Document 8: Hearth tax return for Besselsleigh, Berkshire, dated 1664.
(Catalogue reference: E 179/243/26 part 2 folio 114)
In this section:
This document is the hearth tax return for Besselsleigh, Berkshire, dated 1664.
The restoration of Charles II in 1660 was followed by the introduction of several new taxes, including the hearth tax. Established by an Act of Parliament in May 1662, the hearth tax was an annual tax of two shillings per hearth, which was to be paid in two instalments, at Michaelmas and Lady Day. Only people whose house was worth more than 20 shillings a year and who paid church and poor rates had to pay, poorer people were exempt. From 1663 all hearths, whether taxable or not, were to be listed in the returns.
The information contained in hearth tax returns includes the names of the householders, sometimes their status, and the number of hearths for which they had to pay, or for which they were exempt from paying. The number of hearths can give a rough idea of the wealth of the person.
The hearth tax was collected initially by tithing men or petty constables. Returns were made to the Quarter Sessions, with a duplicate sent to the Exchequer between 1662 and 1666 and 1669 and 1674. The Exchequer copies are now at The National Archives.
The hearth tax was collected from Michaelmas 1662 to Lady Day 1689, when it was abolished by William and Mary. During this time it was the government's major source of revenue.
This document is written in a workaday mixed hand with features from both late secretary hand and italic hand. It was probably written by the tithing man himself.