Valuation rolls shed fascinating light on Fort William and Lochaber

Fort William High Street some time in the late 1950s. Photograph: Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F09 Fort William High Street, late 1950s
Fort William High Street some time in the late 1950s. Photograph: Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F09 Fort William High Street, late 1950s

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In this week’s article from the Lochaber Archive Centre, we will be looking at valuation rolls, which are the centre’s most frequently consulted records.

Essentially, valuation rolls detail the location of properties, their rateable value,
who owned them, and who occupied them.

Published annually between c1855-1975 (and then less frequently from 1976-1989) such rolls can be used to fill the gaps between census years and, due to the wealth of information they hold, are accessed for all manner of reasons.

They might show the address of a long-lost relative or illustrate the history of a town
or village.

The Lochaber Archive Centre holds valuation rolls dating from 1874. Due to
council framework in the Highlands being restructured over the years, these valuation rolls belong to the Inverness County Council, the Argyll County Council, and the Highland Regional Council.

By the time the Highland Council was born in 1995, valuation rolls were no longer being produced.

Valuation rolls are divided into counties and burghs (later districts) and then organised by civil parish or ward.

Often, all one needs to locate a specific property is a basic knowledge of its situation, perhaps merely in its relation to other properties or landmarks.

Valuation rolls can be used in a variety of research areas.

For example, they can be used to establish when a building was built, demolished, or altered, to identify the previous owners/tenants of a house, or to learn what function a building previously served.

The 1920 valuation roll for Inverness County Council, for example, tells us that one Antonio Boni was the proprietor of a shop and tearoom at 37 and 39, High Street, Fort William.

A valuation roll showing properties in Fort William. Photograph: Lochaber Archive Centre.
NO F09 ledger 01

By 1955, the shop and tearoom have changed hands, and the proprietor is Louis Boni. Here, not only do the valuation rolls hold legal information, relating to the ownership of property, but they could also be used to research family history.  Perhaps somebody reading this has links to the Boni family?

The social layers of a community can be seen through valuation rolls – for instance, how many people owned properties, and how many were tenants. As well as the owner and the occupier, the rolls also show the ‘rateable value’ of a property. This can give an
idea of the relative wealth or poverty of an area, or the pattern of concentration in property ownership.

More interesting information from the valuation rolls.
NO F09 ledger 02


For instance, we see the name of landowning families occur regularly as the proprietors of huge portions of land with hundreds of properties upon them.

Never produced elsewhere in Britain, valuation rolls are a record unique to Scotland. At the Lochaber Archive Centre, because of council restructuring, the valuation rolls cover a particularly large area of Scotland.

Perhaps your grandmother once owned a tearoom in Mallaig – perhaps a great-uncle was once a shoemaker on Fort William High Street – perhaps you would like to know more about the history of your own home. Valuation rolls might just hold information you are looking for.