H is for Hearth Tax

When you are looking for something to tax it is only logical to choose an item or service that it is difficult to do without. Hence, in 1662, it was decided to tax hearths, or fireplaces. Not only did every household need one but it was possible to count chimneys without entering the property, so the tax was difficult to avoid. The tax was levied until 1689 but records only survive up to 1674. These records enable us to identify individual heads of household in a particular place at a specific date, together with an indication of the relative value of the property. In some cases, lists of those who were exempt on the grounds of poverty survive, so these records are not just useful for the wealthy. The website Hearth Tax Online provides an excellent background to Hearth Tax records. The Devon Hearth Tax Returns for 1674 have been transcribed by T L Stoate and made available in book form or on CD.

From church tower - Olive Brown

How many of the Chimneys in the View would have been Taxed?

The entries for Buckland Brewer are damaged and partially illegible but we can learn that the largest landowners were Mr Steevens (sic) with 22 hearths and Mr Dennis with 17. Other Buckland names appear:- Stapledon, Fulford, Cole and Hearne for example. Amongst the poor are listed Tho. Tallamie, Margt Voscombe, Phill. Courtice and Geo. Andrew. We also learn that The Vicarage was one chimney down (presumably in comparison to the previous return) as it was in an outhouse now converted to a barn.


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