We read about the history of hearth tax and its historical context in out of our earlier posts (www.hearthtax.org.uk/about/history.html). There we saw the reason why the policy was introduced, and its basic definition and structure. Additionally, we saw the long term trends that it resulted in.
In this post we focus specifically on the tax records and what they tell us today. The National archives contain in detail the various information that can be derived from these tax records, some of which are available in our database at hearth tax institute. The information available is related to the two key information categories of the hearth tax administration – assessment and returns, and exemption certificates.
The amazing aspect of this is that despite the passage of more than three millenniums since that passage of this policy, these details are still available. In fact, you can search in the National Archives E179 database the surname of your great-great-great-great grandfather who lived in that era, along with his county, to obtain his tax records.
With the information of surname and county, we obtain tax records that suggest the type of property and the wealth possessed by each individual. As aforementioned, it enables us also to trace our genealogy back by more than three millenniums. This is a unprecedented level of information available, something of a surprise considering the passage of time since then.
While it is not possible to expect every single record to be available today, records from the years 1662-1666 and 1669-1674 are available for the most of it. There are also records of a similar tax structure, called the window tax, implemented in 1696. As you can imagine, it was a tax on the number of windows.
The tax records show the type of income disparity and inequality that existed at the time. Since the tax was 2 shillings for higher-end property owners and 1 shilling for the rest. This is direct proof of inequality in terms of property ownership, from which an equivalent for overall inequality can be assumed.
In addition, with these records that you can search, it is possible also to learn about the history of houses. Architecture professionals and enthusiasts can derive the layout and type of a house based on the number and type of internal components such as parish, hearths, stoves, windows and so on.
In short, the tax record searches give us a wealth of information from the past. This information can be extremely beneficial when structuring policies as it illustrates details about disparities in individual wealth and property that are still applicable in modern Britain.