This week’s #52Ancestors theme is Landed and as my family don’t seem to have owned much property between them, I thought I would talk about English Land Tax records in general.
Originally brought in in 1692/3, records can exist up until 1963 but generally the time period that provides the best evidence is that from c 1780 until 1832. From 1780 payment of land tax could be evidence to qualify to vote in a General Election. Thus, duplicates of land tax assessments for the county were lodged with the Clerk of the Peace. The introduction of electoral registers in 1832 rendered land tax records unnecessary for qualification and so after this date were not as assiduously kept.
Land tax records usually form part of Quarter Sessions records at your local archive and are organised first by county , then Hundred and finally parish. So it is important that you know which hundred your parish comes under. Hundreds in Herefordshire are listed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hundreds_of_England_and_Wales#Herefordshire and there are also other counties listed. A Herefordshire map is here Remember that property does not necessarily stick to parish boundaries so one farm may be listed over more than one parish and landowners may have properties in various counties.
Land tax records list:
Landowners ( proprietors)
from 1772, Occupiers
Sometimes the name of the property
How much tax was liable
However there are a few caveats. A proprietor may not necessarily be a freeholder but a long lease holder and an occupier could be a tenant or a sub-tenant. Also some occupiers are missed off altogether or lumped together as “labourers’ cottages” without necessarily mentioning the labourers by name. These things do vary from parish to parish and over time. Some assessments were filled in with more detail than others.
The same can be said for names both of individuals and properties. Sometimes a full name will be listed, other times just Mr Jones. Properties can be easily identified in some records and not in others. Take these two examples from Peterchurch in Herefordshire.
Mr Williams for his own 0 4 0
Landlord: Mr Williams
Tenant: Edward Pritchard 2 3 4
Tenant: Mr J Lanwarn 2 2 0
Landlord: Samuel Waring
Tenant: Mr Hughes 3 6 0
Landlord: Sir G Cornewallis bart
Tenant: Thomas Williams 0 4 6
Landlord: Henry Allen esq
Tenant: James Lewis 1 3 0
Land: Dragon’s pool
Landlord: Mrs Phillips
Tenant: Martha Lewis Lionshale 2 16 0
Tenant: Martha Lewis Woods 0 10 6
As the list is annual it can be possible to trace arrival and departure dates of an individual to a parish. Change of ownership can possibly give you a clue as to the date of death of an individual. The amount of land tax paid was decided on fixed quotas for each county. For example the 4 most Northerly English Counties paid less than more Southern ones. This means that it is impossible to compare land values across the country. Generally speaking the rate was set at 4s in the pound. However even land of the same acreage could be taxed differently depending on its productivity.
In 1798 the Land Tax Redemption office was created and Landowners could pay a lump sum equal to 15 years tax or purchase government stock to be exonerated from tax. Owners of land that was valued under 20 shillings also stopped being charged land tax from this date.
Land tax records are useful in looking at how land was arranged in your parish. The name of a big landowner such as the Duke of Norfolk who owned land in Herefordshire, may lead you to look at their records for information on your particular area. Tithe maps and enclosure awards can also be used together with land tax records to give you an idea as to the location and extent of your family’s holdings. Some counties records are available online at Findmy Past or visit your local archives and have a rummage. You never know what you may find!