Hampshire England

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Hearth Tax 1662-1689

This novel tax was granted to Charles II in 1662 as a permanent form of revenue assessed only indirectly on wealth. It was assessed on occupiers, not landlords, and was based on the number of hearths (including fires and stoves) in the dwelling and thus gives the researcher an idea of the size of each household, and by inference the relative affluence of the occupant. In towns, especially, a house might contain more than one family. Two shillings (2/-) per hearth was paid by the occupier in two installments, at Lady Day (25 March) and Michaelmas (29 Sep). Smaller dwellings which were exempt included:

  • Houses worth less than 20 shillings (£1) per annum and not paying parish rates.
  • Those occupied by people on poor relief.
  • Charitable institutions such as schools and almshouses.
  • Industrial hearths, except smith’s forges and bakers’ ovens.
  • Inmates of hospitals and almshouses.
  • Private ovens and kilns.

In the records the number of hearths might be inaccurate, and might change from year to year; a rough guide to social groups follows:

Chart: Hearths and Status

8 and above
Gentry and above with many surviving examples today.
Wealthy craftsmen and tradesmen, merchants and yeomen, some of whose houses survive today.
Craftsmen, tradesmen and yeomen, very few of which have survived to modern times.
Labouring poor, husbandmen, poor craftsmen whose homes have long since vanished. One hearth could typically heat four small rooms, two up and two down stairs often occupied by two or even more families.