Griffith’s Primary Valuation of Ireland: Terms Used

Written by Thomas Osborne Davis (1814-1845).

Mr. Griffith’s instructions were clear and full, and we strongly recommend the study of them, and an adherence to their forms and classifications, to valuators of all private and public properties, so far as they go.

He appointed two classes of valuators – Ordinary Valuators to make the first valuation all over each county, and Cheek Valuators to re-value patches in every district, to test the accuracy of the ordinary valuators.

The ordinary valuator was to have two copies of the Townland (or 6-inch) Survey. Taking a sheet with him into the district represented on it, he was to examine the quality of the soil in lots of from fifty to thirty acres, or still smaller bits, to mark the bounds of each lot on the survey map, and to enter in his field book the value thereof, with all the special circumstances specially stated. The examination was to include digging to ascertain the depth of the soil and the nature of the subsoil. All land was to be valued at its agricultural worth, supposing it liberally set, leaving out the value of timber, turf, etc. Reductions were to be made for elevation above the sea, steepness, exposure to bad winds, patchiness of soil, bad fences, and bad roads. Additions were to be made for neighbourhood of limestone, turf, sea, or other manure, roads, good climate and shelter, nearness to towns.

The following classification of soils was recommended :-

“Arrangement of Soils”

All soils may be arranged under four heads, each representing the characteristic ingredients, as:
1. Argillaceous, or clayey

2. Silicious, or sandy

3. Calcareous, or limy

4. Peaty.

For practical purposes it will be desirable to subdivide each of these classes –
Thus argillaceous soils may be divided into three varieties, viz.:Clay, clay loam, and argillaceous alluvial.
Of silicious soils there are four varieties, viz: Sandy, gravelly, slaty, and rocky.
Of calcareous soils we have three varieties, viz.: Limestone, limestone gravel, and marl.
Of peat soils two varieties, viz.: Moor, and peat, or bog.

In describing in the field book the different qualities of soils, the following explanatory words may be used as occasion may require.-
Stiff -Where a soil contains a large proportion, say one-half, or even more, of tenacious clay, it is called stiff. In dry weather this kind of soil cracks and opens, and has a tendency to form into large and hard lumps, particularly if ploughed in wet weather.
Friable -Where the soil is loose and open, as is generally the case in sandy, gravelly, and moory lands.
Strong -Where a soil contains a considerable portion of clay, and has some tendency to form into clods or lumps, it may be called strong.
Deep -Where the soil exceeds ten inches in depth, the term deep may be applied.
Shallow.-Where the depth of the soil is less than eight inches.
Dry -Where the soil is friable, and the subsoil porous (if there be no springs), the term dry should be used.
Wet -Where the soil, or subsoil, is very tenacious, or where springs are numerous.
Sharp.-Where there is a moderate proportion of gravel, or small stones.
Fine or Soft -Where the soil contains no gravel, but is chiefly composed of very fine sand, or soft, light earth without gravel.
Cold -Where the soil rests on a tenacious clay subsoil, and has a tendency when in pasture to produce rushes and other aquatic plants.
Sandy or gravelly -Where there is a large proportion of sand or gravel through the soil.
Slaty.-Where the slaty substratum is much inter- mixed with the soil.
Worn.-Where the soil has been a long time under cultivation, without rest or manure.
Poor -Where the land is naturally of bad quality.
Hungry.-Where the soil contains a considerable portion of gravel, or coarse sand, resting on a gravelly subsoil; on such land manure does not produce the usual effect.

The colours of soils may also be introduced, as brown, yellow, blue, grey, red, black, etc.

Also, where applicable, the words steep, level, shrubby, rocky, exposed, etc., may be used.

Lists of market prices were sent with the field books, and the amounts then reduced to a uniform rate, which Mr. Griffith fixed at 2s. 6d. per pound over the prices of produce mentioned in the Act.