Explore Archives Week: The Rate Books

Bury Archives have signed up to an exciting campaign which will take place over the next seven days (18th – 26th November). Led by The National Archives, ‘Explore your Archive’ aims to create awareness of the essential role archives play in our community and the society at large.

To explore this theme, we decided to kick off by discussing which of our archives holdings are used most and what kind of historical information can be gleaned from studying them.

We looked no further than the Rate Books – easy to spot as they are lined up very neatly on our shelves in the store room just by the door for easy access!

Rate books for Bury

A regular user of this resource is Stephen Perry who was happy to tell us the role they’ve played in his own local and family history research:

Stephen consulting the Rate Books: Archive Search Room

The rate books, alongside maps, lease books and images from the Archive, have helped me chart the development of a residential and industrial area of Bury which borders Bell Lane, St Paul’s Church and Freetown where ‘cotton’ and ‘wool’ ruled! I spent my formative years in this area of Bury and have been able to piece together a picture of an area and its people which were once surrounded by open fields with Barn Brook at its centre. The open fields gave way to the building of hundreds of terraced houses and several mills and factories. The area had always been working class and saw post-industrial decline during the 1960s.It has been an interesting process, following those who have purchased land from the Earl of Derby Estate. Some of the individuals concerned I knew as a child

Bell Lane, Bury: 1958

What are Rate Books?

Rate books are accounts kept by local authorities for raising local taxes on a property. In order to collect this tax, a periodic valuation of all properties was needed which resulted in a Valuation List. Each time the rate was collected a rate book had to be made out to record who had paid and the amount. Bury Archives hold rate books for Bury from 1789, Pilkington from 1775, Prestwich and Ramsbottom 1910, Radcliffe 1866 and Tottington from 1862 (with gaps in all cases). Early books list all property owners rather than all properties (e.g. ‘Mr Smith, for all his cottages in Bury 6d’), although some will be named.  From the 1840s onwards, all properties are listed in geographical order, along with the names of the owners and occupiers (head of household only).
(The above taken from House History Leaflet – A guide by Bury Archives)

Stephen’s use of the rate books for Bury’s east ward displays a good example of how ‘local’ and ‘family’ history (often treated as separate disciplines) can combine to produce a rich context, answering questions of how our ancestors lived and worked. They have certainly helped Stephen to connect to his past and learn more about his heritage.




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