Rate books

Rate books were compiled in order to keep a record of local people’s rate assessment.

Rates were based on an assessment of the yearly value of a property (i.e. the annual rental /rent) and were levied to pay for poor relief and also for the maintenance and repair of highways, the parish watch, sewers, street lighting, etc.

The ratepayer was the person responsible for paying the local taxes and could be the owner or occupier of the property.

The information contained in rate books varies according to the date and type of rate collected, but rate books generally record the names of ratepayers, listed by street, and include the following details:

  • street
  • house/Court number
  • name of occupier (head of household only)
  • name of owner (from 1834)
  • nates (amount due, received, arrears, etc.)

Later rate books can also give a brief description of the property (e.g. whether it was a tenement, public house, whether it had workshops, etc., or whether it has had any improvements or extensions).

Contact us on archives@sheffield.gov.uk to find out more, book in advance or order archival materials.

Dates covered

1702 – 1940

The rate books for Sheffield are largely organised according to the following townships:

  • Sheffield Upper and Lower (Sheffield Upper is South Sheffield and Sheffield Lower is North Sheffield)
  • Attercliffe
  • Beauchief
  • Brightside
  • Ecclesall Bierlow
  • Hallam (Nether and Upper)
  • Handsworth
  • Norton
  • Tinsley

A Sheffield Rate Book Street index (Sheffield Archives ref. ROM/9) is available covering the following townships for the period 1756 – 1891:

  • Attercliffe
  • Brightside
  • Ecclesall
  • Ecclesall Bierlow
  • Nether Hallam
  • Upper Hallam
  • Sheffield Upper
  • Sheffield Lower

The index lists all the streets from these areas in alphabetical order and refers to the relevant year, area, rate book number and page. A street index on cards is also available in the archives’ search room for the townships of Sheffield Upper and Lower (1891 to 1892).

Location of records

Sheffield Archives, 52 Shoreham Street, Sheffield.

Ordering documents

Not all archive material is stored onsite and we may require notice of the items you wish to see. Please contact us to confirm when we can retrieve items for you.


Yes, we can normally supply copies for private study purposes, subject to the usual copyright regulations. Please contact us for further information.

Background information

We also have the following:

  • Sheffield Borough valuation lists (recording the assessment of the property and showing the rateable value, not the collection of the rate), 1819 – 1962 (Sheffield Archives ref. Sheffield Borough Valuations)
  • Stocksbridge Parish and Urban District Council valuation lists, 1877 – 1962 (Sheffield Archives ref. CA635/1-7)
  • Stocksbridge Parish and Urban District Council rate books, 1873 – 1954 (Sheffield Archives ref. CA635/8-24)
  • Wortley Rural District Council rate books, 1914 – 1974 (Sheffield Archives ref. Wortley Rural District Council rate books)
  • Wortley Rural District Council valuation lists, 1797 – 1960 (Sheffield Archives ref. Wort V)
  • Barnsley Borough rate books, 1967 – 1968 (Sheffield Archives ref. SY/499/A1)
  • Dodworth Urban District Council rate books, 1957 – 1966 (Sheffield Archives ref. SY1/UD/11/1-9)
  • Kiveton Park Rural District Council rate books and valuation lists, 1911 – 1962 (Sheffield Archives ref. SY10/RD/1-8)
  • Silkstone Parish Council valuation lists, 1806 – 1909 (Sheffield Archives ref. SY359/P/2/1-9)
  • Silkstone Parish Council rate books, 1914 -1924 (Sheffield Archives ref. SY359/P/2/10-11)
  • Wombwell Urban District Council summary rate books, 1944 – 1952 (Sheffield Archives ref. SY8/UD/27/18-19)
  • Wombwell Urban District Council summary of annual values, 1941 – 1946 (Sheffield Archives ref. SY8/UD/27/20)
  • Denby Township rate books, 1843, 1857, 1873 (Sheffield Archives ref. MD6778-6780)

The Poor Law Act in 1601 established the parish as the basic unit responsible for assessing and collecting local taxes.

The Poor Law Act of 1662 allowed counties such as Yorkshire, to use townships or constablewicks (subdivisions of parishes) as the unit of assessment. Both Sheffield (and Ecclesfield) parishes adopted this arrangement hence there are separate series of rate books for each of the six townships: Attercliffe and Darnall, Brightside Bierlow, Ecclesall Bierlow, Nether Hallam, Upper Hallam and Sheffield.

An Act of 1744 ordered that all rates for poor relief should be entered in a book which would be open to public inspection. Surviving series of rate books tend to only start from after this date.

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 left the power of collecting the poor rate in the hands of the parish overseer, but it united parishes into unions. In Sheffield two unions were formed in 1837: 1) Sheffield Union, made up of the townships of Sheffield, Attercliffe and Brightside, together with Handsworth parish; 2) Ecclesall Union, comprising the townships of Ecclesall, Upper and Nether Hallam, together with Norton, Totley, Dore and Beauchief. Despite being grouped into these unions, parishes remained responsible for the cost of relieving their own poor.

Following the Rating and Valuation Act of 1925, ‘General Rate’ was introduced. This made provision for revaluations every 5 years and replaced the parish as the rating authority with county boroughs, boroughs, urban and rural districts.

There have been further Acts since 1925 such as the General Rate Act of 1967, which was repeated in the 1974 Local Government Act. The General Rate was succeeded by the Community Charge.

Currently, funding for local services is levied through the Council Tax which is based on the value of domestic property. However, business and water rates are still levied on the yearly value.


Paper. Many rate books are also available on microfilm.

Contact the Archives and Local Studies Library

First Floor, Central Library
Surrey Street
S1 1XZ
0114 203 9395 (Sat, Mon, Tues)
0114 273 4753 (Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat)