Hearth Tax: 1672

The Hearth Tax was introduced in England and Wales by the government of Charles II in 1662 at a time of serious fiscal emergency. The original Act of Parliament was revised in 1663 and 1664, and collection continued until the tax was finally repealed by William and Mary in 1689. Under the terms of the grant, each liable householder was to pay one shilling for each hearth within their property for each collection of the tax. Payments were due twice annually, at Michaelmas (29 September) and Lady Day (25 March), starting at Michaelmas 1662. However, the administration of the tax was extremely complex, and assessment and collection methods changed radically over time. As a result, the majority of the surviving documents relate to the periods when the tax was administered directly by royal officials, who returned their records to the Exchequer, namely the periods 1662-1666 and 1669-1674. Outside these periods, the collection of the tax was 'farmed out' to private tax collectors, who paid a fixed sum to the government in return for the privilege of collecting the tax. These farmers were not required to send their assessments into the Exchequer, although a few returns from these periods do survive.

By the terms of the 1662 Act, the hearth tax was payable by people whose house was worth more than 20s a year, and who contributed to local church and poor rates. As a result, the hearth tax assessments cannot be considered to provide anything approaching a comprehensive census of the population. Large numbers of people were exempt from payment, such as people who paid neither church nor poor rate (paupers) and people inhabiting houses worth less than 20s a year who did not have any other property over that value, nor an income of over £100 a year. Also exempt were charitable institutions with an annual income of less than £100, and industrial hearths such as kilns and furnaces (but not smithies and bakeries). However, although these groups were not charged (and in some places at some times, the very poor were perhaps not assessed or listed at all), in most cases the tax officials were required to provide exemption certificates for those not eligible to pay, and these documents have also survived in large numbers. The rules for exemption have caused confusion both to contemporaries and to modern historians, and seem to have been applied differently according to the local officials concerned.

Most individuals who were not liable to pay the hearth tax for reasons of poverty were required to obtain a certificate of exemption from the parish clergyman, churchwardens and overseers of the poor, countersigned by two Justices of the Peace. After the revising Act of 1663, hearth tax officials were to include in their assessments lists of those chargeable and not chargeable (exempt). However, the methods of recording those not chargeable tended to vary, with some assessments containing the names of exempt individuals, and others simply a record of the total number. From 1670, printed exemption forms were introduced, replacing earlier manuscript certificates; these were filled in as necessary by the local officials to record the names and assessments of the exempt in a given area. This important source may be used to supplement those assessment rolls which only show numerical totals of individuals not chargeable.

Most of the surviving certificates of exemption may be found in series E 179 , mainly in large collections arranged by county. However, since many are not yet listed in detail and may be fragile, readers should ensure that they preserve the current arrangement and take particular care when handling these documents.

The following returns are from E179/205/504 in The National Archives, and are based on the transcript published in 1996 by the Ripon Historical Society, to whom due acknowledgement is given, but with some corrections. 

Forename Surname Hearths
Marg Ashton 1
Widow Baley 1
James Beaumont 1
Walter Bethell, esq. 12
Widow Blyth 1
Robt Brown 1
Wm Brownbridge 1
John Browne 1
Rich Brownrig 1
Peter Clarke 1
Tho Clarke 1
John Cooke 1
Wm Cooke 1
Wm Cottam 1
Wm Cottam 1
Fran Hesley 1
Math Hessle 1
Robt Hewitt 1
John Hodly 1
Mich Holburne 1
John Hottham 1
Chr Howburne 1
Wm Howburne 1
Harbutt Jackson 1
Geo Johnson 1
Phillope Leeds 1
Wm Lister 1
Wm Pearson 1
Widow Ridgall 1
John Risher 1
Wm Robinson 1
Peter Roome 1
John Sansby 1
Bartha Savidge 1
Lonselott Selby 2
John Smith 1
Mich Sowersby 1
Tho Sowill 1
Widow Sowley 1
Tho Stanley 1
Tymothy Tomlinson 1
Wm Tomlinson 1
Ann Walker 1
Hen Wharlton 1
Tho Williamson 1
Leo Winder 2
Widow Young 1
Discharged by legal certificate    
Robt Compsworth 1
Ann Moods 1
Matthew Mordon 1
matthew Reiolt 1
John Roome 1
Robt Sawer 1
Tho Stowdley 1
Tho Trefild 1
Mary Young 1
Robt Leake Collector
Hugh Hesle Constable