Hearth Tax abstracts for Northamptonshire for 1673-1674 have been made available online.
This collection (at British Origins) includes all legible details relating to over 22,500 individuals found in the original Hearth Tax lists 1673–1674 for the whole of Northamptonshire.
British Origins says: “Hearth Tax returns of the second half of the 17th century are a major census substitute resource for local and family historians, providing lists of names midway between the period of surname formation in the Middle Ages and the present day.
Why use Hearth Tax records?
“Hearth Tax records can provide firm evidence of a family’s residence at a certain place in time. For those seeking lost ancestors the distribution of a surname in a specific area may be determined very easily and the location of a particular family quickly revealed. It is also invaluable when researching a specific place, undertaking house history, population movements, patterns of employment, and early modern local government jurisdictions. The number of hearths in a household is also a clue to a family’s wealth and status.
History of the Hearth Tax
“With a need to raise revenue after the English Civil War, the Interregnum, and the restoration of Charles II as King, it was decided in 1662 to levy hearth money (or chimney money). This was a property tax on buildings worth more than 20 shillings a year in rent. The number of hearths, fires and stoves there were in a building calculated the tax. However there were some exemptions. For instance, people who received poor relief did not have to pay hearth tax. Some industrial buildings were exempt but not forges, locksmiths or bakers’ ovens.
“The tax, which was collected twice yearly – on Lady Day and Michaelmas Day – was 2 shillings per hearth per year. It was a very unpopular tax because the tax commissioners had for the first time the right to come into the home – to count the hearths. Attempts to avoid paying by blocking up a chimney could, if discovered, be rewarded with a doubling of the tax.
“It was also a very inefficient tax. During the lifetime of the tax some of the collecting was farmed out to private individuals who all took their cut and it therefore simply did not raise enough money. The tax was eventually dropped in 1689.
“The tax was collected according to the administrative units of the time, namely county, hundred and constablery or township, which may or may not be the same as the parish. In the cities, towns and boroughs, the constables or sub-collectors often worked according to wards whose boundaries again may or may not be the same as those of the parish.”
The above information applies to England and Wales: Hearth Tax was collected in Scotland from 1691-1695.