The 1848 House Book Records for the town of Dunmanway and Owen Charles McCarthy of house 12 Main Street (Market Square)

Over the last few weeks I have examined in some detail the insightful nineteenth-century Valuation Office House Books for the town of Dunmanway. Within these pages I have paid particular focus to my paternal 4 x great grand-uncle Owen Charles McCarthy (c. 1789–1859) who was the first of our household based at the Market Square.

House Books and other Survey sets

Dated between 1833 to the mid-1850s1, House Books were the notebooks compiled by professional valuators when recording specific details about houses and buildings of all descriptions throughout Ireland.

The gathering of specific information on buildings was only one of a number of different surveys carried out by the Valuation Office in the first quarter of the nineteenth-century. Each with their own distinct parameters for assessment, the other surveys included Field Books (recorded details solely related to soil quality), Quarto Books (House Books for villages), Rent Books (recorded rents paid), and Tenure Books (detailed the landlord and lease information).2

Taken together these surveys intended to provide evidence of the wealth that any property (land and/or buildings) could generate.3

Griffith’s Valuation

In turn, all these survey books helped to inform the Primary Valuation of Ireland, otherwise called Griffith’s Valuation, after the project’s Commissioner, Sir Richard Griffith (1784–1878). Published county-by-county between the years 1847 and 1864, this important valuation project aimed to decide a property owners’ liability to pay the poor rate (tax payable to support the poor and destitute within the Poor Law Union) based on data captured in these surveys.4

House Book layout

The House Books followed a standard layout prompting for the valuation to be assessed in a clear and consistent manner across Ireland.

Figure 1. A spread from the 1848 town of Dunmanway House Book. While consistency and accuracy was vital, reading the entries can be a challenge when dealing with the quick-handed penmanship of the surveyor. [Click the image to enlarge.]

Figure 2. Heading columns had categories ranging from the name and description of the property, the size and measure, to its gross value given in pounds (£), shillings (s) and pence (d).

Terms of reference were the same throughout this data gathering project, with the word ‘house’ applied to dwelling houses and public buildings, and ‘office’ applied to farm buildings, factories, stores, etc.

Surveyed structures were measured from the exterior, and recorded in feet and inches. In turn a measure was given:

‘A measure was defined as 10 square feet and the figure in the “No. of measures” column comprises the previous figures multiplied together and divided by 10. The ‘Rate per measure’ was determined by the quality letter.’

                           – Frances McGee (former Director of the National Archives of Ireland)5

The specific quality letter was assigned based on the materials used and its appearance and condition – and these are outlined below.

Table 1. The 1839 guide for the classification of buildings

Figure 3. Details of the Roman Catholic Chapel from the 1848 Dunmanway town House Book. Six structures are listed, all with the letter quality ‘1A –’. This notes that it is a ‘slated dwelling house built with stone or brick and lime mortar’ and an ‘ordinary building and finish or either of the above when built 20 or 25 years’. The addition of the surveyors contextual observations give telling insight to the condition of the building in April 1848. [Click the image to enlarge.]

The 1848 House Book for the Town of Dunmanway

Towns and townlands within each parish were treated to separate House surveys. In the instance of Dunmanway, located in the Parish of Fanlobbus, the surrounding townlands were assessed in 1847, with the town initially reviewed in early summer 1848 and later revised in 1851. These records were also used as a basis for all future updates and revaluation, and in some cases up to the 1970s.

Figure 4. The hand written title page from the 1848 Town of Dunmanway House Book. Listed are the specific administrative details including the name of the town, parish, baronial division, county, as well as the specific poor law union. The name of the surveyor has signed his name, which appears to be “Irwin”.

The 1848 House Book acts as an important primary reference for this market town, recording for the very first time comprehensive first-hand information on the then existing structures, their value, and occupiers. From this, the general dwellings conditions of the town population can also be easily gleaned, as information gathered included the:

  • name of occupier – and whether an owner or a lessee
  • description of the property
  • overall size – the length, breadth and height in feet and inches
  • quality letter –attributed to each building based on the materials used and state of repair
  • value of the property

Indeed, in the absence of the nineteenth-century Census records, using the name of the property owner and the specified occupant of a dwelling (only the main resident is listed), the book can act as an alternative form of Census when combined with other sources. Because the project also dealt with the proprietorship of real estate, the book documents a who’s who within the town in terms of ownership at this point in time.

However, it goes without saying that both the 1848 and the later 1851 manuscripts not only act as a pecuniary and residential record of a market town in the centre of west Cork, they also contain valuable and insightful information during a critical period in Irish history in which they were gathered, that being the Great Famine. This is a point that I intend on exploring as I study these House Books for evidence of this tragic and disastrous event.

Owen Charles McCarthy of Nº 12 Main Street as recorded in 1848

The location of Nº 12 in the Ordnance Survey map of 1842

Figure 5. In 1828 Owen Charles signed a lease of one hundred and eighty years on the property no. 12 Main street highlighted in magenta and green. The above map was compiled by the Ordnance Survey office as part of the first ever large-scale survey of an entire country. Conducted between 1829 and 1842, Ireland was mapped at a scale of 6 inches to one mile. The town of Dunmanway was surveyed between 1841 and 1842 by Captains Stotherd and Durnford of the Royal Engineers.

details of the survey for Nº 12 Main street

In the 1848 House Book Owen Charles McCarthy is recorded as leasing from John Hamilton no. 12 Main Street – otherwise known as Bridge street, or later the Market Square. The error in the address was subsequently rectified to Bridge street in the book revisions of 1851.

The first and main dwelling listed for no. 12 has a height of 26 feet. With a length of 29.6 feet and breath of 20 – both multiplied and divided 10 gives a measure of 59.

The letter quality assigned is ‘1B+’ which is based on the building being a ‘slated dwelling house built with stone or brick and lime mortar’, and  ‘medium (not new), but in sound order and good repair’.

Figure 6. A front view of the main dwelling house with the surveyed measurements.

The assessment gives the gross amount or ‘net annual value’ (the rent sum that could be charged per year) for the premises consisting of a front and return dwelling, as well as 10 other buildings at £19.9s.9d. This amount in turn would be used as a basis for tax paid on the property determined by the valuator’s estimate. However, this important column is left blank, with valuation of £20.0s.0d. only added in the 1851 book revisions.

Interestingly, the annual rent on the property for 1848 is recorded as £15.15s.0d. and £16 three years later.

Also, this gross amount is one of the highest when compared to the other premises in the Market Square. This may be because of the quantity and state of repair of the structures on the premise.

Figure 7. The surveyor left the comment: ‘tenant built store’. Two stores are listed in the itinerary, with the latter being as large as the main dwelling at 40 ft in length, 21.0 ft in breadth and 24.6 ft in height, with a grade ‘1a –’  and a value of £4.18s.0d applied. [Click the image to enlarge.]

Table 2. Structures listed for Owen Charles in 1848: Main Street (Market Square), Castle Street, and Chapel Cross. [Click each tab to read the entries for each site.]

Figure 8. An image taken circa 1930 of the second store assessed in the 1848 survey. With a letter quality of ‘1a’, it has a length of 40 feet and a height of 24.6 feet. Based on the fact that this building does not appear in the 1841–42 Ordnance Survey map of Dunmanway suggests that the store was constructed between then and 1848.

Other properties in the possession of Owen Charles

It was known that Owen Charles held some other properties and which are also recorded in the House Book.

Figure 9. Highlighted in red is the location of no. 12 Main street as referenced in the 1848 House Book. In this map the no. 12 has been updated to 191 which corresponds to the revised House Book volume of 1851. Also coloured are the other buildings in the possession of Owen Charles located on Castle street. [Click the image to enlarge.]

Passage Office and Timber Store

Listed as a separate entry is no. 380 Castle Street, comprising of a passage office and timber store which was leased from William McMullen with the ground rent of £3 yearly.

The timber store is 22 feet in length and 60 feet breath, with a height of 12 feet. Both have a letter quality assigned of ‘1B’.

Figure 10. A detail from the 1858 Landed Estates Court auction catalogue for the sale of Cox family estate a decade after the town valuation was conducted. The street plan shows the premises (following a different number sequence), and also includes the large store (photographic image above) at the very rear of the property which was also accessible via the Castle street passage office (not shown).

castle ROAD dwellings

Four dwellings located on Castle street are in the possession of Owen Charles, which are let to four tenants, Timothy Sheehy, Thomas Quile [sic],  Denis Reardon, and Ellen Manly [sic] respectfully.

Each of the dwellings are of a similar size, at 17 feet in length and 11.6 feet in height, with a breadth of 19 feet. The structures are all assigned a letter quality of ‘1B’.

Figure 11. Highlighted in purple are the four dwellings on Castle street from an image taken from the Lawrence Photograph Collection of Dunmanway, circa 1911. [Click on the image above for the full view of this location.]

Figure 12. A front view of the four dwelling houses located on Castle street with measurements per the 1848 survey. The entrance to the timber store is via the passage office on the right of the image.

The chapel cross plots

In addition to the buildings located in the Market Square and Castle street, a number of other properties were leased by Owen Charles at the time of both the 1848 and 1851 surveys.

In 1848 they included a paddock (no. 196/90),  and two dwellings (nos. 197/91 and 198/92) – of similar proportions to those located on Castle street – as well as a field for building (no. 204).

In the 1851 revision, there is the addition of nos. 96, 97 (no. 203) and 98 (no. 204) making a total of seven items.

Table 2, tab 3 has the full details of the lots located at Chapel Cross.

Figure 13. Highlighted are the seven lots listed for Owen Charles in both the 1848 (yellow) and 1851 (red) House Books which includes four dwellings and three fields. The surveyor notes that ‘205 is to be taken by Miss Cox for building  ground if required’. Also, an interesting note written on the map within Dunmanway Lake marks the place where Sir Richard Eyre Cox (4th Baronet) drowned on the 6th of September, 1784.6 [Click the image to enlarge.]

Figure 14. The same map as the above figure 13, with a later addition of a new road. The local vocational school was later built on site of no. 98/205 – Owen Charles is listed as leasing this plot in the 1851 House Book.




  1. Magee, F. (n.d.). Valuation Office House Books. Retrieved from
  2. Findmypast. (n.d.). Discover more about these records. Ireland Valuation Office Books. Retrieved from
  3. Fitzsimons, F. (December 11, 2018). Communication via gmail.
  4. Findmypast. (n.d.) Griffiths Valuation – Explanation of Terms. Retrieved from
  5. Magee, F. (n.d.). Valuation Office House Books. Retrieved from
  6. Bennett, R. (1862). The History of Bandon. Retrieved from


  1. National Archives of Ireland (n.d.). Valuation Office House Books. Retrieved from
  2. National Archives of Ireland (n.d.). Valuation Office House Books. Retrieved from
  3. National Archives of Ireland (n.d.). Valuation Office House Books. Retrieved from
  4. National Archives of Ireland (n.d.). Valuation Office House Books. Retrieved from
  5. Findmypast (2018). Griffith’s Survey Maps & Plans, 1847-1864. Retrieved from
  6. MacCarthy, F. (2018). Front view of the dwelling house of no. 12 Main street as per 1848 housebook. Writers own image.
  7. National Archives of Ireland (n.d.). Valuation Office House Books. Retrieved from
  8. Unknown photographer. (c. 1930). Front view of the second store house. From writers own collection.
  9. MS Services Ltd, Eneclann Ltd and the National Library of Ireland. (n.d.). Ordnance Survey map of Dunmanway, 1850s. Retrieved from
  10. Findmypast, IIMI Inc and brightsolid online publishing (Ireland) Ltd. (n.d.). Sale of Encumbered Estates, Auction Catalogue, Cox, 1858. Landed Estates Court Rentals 1850-1885. Retrieved from
  11. French, R., & Lawrence, W.  (ca. 1865-1914). General View, Dunmanway, Co. Cork. The Lawrence Photograph Collection, National Library of Ireland. Retrieved from:
  12. McCarthy, F. (2018). Front view of four Castle street dwellings per 1848 House Book. Writers own image.
  13. MS Services Ltd, Eneclann Ltd and the National Library of Ireland. (n.d.). Ordnance Survey map of Dunmanway, 1850s. Retrieved from
  14. MS Services Ltd, Eneclann Ltd and the National Library of Ireland. (n.d.). Ordnance Survey map of Dunmanway, 1850s. Retrieved from

Additional RESOURCES 


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