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Glossary - Document 8

This document is the hearth tax return for Besselsleigh, Berkshire, dated 1664.

(Catalogue reference: E 179/243/26 part 2 folio 114)

'Besseslegh' / Besselsleigh

A village in Oxfordshire, formerly in Berkshire (before 1974). Besselsleigh Manor was bought by William Lenthall, father of the John Lenthall who appears in this document, from the Fettiplace family in the early 17th century.

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Charles II

King Charles II was born at St James' Palace in London on 29 May 1630. He was the son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. After his father's execution on 30 January 1649, Charles II was proclaimed king in Scotland. Having fled to France, Charles returned to Scotland in June 1650 and was crowned there in January 1651. However, after his defeat at Cromwell's hands at the Battle of Worcester in September 1651, Charles was once against forced into exile, living mainly in the Netherlands. He was invited to return to England in 1660, arriving in London on 29 May 1660. He was finally crowned king of England at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661, but it was publicly proclaimed that he had been king since 30 January 1649, and his regnal years are counted starting on 30 January 1649. The years of the reign of Charles II included the Great Plague of 1665 and the Fire of London in 1666.


A lay-person who assists the vicar with parochial administrative duties.


Administrative body responsible for the collection and administration of royal revenues.

Hearth tax

Annual tax of 2 shillings per hearth introduced in 1662 and abolished in 1689. It was paid in two instalments per year, at Lady Day and Michaelmas, and was initially collected by local tithing men or petty constables.

Lady Day

Also known as the Feast of the Annunciation (the announcement by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she was to bear Jesus), Lady Day falls on 25 March. In England, Wales and Ireland it was one of the quarter days – one of four specified days of the year when certain payments were due. Until 1752 it was also the first official day of the year in England and Wales.

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Lenthall, John (Sir)

1625-1681. John Lenthall was the only son of William Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons. He attended Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1640 he entered Lincoln's Inn and four years later was elected Member of Parliament for Gloucester. He was knighted by Oliver Cromwell in March 1658 and again by Charles II in March 1677. In January 1660 Lenthall was made governor of Windsor Castle. In the same year he was briefly MP for Abingdon but was expelled from the Commons in May 1660. By 1672 he was high sheriff of Oxfordshire. He died at Besselsleigh on 9 November 1681 and was buried in Besselsleigh church.


The feast of St Michael and all the Angels, 29 September. One of the quarter days (four specified days of the year when certain payments were due) in England, Wales and Ireland.

Quarter Sessions

Court sessions held four times a year in each county of England and Wales, where justices of the peace dealt with petty offences and routine county administration.

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Tithing man

Tithing men and petty or parish constables were local men appointed to help keep the peace and undertake a number of administrative duties in the parish, such as collecting national taxes.

William and Mary

William III King of England, Scotland and Ireland 1689-1702; Mary II Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland 1689-1694. Mary was born at St James' Palace on 30 April 1662. She was the daughter of James II and Anne Hyde. In 1677 she married her cousin William, son of William II, Stadtholder of the Netherlands, and Mary Henrietta, the daughter of Charles I of England. After the Catholic James II was deposed, the Protestant Mary and William jointly ascended the throne of England on 13 February 1689. Mary was the actual heir but William insisted on being king rather than consort. Mary died of smallpox at Kensington Palace on 28 December 1694 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. William reigned alone after Mary's death until he died in at Kensington Palace on 8 March 1702. He was buried at Westminster Abbey. Since William and Mary had no children, they were succeeded by Mary's sister, Anne.

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