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Window Tax

Nature of Source

Lists of people liable to pay a tax on each window in a dwelling. The tax was introduced by William III (of Orange) as a replacement to the much despised hearth tax. The windows tax was collected at the same time as the house tax which imposed a flat rate tax per dwelling initially at two shillings per house. Houses with between ten and twenty windows paid an additional window tax of four shillings and those with more than twenty paid another eight shillings. From 1784 the house tax and the window tax were combined. In Scotland the tax was introduced in the 1780s.

The tax was payable by the occupier of a property rather than the owner. Those that were exempt from paying the church or poor rate or local rates on the grounds of poverty were exempt from the window tax. Dairies, shops and other business premises were also exempt from the tax. A simple way of reducing the tax liability was to block up windows. Few returns survive as there was no requirement for the returns to be enrolled in the Quarter Sessions and very little indexing has taken place. If an unbroken run of lists survive, they represent a useful means of tracking the movements of an individual and provide clues for searching burial entries in parish registers and probate records when a person no longer appears. The tax was replaced by the Inhabited House Duty.

Where Found

The National Archives (Series E181, Exchequer: Receivers' Accounts of Land and Assessed Taxes including the window tax)
County Record Offices
National Library of Wales
National Records of Scotland (Scottish coverage, 1753-1798. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland [NAS] and General Register Office for Scotland [GROS])

Period Covered

1696 - 1851

Genealogical Value

Name and address of taxpayer; Number of windows and amount payable; Occasionally the occupier's occupation. Useful for house histories.

Further References

Chapman, Colin. Pre-1841 Censuses & Population Listings in the British Isles: Lochin Publishing, 2002 (Preview available from Google Books) Buy Now on Amazon
Gibson, Jeremy & Medlycott, Mervyn & Mills, Dennis. Land and Window Tax Assessments. 2nd ed.: Federation of Family History Societies, 1998  

Websites (What was the window tax? By Ellen Leslie) (Daylight robbery, Meaning and Origin) (The Window Tax) (National Archives of Scotland Guide: Taxation records)

Online Databases (Oxford History: Payers of Window Tax in Oxford in 1696)
(City of York Hearth & Window Tax 1665-1778. The dataset consists tax records covering the city and Ainsty of York) (North Westmorland Window Tax of 1777) (Sussex Record Society: East Sussex Window and House Tax Assessments 1747. The Surviving Assessments for 46 parishes, edited by Roger Davey from documents in the East Sussex Record Office) (ScotlandsPlaces: Window Tax Registers, 1748-1798)