England Taxation 1700s to 1900s (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Taxes, Lists, Business, Electoral and Insurance Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Georgian Assessed Taxes (cont.)[edit | edit source]

Horse Tax 1784-1874[edit | edit source]

Pleasure horses, including racehorses, but not working horses were taxed for 90 years from 1784 to 1874, an example from the first year is shown below .

Charges varied for: Horses for riding (£1.8s.9d)

  • Horses exceeding 12 hands (height)
  • Horses not exceeding 13 hands
  • Rode by bailiffs
  • Rode by butchers
  • Let to hire
  • Race horses
  • Horses exempt
  • Other horses and mules
  • Horses 13 hands or more
  • Mules
  • Horses exempt

In 1785 an Act exempted those occupying a farm worth not more than £150 a year rent in which the horse was used only for riding to church or market. The yearly exemption rate was reduced to £20 in 1802 and thus many more owners were taxable.

Chart: Horse Tax, Great Bromley, Essex 1784
[Selected entries from Felgate, who shows original]

A true copy of the REGISTER of all Persons residing in the Parish of Great Bromley in the County of ESSEX who have paid the Duty for any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, kept for the Purpose of riding, or for the Purpose of drawing any Coach, Berlin, Landau, Chariot, Calash, Chaise, or any other Carriage by whatsoever Name such Carriage is now or may hereafter be called or known, (for or in respect whereof any Rate of Duty under the Management of the Commissioners of the Excise, now is or are made payable by any Statute now in force,) together with the Number of Horses each Person hath so paid for, and the Times when the same were so paid.
Times when
Duty paid
Persons Names Number of
Number of
20 Oct 1784
Henry Gardner
20 Oct 1784
Sir George Mannock bart
27 Oct 1784
Nicholas Bundock
27 Oct 1784
John Gardner
27 Oct 1784
Revd Erasmus Warren
9 Oct 1784
Thomas Brown

There was also a horse dealers’ duty for example in 1829, but it is unclear whether this was paid to get a licence.

Shop Tax 1785-c 1798[edit | edit source]

Levied on all tradesmen having premises and no doubt responsible for some going out of business. An example of shop tax (with servants, horses, carriages and wagons) for 1787-1798 for St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, Middlesex can be found on FHL film 1785970.

Female Servants Tax 1785-1792[edit | edit source]

Households employing female servants were taxed one guinea on each one. This tax had nasty effects on the labour market and only lasted for seven years before it was repealed.

Armorial Bearings Tax 1793-1882[edit | edit source]

From 1793 to 1882 a tax was levied on those carrying armorial bearings, whether or not they were valid. The charge was two guineas for arms borne on carriages and one guinea if borne in any other way, as on a signet ring. One source suggests that it wasn’t abolished until 1945.

Hair Powder Tax (or Duty) 1795-1861[edit | edit source]

In the last years of the 18th century those who used hair powder, (to keep wigs white), had to pay a guinea to £1.3.6 for a licence to do so. The records are usually done by household with the head paying for his family and those servants required to wear wigs, an example is shown below. Exemptions included the royal family and their immediate servants, army officers, clergymen, dissenting ministers, and any person in holy orders not possessing an annual income of £100. Wigs quickly went out of fashion in the early 19th century, although the tax was not abolished until 1861.

Chart: List of Hair Powder Certificates Issued, Northumberland 1795 FHL film 0252486

Northumberland District, Thomas Davidson Distributor
Certificates for using Hair Powder issued for the Year
Parish of Hexham [selected entries]
Persons Names
May 29
Charlton, Mary Ann
Do, Dorothy
Dau of Edwd
May 16
Stokoe, Clara
Wife of Thos

Parish of Heddon on the Hill [selected entries]
May 26
Bewicke, Calverly
Do, Margaret
Bewicke, C.

for William Michell

Bewicke, Robert
Parish of Kirkwhepington [complete]
May 18
Aynsley, the Right Honble Lord Chas
Do, Lady
Mitford, Mary
Ord, John
Robinson, John
Brother to Lord A.
May 26
Swinburn, Sir J.E.

Dog Tax 1796-1882[edit | edit source]

A tax on the possession of dogs, used for hunting (and poaching) was levied from 1796 until 1882. It is not clear whether working dogs such as those used by shepherds and to draw carts were included. Many dogs were turned out on the street.

Charges varied according to the dogs’ purpose:

  • Greyhounds (£1).
  • Other dogs, or where two kept.
  • House dog, where one kept.
  • Packs of hounds.

Clocks And Watches Tax 1797-1798[edit | edit source]

Those in possession of clocks and watches were taxed on them in 1797 in order to raise revenue for the Napoleonic Wars. The effect on the horological business was so disastrous that it was repealed after nine months (De La Mare and Jessup).

Amalgamated Tax Collection from 1784[edit | edit source]

Printed books of forms for the amalgamated assessed taxes were used from 1784; a summary of one for Adlington, Cheshire appears in the following example.

Chart: 1790-1791 Tax Forms for Servants, Horses and Carriages
Adlington, Cheshire
FHL film 1594142

Male Servants
Servants Names
William Roycroft

Jonathan Kenarly

Carriages with
Four Wheels

Carriages with
Two Wheels
- Waggons
John Whiston for John Legh Esqr
Henry Lomas

Richard Jackson

Cornelius Pratt

Samuel Bann

Carriages with
Four Wheels

Carriages with
Two Wheels

Waggons Carts
John Whiston for Mrs Eliz: Legh

One for Malden, Surrey in 1829 has space for the name and occupation, then numerous columns for:

  • Window tax
  • House tax
  • Male servants tax
  • Carriage tax
  • Horse tax
  • Dog tax
  • Horse dealers tax
  • Hair powder duty
  • Armorial bearings duty tax
  • Then totals assessed and paid each half year.

Chart: Summary of Malden Taxes 1829 FHL film 1471052

This tax collector did not fill in the occupations column.

Rev Hy Williams
35 windows for which he paid £11.18.3
£30 rental - paid £3.7.6 house tax

Edward Bowry
15 windows - paid £3.10.09
1 horse of 13 hands or more - paid 10/6
1 other dog - paid 14/-

John Hill
£12 rental - paid 18/- house tax

John Fras Hards
£12 rental - paid 18/- house tax

James Machell
1 house dog - paid 8/-

Wm Simmonds
£12 rental - paid 18/- house tax
1 other dog - paid 14/-

John Wakeford
1 horse of 13 hands or more - paid 10/6
2 other dogs - paid £1.8.0

Francis Bowry
1 other dog - paid 14/-

An identical book used in Bristol in the early 1800s does have the profession/trade of the occupants filled in, see the next example .

Chart: Taxes on Occupants of Queen Square, Bristol FHL Film 2094880
Summary of taxes only noted here.

Capt Keppell
Window, house, dog
£ 7. 2.9
Mrs Hitchings
Window, house
£ 7 6.0
J. Chappell
Lodging house
Window, house
£ 9.16.6
Thos Bradly
Lodging house
Window, house
£ 6.17.6
Wm Phillips
Timber merchant
Window, house
£ 8. 8.6
Geo Granger
Window, house
£ 9 3.4
Elizth Hankins
Window, house
£ 5.18.0
H.C. Quinton
Window, house, horses
(servants deleted)
T and J Hellican
Window, house, dog
Benjn Sykes
Window, house
£ 9.12.6
Wm Winter
Window, house
J. Grace junr
Corn factor
Window, house
£ 6..9.3
Josh Steel
Corn factor
Window, house
Steel and Grace
Corn factor
Horse, (servants deleted)
£ 1..1.0
Hart Page
Lodging house
Window, house,
horse, dog

Gibson, Medlycott and Mills (Land and Window Tax Assessments, 1993) have listed all known extant records of the Georgian assessed taxes by county and hundred, and many of these are available on microfilm.

House Duty 1851-1924[edit | edit source]

The tax on inhabited houses replaced the window tax in 1851 and lasted until 1924 (Richardson). Herber (Ancestral Trails , 2003)disagrees with this, saying it was on uninhabited houses. I have not seen references to any records of use to family historians.

Gun Tax 1870-1882[edit | edit source]

A tax was levied from 1870 until 1882 on the possession of guns, but again, there is a lack of information on genealogically-significant records.

Purchase (Sales) Tax 1940[edit | edit source]

A general sales tax (purchase tax) commenced in 1940 and was replaced in 1973 by a multi-stage value added tax (VAT) imposed at each stage of the production process. These are unlikely to leave any usable nominal lists.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Taxes, Lists, Business, Electoral and Insurance Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

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