H is for….

23 October 2013

…. Hearth Tax. The hearth tax was introduced by the government of Charles II in 1662. Following the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Parliament calculated that the Royal Household needed an annual income of £1.2million. The hearth tax was a supplemental tax to make up the shortfall. The original Act of Parliament was revised in 1663 and 1664, and collection continued until the tax was finally repealed by William and Mary in 1689.

Rather than counting the number of people residing at a particular property, it was considered simpler to calculate a household tax by establishing the number of hearths within a property. Under the terms of the grant, each liable householder was to pay one shilling for each hearth, stove or fireplace within their property for each collection of the tax. Payments were due twice annually, at Michaelmas Day (29 September) and Lady Day (25 March). The tax was intended to be fair, in that it fell more heavily upon those with multiple or larger residences but there were many practical difficulties which resulted in several changes to the original bill, including a number of exemptions.

The hearth tax records can be found in series E 179 at The National Archives. A database has been produced listing the places covered by each tax (not the names of the taxpayers) so that all the taxes for one place (and then the lists of taxpayers) can be found easily by researchers.

The E 179 database has been developed since 1995 by the University of Cambridge (Department of Geography and Faculty of History) and the National Archives, with more recent input from the University of Wales: Bangor (Department of History and Welsh History) and the University of York. This has been achieved with the help of generous funding from a variety of sources and the database now forms the primary means of searching this series of records.

The database provides a major step forward in searching and using this important and diverse series of records, for family and local historians alike.

For example, a search for the small parish of Luffincott in Devon and the records between 1662 and 1674 highlights three records, one for hearth tax E179/245/17 Part 23 (of 30). The Catalogue gives further details about the information held in the record for you to access.

Roll on my visit to The National Archives next month….!

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