When a lease for lives became due for renewal, the landlord required an accurate and up-to-date survey of the condition and value of the property, in order to set the level of entry fine and rent for the new lease and to ascertain whether the existing tenant was liable for any dilapidations. A surveyor was employed to inspect the properties, and he recorded his findings in valuation books which were compiled annually.
The valuation books provide important information on the physical characteristics of properties, including the state of repair and construction materials of buildings. For example in 1786 Bowdon tenement number 2 is described as comprising two houses and several parcels of land. One house contained "two bays, part brick and timber walls, remainder brick walls, and thatched; barn: two bays, brick walls and thatched; a large stable for 12 horses, a shippon for 6 cows, brick walls and thatched; a shade for corn, brick pillars and slated". The other house had "timber walls nogged with bricks, all in good repair". The individual fields are then listed with their acreages and values. If a tenement had been valued previously then it was usually deemed unnecessary to undertake a new survey and valuation.
The valuation books cover the townships within Bowdon parish, and the hamlets of Styal and Dean Row in Pownall Fee and Bollin Fee townships respectively within Wilmslow parish. Until 1797 the books also describe properties within Ashton under Lyne parish in Lancashire. There are separate books for tenements on Bowdon glebe (EGR14/7/11, /22, /31, /32, /34, /44, /52, /64, /74 & /82).
Books EGR14/7/1-25 are written in a fine hand; the information in them was probably copied from notes made by the surveyor in the field. From 1798 onwards the books are compiled in a rough cursive hand, with frequent deletions, amendments and annotations.