Searching in the Deeds Registry

I spent a very frustrating afternoon in the Deeds Registry in Wakefield trying to find out more information about our property.  I had high expectations, but it wasn’t to be.  Last time I did some research on local history, I got a result in 30-40 minutes. But this time, I spent all afternoon and got nowhere.

From the census, I knew that at least one of the properties was occupied by Hobsons from 1851 through to 1911 (which is the last available census).  We had already found the Hobsons gravestone in Honley Cemetery, so I was assuming that they might have owned the property.  But alas no.

I searched all of the deeds registers and there are no entries for David Hobson.  In fact, there are no entries under David Hobson (any David Hobson) in West Yorkshire between 1819 – 1919.  Spooky.  There are lots of entries for Hobsons, but none for David Hobson.  I did find some entries under Joseph Hobson, but none of them were the correct Joseph Hobson (or in the wrong area).

I searched under the names of the other occupants that featured in the Censuses, but again no luck.  So I can only surmise that the occupiers did not own the property, but rented them (don’t forget that they are organise as three separate cottages).

Time to change tack.  In 1910, there was a national land survey conducted to establish who owned each plot of land in the UK.  We quickly found the appropriate map in the archive.  Luckily, the map we were looking for was there – the Archive do not have copies of all of the maps.  The map shows that all the cottages and the land surrounding it is owned by the same person – referenced on the map as “1010”.  Unfortunately, I then ran out of time before I could look up the reference number in the catalogues.

Ho hum.  It will have to wait for another day.  But at least we do know that all the cottages and the surrounding land were owned by a single person in 1910.  It is a start.

PS The staff in the Registry of Deeds are really helpful and sure know their way around.  More information here:  Check the opening times if you want to visit (it is closed at lunchtimes 1-2pm) and I would suggest making an appointment before visiting.

The farm today

Here’s some photographs of the property as it is today.  It is organised as a small attached cottage, a larger cottage and an unconverted barn.  All on a 2 acre plot of land.

From the road.  The odd shaped building to the right of the picture is a coal hole.  This odd shaped part of the building seems to be fairly original as it appears on even the oldest of the maps that we have found. Take a close look at the 1788 map, particularly where the property adjoins the road. The porch is for the small attached cottage.

From the back of the property.  This is the view from the back of the top field.  The unconverted barn is at this end of the property.  It has clearly been rebuilt in recent years, but is still unconverted.  The lower photograph is the rear of the property, but this time from the bottom field looking up.  The odd shaped appendage is the back of the coal hole seen above.

The unconverted barn.  This has a sloping roof and has two floor levels inside.  The lower floor level is the same level as the ground floor in the adjacent property.

How old is the property?

One of the questions that has been bugging me ever since we first saw the property has been it’s age.  Exactly how old is it?

This seems like a hard question to answer – at least, answer accurately.  I am guessing that it was built in the 1800s and I am assuming that some of the interal features might help dated it.  However, often a visit to the Local History unit in the local Library will provide a number of the answers.

Well, I have looked into this will previous properties that I have owned so have an idea about the process.  With this in mind, I visited the Local History unit in Huddersfield central Library.  I was not quite sure how much information I would be able to find – it is very variable depending on the age and area.  However, I was very pleasantly surprised to be able to spot the property on an old map.  First of all, it was definitely there in 1894.  I then looked on the 1854 map and it was there too.  Then onto the oldest map in the library.  And bingo.  It was there too.  In 1788! 

The amazing thing is that the outline of the house really hasn’t changed that much in the past 250 years (it is the “T” shaped building above the letter “A” in “Lower Hagg”.  Just compare the scan from the 1788 map with the image from Google earth on my other posting.  Almost identical.

With the help of the librarians at the library, I looked through the boxes of photos of the area and managed to find an RAF aerial photograph from 1948 that also includes the property. [Incidentally, many of these aerial photographs are available online, however, not the one that I was looking for.  English Heritage maintain and archive of these images online and you can find it here:]

A quick through the census for 1901 established that the property (10 Hagg Lane as it was referred to then) was occupied by Smith and Mary Littlewood and their three children (Ernest, Wilfred, and Denis) and a step daughter Evelyn Eastwood.  Their occupations were listed as Woollen Weaver.  The property next door (9 Hagg Lane) is occupied by a 50 year old farm labourer, named Joseph Hobson. The census data can now be accessed online, although I used  the microfiche in the library for this purpose.

All of this I established within a hour, pretty amazing really.

Now to be able to date house any further, I will need to visit the Registry of Deeds in Wakefield.  The Registry of Deeds was established by an Act of Parliament in 1704 to allow land holders to register publicly deeds relating to property.  But this will have to wait for another weekend!