Property and Buildings History

Sources of information you can use to trace the history of a building.


Books available at Oldham Local Studies and Archives:

Tracing building history

  • Documenting the History of Houses by N W Alcock (British Records Association, 2003)
  • How Old is Your House by Pamela Cunnington (Alphabooks, 1998)
  • Sources for the History of Houses John H Harvey (British Records Association: Archives and the User No 3, 1974)
  • Tracing the History of Your House by Nick Barratt (Public Record Office, 2001)
  • Tracing the History of Houses by Bill Breckon Jeffrey Parker and Martin Andrew (Countryside Books, 2001)

Development of British architectural styles (to help identify when the property was built)

  • A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 by H M Colvin (3rd edition, Yale University Press, 1995)
  • Architecture in Britain 1530-1830 by John Summerson (Yale University Press, 9th edition, 1993)
  • Houses of the Gentry 1480-1680 by Nicholas Cooper (Yale University Press, 1999)
  • Illustrated Handbook of Vernacular Architecture by R W Brunskill (Faber & Faber, 1971)
  • The English Farmhouse and Cottage by M W Barley (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961)
  • The English Terraced House by Stefan Muthesius (Yale University Press, 1982)
  • The Buildings of the Countryside 1500-1750 by M W Barley (Cambridge University Press, 1990)

Listed buildings

  • Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas in the Oldham Metropolitan Borough – available to view at Oldham Local Studies and Archives
  • Frozen Music by Jane Taylor – Brief guide to listed buildings in the Oldham Metropolitan Borough

Burgess rolls/Electoral registers

You may be able to use Burgess rolls and Electoral registers to compile a list of owners and occupiers.

Census records

Information about occupiers of a property may be found in census records.

You can search census records by address on the Find My Past website

Historical Maps

Maps can show how a property and the surrounding area has changed over time.

  • Historical maps – Ordnance Survey, tithe, enclosure maps, and Dunn’s map of Oldham

National Farm Survey

If the property is or was a farm, it should appear in the National Farm Survey taken in 1941-43 when all working farms were surveyed as part of the war effort.

The National Farm Survey includes:

  • General management
  • Livestock
  • Occupancy
  • Plan of the farm (boundaries and fields)
  • State of the farm

All National Farm Survey records are with the National Archives (Public Record Office) in London.

Parish Registers

Registers of baptisms, marriages and burials may refer to the place of residence and occupation of the individual.

  • Parish registers (a link to our new resource page will appear here when ready)


Oldham Local Studies and Archives holds a large collection of photographs of buildings and streets in Oldham dating from the end of the 19th century to the present day.

Some photographs are available digitally.

  • Historic England website – Photographs, surveys, and descriptions of buildings of historic or architectural interest including those within the Oldham Metropolitan Borough (printouts are available at Oldham Local Studies and Archives)


Building regulation plans

A large range of building regulation plans from 1866 onwards are held at Oldham Local Studies and Archives.

If the property was built before 1866 there may be a plan relating to a later alteration or addition which may include the whole building.

Architectural plans

Architectural Plans can be found in the Stott collection at Oldham Local Studies and Archives.

The Stott collection is mainly mill plans but it does contain some drawings of other types of property.

Probate records: wills, inventories and accounts

Information about properties and the people who lived in them.

  • Probate records  – wills, inventories, accounts

Tax records

Rate books

Rate books (and poor rate books) can be used to trace the names of owners and householders, and previous uses of buildings.

Properties are usually listed by street and include the names of owners, occupiers, and usually the head of the household. Rate books were compiled annually.

Rate books at Oldham Local Studies and Archives

  • Poor Rates, Church Rates and Highway Rates: 1681-1817 (ref MF-G41-43, 47-49)
  • Rate books for Failsworth, Chadderton, Crompton, Oldham and Royton
  • Some pre-1834 rate books (many are held in parish records).

Rate books must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance.

1910 land tax valuation (Domesday books)

In 1910 the Inland Revenue did a valuation of all land. The resulting in records are known as the 1910 Domesday books.

The books include owners, occupiers, and a property description.

The 1910 Domesday books for Chadderton, Crompton, Failsworth, Oldham and Royton are held at:

Hearth tax and land tax returns

Hearth tax: 1662 – 1696

Hearth tax records can be useful for tracing householders’ names and estimating property size.

Most hearth tax records are at the National Archives in London.

Photocopies held at Oldham Local Studies and Archives:

  • Crompton, Oldham and Royton – 1662, 1664, 1666 (ref IFG:F:FV:FW Pamphlets)
  • Chadderton, Crompton, Oldham and Royton – 1671 (ref IFG:F:FV:FW:FX Pamphlets)

Land tax:1696 -1963

Annual records of owners, occupiers, and property descriptions.

Microfilm records at Oldham Local Studies and Archives:

  • 1686-1832 for Oldham (ref MF-G49-51)
  • 1780-1832 for Failsworth, Chadderton, Crompton, and Royton (ref MF-G133-135)

Some years are missing.

Title Deeds

Title deeds to a property may record owners and occupiers of houses, and who owned the land before the building of a property.

It may not be possible to find some title deeds as the Law of Property Act 1925 limited the need for evidence of title to 30 years (and title deeds are no longer legally required).

Finding title deeds

Title deeds may be with a solicitor, mortgage company, or deposited at the Fylde Land Registry office.

Fylde Land Registry:

Oldham Local Studies and Archives also holds some title deeds.

Trade Directories

Trade directories are useful for finding the names of people who lived in and traded from particular houses and for locating previous uses of buildings.

  • Trade and telephone directories (a link to our new resource page will appear here when ready)