Essex Exemption Materials

This appendix of exemption materials is taken from volume VIII of the British Record Society Hearth Tax Series, Ferguson, C., Thornton, C., & Wareham, A., eds., (2012) Essex Hearth Tax Return Michaelmas 1670. The volume can be purchased directly from the British Record Society.

The hearth tax exemption legislation caused confusion during the life of the tax partly due to the muddled wording of the acts which was never subsequently clarified. In addition, the use of a different set of officials to manage the exemption procedure introduced an unnecessary field of dispute between them and the collectors. The original 1662 bill probably intended that liability should fall on the owner of the hearths but parliament expressly changed it to the occupier, thus introducing a necessity for exemption, since the MPs realised that some of the occupiers would have found it difficult to pay.

The first criterion allowed automatic exemption for those hearths in dwellings not paying rates to church and poor because of the 'smallnes of the estate' and not because the landlord paid them. A second exemption clause was added as the bill passed through parliament which allowed exemption to those hearths in buildings whose annual rent was twenty shillings or less and where the occupier had possessions not above the capital value of £10. Such people required a certificate signed by the minister and at least of one of the churchwardens or overseers of the poor and certified by two justices and this was valid for one year.