a payable rent in the early 1850s? This question can be answered by using Griffith’s specimen calculations in the Instructions, combined with the figures for crops and livestock in the agricultural statistics, to calculate the total value of agricultural production.2 Griffith’s calculations have the advantage of allowing the calculations to be made without much guesswork; the value of arable production, for example, is a straightforward multiplication of Griffith’s prices and the acreages and yields in the agricultural statistics. Livestock is a bit more complicated: pigs, calves, and cattle are straightforward; but milch cows and sheep require some manipulation; poultry and wool, unfortunately, are not included in Griffith’s calculations.

The problem with milch cows is that Griffith assumes that each cow produced almost 2 cwt. of butter, which would give a very high figure if applied to all milch cows. An average production of 1 cwt. has been assumed here, and expenses have been reduced accordingly. Sheep are rather more puzzling: the table at p. 32 of the Instructions appears to contain at least one typographical error and one error of computation; the purchase price of sheep is not given, nor their ages. The problem has been solved by assuming that each fattened sheep sold for £2.51 and that they were 3 years old. The agricultural prices were those used in the valuation act and in Griffith’s Instructions; the cost of production was calculated by multiplying (p.252) Griffith’s estimates by the acreages of tillage in the agricultural statistics and by using his estimates of the expenses associated with livestock, such as contingencies, commission, cooperage, and labour. The figures for acreages, yields, and livestock were taken from Agricultural Statistics, 1852, pp. xxx, xxxi, xxxiii [1714], HC 1854, Ivii. 30, 31, 33.

Production and production costs in 1852 (£ thousand)


Value of production

Cost of production

























Milch cows


















If Griffith had valued the whole country as a single farm in the early 1850s, these are the figures on which he would have based his valuation. The figure for total production is much higher than the figures for output in the early 1850s.3 This is explained by the fact that the whole of the oat and potato crops has been included, that no reduction was made for seeds, and that the problem of double-counting was solved by calculating the costs of production.

The table has certain weaknesses as a complete inventory of agricultural production and its costs. First, the expense of producing pigs seems small; a very high proportion of the potato crop was fed to pigs, certainly one-third, possibly one-half; to prevent double-counting, therefore, it should be kept in mind that several million pounds should be taken from the figure of £46,765,000. Secondly, Griffith’s estimates of production costs are, to put it mildly, generous to the producers. According to J. F. V. Fitzgerald they were as high as Bayldon’s 1876 figures;4 they are also high compared with Barrington’s figures for the (p.253) 1850s.5 The figure of £26,897,000 certainly seems high for agricultural wages, seeds, and the upkeep of horses. (If the aim is to do justice to the tenants, however, this generosity is a strength rather than a weakness.) Thirdly, no estimate of the slaughter-value of milch cows has been included, which might add as much as £2 million to livestock. Fourthly, some allowance should be made on the production side of the account for grass consumed by horses, to balance the cost of production. Fifthly, as already mentioned, the table does not include wool and poultry; nor, of course, does it include timber, horses, and turf. It is not improbable that the potatoes fed to pigs were more than matched by the omission of these other items and that the figures may be taken as they are.

How should the £19,868,000 balance between the value of production and its cost be divided between landlord and tenant? There is no simple answer. ‘The object of a correct valuation’, according to Lanktree, ‘is…not to assume a certain fanciful proportion between rent and produce, but to ascertain by calculation what surplus each variety of soil is capable of affording.’6 Griffith himself falls into his habitual obscurity on this subject. He is clear and dogmatic about production costs and prices, but how he divided ‘the nett annual…produce’ is not clear; from this receptacle came rent, poor law rates, and the farmer’s reward for enterprise. How Griffith proceeded from this figure to the actual scale used by his valuators is tantalizing.7 Apart from the fact that the landlord got a bigger share of livestock production than of tillage, it is hard to see what he was doing. One thing, however, is clear: he allowed the tenant more than the 5 per cent he inserted into the first stage of his calculations. The following, which is a summary of his calculations for an acre of tillage, shows what he did:8



Value of production


Cost of cultivation


Wear and tear of implements


5% on £5 capital


Net annual value


From the ‘net annual value’ £2.33 came £1.30 for rent;9 Griffith also seems to have allowed 8s. in the £ (£0.52 in this case) for insurance, repairs, and poor law rates, which he admitted was ‘liberal’;10 the balance, £0.51, gave 10 per cent on the capital of £5, in addition to the 5 per cent included in the preliminary calculation. A valuation that left the tenants 15 per cent was reasonable enough by contemporary standards.11

(p.254) In practice Griffith’s valuation divided the balance of £19.9 million into two almost equal parts: £9.1 million for rent and £10.8 for the tenants’ gross profits. Was this fair? The answer depends on virtual imponderables such as the amount of capital employed, the entrepreneurial skill of the tenants, and the degree of risk involved. If tenants’ capital is assumed to be about £55 million, which is based on Griffith’s figures,12 £10.8 million was a return of 19 per cent, which was generous. If Griffith is to be followed, however, some deduction must be made for insurance, repairs, and poor law rates; even a generous allowance for these, however, would not bring the figure of 19 per cent to below 14 per cent.

Although valuators deplored the idea of calculating rent by taking fixed proportions of produce, proportions were used in practice. In a work on the predecessor of the tenement valuation Griffith found that rents fixed by his valuators ranged from one-eighth of the gross produce of inferior arable land to one-half of the produce of pasture.13 (By discussing the use of fractions Griffith was not ignoring good valuation practice: he did not start with fractions, but came to them by experience, ‘I found it necessary’, he said, ‘to relieve the minds of the valuators from all care relative to the act prices.’14) Taking the lowest fractions that Griffith mentioned (one-eighth for arable and one-third for inferior and mountain pasture), arable in the table above would yield £3.9 million and pasture £5.1 million, which comes to £9 million—or comfortably close to the £9.1 million of the tenement valuation.

The tenement valuation of land was not revised in the nineteenth century, but in 1877 the valuation office produced a bill proposing a new valuation based on prices in the mid-1870s, which allows a rough comparison to be made with the early 1850s. The construction of a table based on the prices in the 1877 valuation bill was not as simple as that based on the 1852 prices. Unfortunately there was no handbook such as Griffith’s Instructions because the bill did not become law.15 There were, therefore, no production costs, and no prices for potatoes, hay, or turnips. The price of hay and turnips had to be constructed by increasing the 1852. prices by amounts fixed by other prices series; the cost of production was fixed by increasing the 1852 prices by 50 per cent, which is generous;16 Griffith’s price for potatoes, £2. a ton, was retained; the value of cattle and sheep was fixed by increasing the 1852 prices by the percentage that beef and mutton increased between (p.255) the 1852 act and the 1877 bill. Acreages, yields, and livestock numbers were taken from Agricultural Statistics, 1877, pp. 48, 53, 61 [C 1938], HC 1878, lxxvii. 558, 563, 571; an arbitrary yield of 3.5 tons of potatoes was used, instead of the actual yield of 2 tons.

Production and production costs, 1877 (£ thousand)


Value of production

Cost of

























Milch cows


















This table shows that the value of production increased by 57 per cent between the early 1850s and 1877; the balance between production and its costs, however, increased by 82 per cent, from £19,868,000 to £36,222,000. If this were divided roughly in the same way as in the early 1850s, the new valuation of land would have been over £16 million. (If the total actual rental was £12.5 million in the late 1870s, the tenants’ share, even allowing a generous amount for taxes, insurance, and repairs, would have been about £20 million.) A higher price for potatoes, or a lower estimate of the cost of production, would have caused the balance to increase by even more than 80 per cent.


(1) Report from the Select Committee on the General Valuation etc. (Ireland); Together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence, and Appendix, pp. 213–19, HC 1868–9 (362), ix. 225–31; Return, ‘Showing the Amount of Average Prices of Agricultural Produce (Arranged in Provinces) of Forty Towns in Ireland, during the Years 1849, 1850, 1851’, HC 1852, xlvii (307). 1; see also W. E. Vaughan, ‘Richard Griffith and the Tenement Valuation’, in G. L. Herries Davies and R. Charles Mollan (eds.), Richard Griffith, 1784–1878 (Dublin, 1980), 103–22.

(2) Griffith, Instructions, 28, 29, 32, 33.

(3) See above, App. 9.

(4) James F. V. Fitzgerald, A Practical Guide to the Valuation of Rent in Ireland; with an Appendix Containing Some Extracts from the Instructions Issued to Valuators in 1853, by the Late Sir R[ichard] Griffith, bt. (Dublin, 1881), 51–2

(5) Richard M. Barrington, ‘The Prices of Some Agricultural Produce and Cost of Farm Labour for the Past Fifty Years’, Jn. Stat. Soc. Ire. 9 (1886–7), 147, 149.

(6) John Lanktree, The Elements of Land Valuation, with Copious Instructions as to the Qualifications and Duties of Valuators (Dublin and Edinburgh, 1853), 28.

(7) Cf. net annual value at Griffith, Instructions, 29, 32, 33, with the scales at pp. 27, 30.

(8) Based on the calculations at Ibid. 29.

(9) According to Griffith the best arable land, valued at between 30s. and 26s., produced 9 barrels of wheat an acre on average (p. 27); the land in the arable calculations at p. 29 produced 8 barrels; 26s., therefore, has been adopted as its valuation.

(10) Griffith to Sir Denham Norreys, 28 Jan. 1851 (National Archives, OL2/13, p. 71).

(11) John Bayldon, Bayldon’s Art of Valuing Rents and Tillages, and the Tenant’s Right on Entering and Quitting Farms…corrected and revised by John Donaldson, 6th edn. (London, 1844), 46–9.

(12) Griffith allowed £5 an acre for arable and £10 for an Irish acre of ‘superior finishing land’ (pp. 29, 32); the figure of £55 million assumes capital of £5 an acre for 5 million acres of arable and £3 an acre for 10 million acres of pasture. A much lower figure would be more realistic: in 1851 total livestock, including horses, was valued at £27.3 million by the census commissioners (Agricultural statistics, 1857, p. xiv [2461], HC 1859, sess. 1, xxvi. 71); the cost of agricultural labour in 1852 (see above, App. 9) was about £10 million.

(13) Richard Griffith, Outline of the System according to Which the General Valuation of Ireland under 6 & 7 Wm IV, cap. 84 is Carried into Effect (Dublin, 1844), 4.

(14) Ibid. 1.

(15) A Bill to Amend the Law Relating to the Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland, p.5, HC 1877 (bill 102), vii. 429; see also A Bill to Provide for the Taking and Regulating Returns of the Average Prices of Agricultural Produce in Ireland, HC 1854 (bill 101), i. 21.

(16) The cost of agricultural labour increased by about 40% between 1852 and 1877 (see above, App. 9); the cost of oats increased by nearly 60%; but see Fitzgerald, A Practical Guide, 51–2, where much lower costs of production are given.