London and Middlesex

Fire of London

The London and Middlesex hearth tax return for Lady Day 1666 is one of the great documents of London history. Not all of the 1666 document has survived, but by augmenting it with reference to the 1662-3 Lady Day and 1664 Lady Day manuscripts, a vivid picture of a burgeoning City and its environs at a critical point in history can be obtained. This is, after all, a period in which the impact of the Great Plague of 1665 and Great Fire of 1666 severely challenged the energy and resilience of Londoners.

The 1666 Lady Day tax was due in March 1666, but because of Plague and disorganisation the tax officials did not even start collecting until April 1666; many were still about that task in September. The collector who walked up Pudding Lane, noting that Thomas Farrinor, baker, had five hearths ‘and one oven’, little knew that within a short space of time his work would be completely undone and much of London consumed by that ‘one oven’.

 

 

The documents contain the names of rich and poor with some indication of the size of their dwellings. They record the myriad of insalubrious alleys crammed with impoverished residents and the nitty gritty of the collection process: notes of payment and non-payment, doorstep arguments and complaints, doors shut in the collector’s face, items taken in lieu of payment; even physical blows are recorded.

Numerous famous names feature in the document, people well-known in English history who can be seen here in the context of their homes and neighbourhood. John Milton, Lely, Praisegod Barebones; key players in the drama of Civil War, regicide and Restoration are here along with many more who were to contribute to the rise of London and England as a cultural and scientific hub and major commercial power.

This section of Hearth Tax Online contains a fully searchable database of the London and Middlesex transcript as well as sample texts and resources from the two-volume London and Middlesex Hearth Tax published in 2014 by the British Record Society and available from its website at a £60 (plus P+P) for the two-volume set.

The research on the London and Middlesex hearth tax was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

The manuscript images on this page are © The National Archives and are reproduced with permission.The image of the Great Fire is © 2010-2015 Andreas Resch